Project News

We’re currently completing a campaigning video based on the first Voices Beyond Divisions project and planning new projects for the future. We’ll update this page when there is more to tell. Meanwhile, here’s  roughly how the first project went.

The Voices Beyond Divisions Concert - January 19th 2017

It was a wonderful event - everyone said so. Deeply engaging, moving, fascinating, powerful… the praise pouring out as the audience left was a wonderful balm after all the work that went into creating this wonderful event  Behind the scenes, there’d really been a lot of effort involved in arriving there at St James’, Piccadilly in London, all together and ready to sing and play.

To find out how the concert felt to two eminent people among of the two hundred who came along to listen and to watch it all unfold, read Composer Royal, Judith Weir’s blog here and storyteller, author Mary Medlicott’s blog here

You can view the programme for the evening here


STARTING OUT : The practical work began back in the summer of 2016 with workshops and visits in the schools, though that was after many  months of persistence from Asha herself, creating her What War? choral/instrumental work, finding suitable text in the different sacred books and organising translations into Arabic and Hebrew, contacting schools, contacting charities. Then there had been all the fundraising. For a while we really weren’t sure we’d get enough to go through with it. Our backers in the crowdfunding appeal were very generous though - and so were The Aziz Foundation and the LUSH Charity Pot.

JIGSAW:  It’s a long story with plenty of twists and turns along the way. We had lots of support from staff and students atThe Purcell School of Music. Very much credit is due to staff at the three faith primary schools involved (particularly Geanina Cucu at Akiva, Aneela Mahmoud at Iqra and Jenni Hogan at St Peter’s)  for getting the children to know and even understand their parts in Asha’s What War? piece. They just weren’t sure what it was all about to begin with. Slowly, slowly it began to make sense to them. It was all a little bit like a jig saw puzzle, the pieces starting to make the big picture.

LIGHT BULBS:    There were some great moments when things just ‘lit up’. Bringing some of the children together for the first time after they’d been working away separately in their schools was very special. Just seeing them bonding as they sang and played and chatted. For some it was the first time they’d met children from the other faiths, but they soon forgot about differences and found how very much they had in common - beyond the divisions.

And all of them were just amazed when they rehearsed for the day at The Purcell School of Music and then again at St James’, Piccadilly. Working with the gifted young musicians was something new and wonderful. They almost forgot to sing, listening to and watching all the marvellous instruments, players and singers around them.

TWISTS & TURNS: We had setbacks. Our workshop/rehearsal day on 1st December nearly didn’t happen when the heating at East Finchley Library Hall broke down in the first really cold snap of the winter. The library closed, but the manager kept the hall open for us and gave us heaters. By the time the children arrived, there was a warm fug inside the hall itself - though stepping outside the door was like walking into a fridge!

On the rehearsal day at Purcell, we were to be joined by two professional players of Middle Eastern instruments. Kalia was there in plenty of time all ready to produce the haunting, evocative sounds of the nay (reed flute). No sign of Nikos with his oud (Arab lute) though. Turned out he’d gone to The Purcell Room on the Southbank and found no one there. He got to us in the end though - and the two instruments sounded marvellous of course..

Samantha Martin from World Jewish Relief fascinated the children at Finchley with a great talk, a video and practical activities that engaged the children in understanding relief work.  Lucy Webster and Adrian Whalley from Christian Aid got them to understand what it’s like to have to leave your home and be a refugee.

You can see the start of their session in Florence Browne’s short documentary:

Anna Farina and her colleagues from Syria Relief not only showed them all the great work they do in that war torn country, but also recorded video messages from the children themselves to go out to 16000 children in their schools in Syria.

STORIES FOR PEACE: There were stories too. Rob Parkinson, storyteller/musician and chief trustee of Beyond Divisions Education Trust, told quite a few of them during different workshops with the children. You can read a selection here.