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Islington Gazette JANUARY 18, 2021 - by Sofia Vyas
ISLINGTON CHARITY CHOIR SMASHES FUNDRAISING TARGET WITH HELP FROM BRIAN ENO
An Islington choir which supports torture survivors can carry on singing after an unspecified "generous" donation from musician and producer Brian Eno.
Members of Sing For Freedom, which was founded by the charity Freedom from Torture but is now run by Together Productions, are made up of ex-clients and staff, friends and supporters who work with refugees and asylum seekers.
Programmes producer Holly Hunter said funding cuts in the sector and Covid-19 have both highlighted the need for the choir to take on a broader pastoral role.
"People are asking for help more and in different ways," said Holly. "We have rallied around to find food banks and mutual aid services, but what we really want to do is have a more formal post."
The organisation started a drive for laptops and smartphones to keep the choir going through the pandemic, after the group realised many members were without access to online rehearsals.
"The choir is helping us top up our data and wifi," said member Joy Mukendi, forty. "Some of us are mothers with kids [and] they are helping us pay for transport and childminders. It's a very, very big thing for me."
The choir has also been producing videos, all of which is more expensive than a rehearsal space.
"We're all having a really hard time during the pandemic," said Holly. "But this is a particularly vulnerable group of people. With singing, there are so many therapeutic benefits. I think it really helps our members to escape."
Member Yonas Mebrate, forty-two, said: "Torture made me silent, but the choir gave me a voice. Torture is not something you ever escape completely... the singing touches my soul, I express myself. Singing helps me to forget my trouble."
The choir also caught the attention of actress and activist Thandie Newton who posted about the choir on Instagram.
"It is a privilege to support you," the post said. "I'd love to come and join one day."
"We were thrilled and delighted to receive this generous donation," said Holly Jones, director of Together Productions. "Like us, he really does understand the power of music to bring people together and create positive change in the world."