We get locked down, but we get up again
You’re never gonna keep us down!
Jo Shoba gives the lowdown on what Liverpool Socialist Singers have been up to during lockdown.
Greetings from Liverpool Socialist Singers to our many comrades. Based in and around Liverpool, our members share values which are needed more than ever in these chaotic times under a hypocritical and self-seeking Tory government. In normal times you’d find us singing at demos or on picket lines – giving voice to our support for striking workers, or helping to form a human barrier to turn back white supremacists or other fascist groups from even setting foot in our city. Of course, 2020 has been rather different, for us as for everyone, but still we have been busy, as you can see if you check out our website. We’d also love to have you follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Our rehearsals have continued online – with our Musical Director Christine Robson rallying us week by week with her enthusiasm and vocal innovation. Coming together to sing (even while muted!) has lifted our spirits. It has been a real morale boost to members, some of whom have been self-isolating during the pandemic. There has been sadness: early on in lockdown we lost one of our members, Mavis Cook, to Covid-19. Mavis set a wonderful example of solidarity, turning up regularly for rehearsals and demos even after it became harder for her to get about. A few members were able to attend her funeral (obeying restrictions in place at the time) and gave a very moving rendition of the Internationale at her graveside. It was a fitting farewell to our comrade.
Like other choirs, we are still not able to give public performances. However, thanks to some feats of digital wizardry – combining individual recordings we made on our phones – our voices can be heard ringing out over the city centre this December. It’s a tradition for the Singers to support Liverpool Friends of Palestine in their festive season fund-raising, and this year is no exception. So listen out in Clayton Square for some carols with a difference, such as O come all ye faithful, all who care for justice. And please give generously – the people of Palestine need our support more than ever.
Songs are at the heart of what we do, and in response to major events and injustices over the year, our song-writing has gone from strength to strength. Our MD’s original and powerful new song We Call on our Leaders to Explain! skewers the Tories and their shameful mishandling of the pandemic. Solidarity with Black Lives Matter (more on that below) underpins our reworking of the lyrics of several well-known Bob Marley songs. And inspired by Suquamish and Duwamish Chief Seattle’s famous speech of 1854 and by today’s Climate Justice campaigns, another member, Julie Lamin has penned a hauntingly beautiful Song for the Earth.
Our concern for the environment has been steadfast; we were proud to play a part in protests against fracking at Preston New Road, where our song You Won’t be Fracking Long proved prescient when Cuadrilla ceased work at the site last year.
In 2020 we have collaborated with internationally acclaimed sound artist, Mikhail Karikis, on his Tate Liverpool audio-visual exhibition, Ferocious Love, which envisages a world following catastrophic climate change. It was a pure joy to work with Mikhail just before lockdown to create a soundscape for the exhibition. We also participated in an online Sound and Singing Workshop linked to the exhibition and led by our MD. It was great fun, and very noisy!
2020 has been the year of Black Lives Matter. Galvanised by the murder of George Floyd in the US, protests have also taken place in this country, directing a spotlight on racial injustice in British society. We in Liverpool Socialist Singers are keenly aware of our city’s wealth being founded on the transatlantic slave trade, and of the historical segregation and continuing disadvantage experienced by our black communities. As a choir, we have made a commitment to offer allyship to those communities and their institutions, through our singing and song-writing, and through financial donations when we can.
We look forward to singing again at the much-loved Granby Street Market, which incidentally is fundraising at the moment following a fire which destroyed much of their equipment. Also, check out Independent Liverpool’s fantastic online curated list of black owned businesses, causes, charities and platforms you should support in Liverpool. On a more symbolic level, we look forward to the unveiling of plaques, as promised by the Liverpool City Council, on a number of Liverpool streets which bear the names of slave merchants. These will explain that Thomas Parr or John Blackburne, for example, were not ‘the great and the good’, any more than Edward Colston, whose statue was pushed, with a satisfyingly resounding splash, into Bristol harbour.
And so we persist – pandemic notwithstanding – in our activism through song. As one member puts it, ‘we may be apart, but we still have the power to sing out our love and solidarity’. And we’ll be back, soon we hope, singing in the non-virtual world.
One of the first events we had to cancel when the first lockdown was announced was an open rehearsal for anyone to come along and have a bit of a singsong with us (as well as a chat and some rather nice homemade cake). Look out for that happening in 2021 when life finally becomes more normal again.
For now our rehearsals are on zoom. If you’d like to join us for a session or two, you’ll find contact details on our website at https://www.liverpoolsocialistsingers.net/ ‘But I can’t sing!’ we hear you say. To which we reply, in time-honoured pantomime style ‘Oh yes you can!’ There are no auditions and no one will expect you to sing solo (unless you want to). Nor do you need to read music, since we learn our songs by ear. So, think about lending us your voice – we will take very good care of it and put it to very good use.