In perfect harmony: Raising funds with my choir
Dan blogs about how his Love Soul Choir went on a great journey of discovery to raise money for Mind.
As the leader of Love Soul Choir, I am always looking for new performance opportunities for my choir. Love Soul Choir is a professional, auditioned choir for over 18’s. We’re based in Southampton & Bournemouth and meet weekly to rehearse and perfect songs ahead of a huge variety of performances across the region including weddings, theatre shows and large scale events. We have 130 members in the choir across both locations. 2019 marks our 10th birthday year and I wanted to make it super special.
Not only were we asked to perform with Take That on their Odyssey Tour at St. Mary’s Stadium in Southampton (which was amazing), but I wanted to put on a charity event where we could raise money and help raise awareness for an awesome cause.
"As a child I had a really tough time with OCD traits, and anxiety is something that I have dealt with (and still deal with) every day of my life."
Personally, I have had a number of mental health challenges through my life. As a child I had a really tough time with OCD traits, and anxiety is something that I have dealt with (and still deal with) every day of my life.
For a good part of my life, I used to bottle it all up and just think that my worries were odd, and that it was just the way I was. It used to halt me socially and I’d often feel like the ways I thought were wrong. It would eat me up and culminate in horrendous panic attacks. At the time I had no idea what was happening to me. I thought I was seriously ill. It’s only looking back that I realise it was acute panic.
In 2017, I became really unwell. A number of things in my life all happened at the same time. There was no clarity in my thoughts, I hardly ate, just wanted to stay in bed all day and had no motivation to do anything. On top of that, I was struggling to continue running my own businesses. People would continually ask me if I was okay, there were often comments about how pale I looked and quite frankly life felt pretty dark. I knew things needed to change and I really tried hard to exercise and look after myself but it’s hard to find the strength to do this, alone. I decide to go to counselling and this has changed my life.
"Awareness and talking is key, and this is why I was so keen to help raise awareness to mental health in our 10th birthday year."
It wasn’t until I became really unwell that I truly appreciated the positive ways that talking can help find clarity in otherwise confusing thought processes. I also have family members & friends that have and do struggle with their mental health, and understanding the mind and how we all process things differently has helped me support them more too.
Awareness and talking is key, and this is why I was so keen to help raise awareness to mental health in our 10th birthday year.
I used to run an organisation specialising in singing for wellbeing and more specifically in mental health. We would run singing workshops in acute mental health wards across Hampshire and further afield. We had good links with Solent Mind. Which is where I first heard of the charity and understood the ways it can help individuals. When working in the acute mental health wards I quickly realised that the mental health service in the NHS is stretched and that individuals may not always get the level of care they deserve or need. This is why I’m extremely passionate about supporting external organisations.
When I thought about different ways that Love Soul Choir could raise awareness, I thought about organising a charity trip and for some reason, trains felt like a suitable mode of travel. I contacted South Western Railways to see if they’d be up for it. They agreed and then it took a number of meetings with various train stations, managers and timetable planning to ensure we could make it work.
"Love Soul Choir want to make a positive difference to the lives of people."
When the event was all tied up, I then reached out to Mind. It was a no brainer to raise money for Mind. Love Soul Choir want to make a positive difference to the lives of people. If we could raise money and awareness for a cause that can save lives and positively impact peoples then that's great for me.
A number of my choir members had not heard of Mind before but were super supportive of the cause. I know that a number of singers in Love Soul Choir have their own mental health challenges so therefore supporting a charity like Mind was always going to be well supported. We all wanted to raise as much money as possible.
I had a few moments of worry about getting 40+ members from Bournemouth train station to London Waterloo without losing anybody on the way.
We stopped at; Bournemouth, Southampton, Winchester, Basingstoke, Woking, Vauxhall, Clapham Junction, & London Waterloo. At every station, we got off the train, headed to the pre-arranged location and performed a 20 - 30 minute set of songs including ‘Shape of You’ by Ed Sheeran, ‘Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing’ by Stevie Wonder and ‘Incredible’ by the Shapeshifters for members of the public passing through the stations. We’d then board the next train to the following location.
We hope that our performances brightened the days of any people passing by and we hope that the money raised can be used well.
"We had so many positive comments on the day. People said how much happier they felt listening to us perform."
We had so many positive comments on the day. People said how much happier they felt listening to us perform. For me, that’s a job well done. The event took place on the hottest day of the year and we raised over £1100 for Mind.
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Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.