A new Sunderland-based arts organisation, We Make Culture CIC, has received a large funding boost from National Lottery Awards for All to expand one of its current programmes, Pop Choir Project.

The new funding will help We Make Culture CIC continue to run its current Pop Choirs at Fausto Coffee in Sunderland and Washington Mind in Washington. They will also begin a new Pop Choir from mid-September from new cultural and community centre, St Hilda’s Pit Head, in South Shields.

Laura Brewis, director and project manager of We Make Culture CIC, says “We are very grateful to National Lottery Awards for All for this grant.

“We Make Culture CIC is a very new organisation and we see this as a huge vote of confidence in the work we’ve done so far with Pop Choir Project, which is really about bringing people together, building confidence and encouraging people who might not have ever participated in anything musical for years to have a go.

“There’s a lot of research into how beneficial singing in groups is for wellbeing and mental health, and we’ve certainly seen that in both our Washington and Sunderland choirs. Singing pop songs together is also just really fun!”

“It’s also thanks to the faith shown in We Make Culture CIC by the funders and partners who have supported us so far, such as Cultural Spring, Washington Mind, Fausto Coffee and Sunderland City Council’s Washington Area group. We’re excited to be moving the project forward and to be working with an exciting new arts and heritage venue, St Hilda’s Pit Head, to bring Pop Choir Project to South Shields.”

Pop Choir Project began in September 2017 at Fausto Coffee, and is now a group of choirs which meet weekly in Sunderland, Washington and South Shields to sing pop songs and have fun.

The choirs are led by professional musicians Jennie Brewis, Cath Stephens and Liz Corney (all members of the band The Cornshed Sisters), who lead the groups in a welcoming and accessible way. Pop Choir Project emphasises the wellbeing aspects of singing together and building a brilliant community atmosphere; there are no auditions and participants don’t have to be able to read music to join.

The choirs also operate on a pay-what-you-can basis and are accessible to all. Pop Choir Project has performed on BBC radio, at the Empire Theatre and at the recent Tall Ships events, as well as in local community settings.

Pop Choir Project will be at the St Hilda’s Pit Head Family Open Day on August 23, where the choir will be doing a small performance and leading a participatory workshop for anyone who might like to give singing a go.

The regular Pop Choir group in South Shields will begin on September 19 at 6pm at St Hilda’s Pit Head. For more information about any of the groups, people should contact [email protected] or check Pop Choir Project on Facebook.

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