Get that Community Feeling this Pride Month

Gay Abandon. Saturday Night at the Movies. Leeds College of Music. Photo by Karen Hope, Saturday June 22 2013.

It feels like Pride month is more important than ever at the moment. The sense of community that it provides to so many people is exactly what we need: to feel supported, a part of something bigger than ourselves, and loved.

This Pride month, while you’re waving rainbow flags and celebrating, why don’t you also do something that actively supports LGBTQ+ people in your local community and foster that sense of togetherness? You could:

  • Donate money or time to LGBTQ+ charities or causes. Those who are Trans particularly need financial support due to the 5+ year wait time to receive live-saving medical treatment from the NHS.
  • Advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and causes. Now is an excellent time to write to your local MP or Councillor to ask for change regarding LGBTQ+ rights. Or if you don’t quite feel up to that, just write positive messages and comments on news articles that you see online.
  • Check in on LGBTQ+ members of your community. Between the pandemic and their personal circumstances, they could be feeling very isolated and would appreciate having someone reach out to them.

This Pride, let’s work harder than ever to make sure that everyone feels a part of our community!

Back to In Person Rehearsals

Big Hair Do. Leeds College of Music, June 2009
Photographer: Karen Hope

Earlier this month, our fantastic committee had conversations about the choir going back to face-to-face rehearsals, and it got us thinking…

As well as being incredibly exciting, going back to singing in a room full of people feels quite…nerve-wracking? Anxieties about COVID-19 aside, whenever someone mentions going back to in person rehearsals, we get a feeling in our stomach that’s like the jitters of going back to school after the summer holiday – will we remember how to sing in a group of people? Can we actually still hold a harmony? Will we have things to talk about with people in the break, besides our latest banana-bread baking disaster? Will rehearsals still feel the same?

The truth of it is – we won’t know until we’re back in the room, preparing to warm up and with baking anecdotes at the ready in case anyone asks. Just like the first day back at school when we were younger, we’re sure it will be weird at first pretending to be in boat while singing the word “OAR” in a weird accent (a favourite warm up of the choir as you can get great photos of Jane looking silly). But the thing that’s keeping my spirits up and the nervousness at manageable levels is that we’re sure, just like those first days back at school, we’ll soon find our groove again. And one thing is definitely sure – mixed up in all those feelings of nervousness is a genuine excitement that’s going to have us awake all night the night before we’re back!

Spring is in the Air

Hands of Friendship, Gay Abandon’s 20th Anniversary Concert, Leeds College of Music, 21st July 2018
Photographer: Dawn Kilne

The air is fresh, the flowers are blooming (at least in Helen’s garden they are!), and Callum, our Marketing guy, is sneezing up a storm – Spring is here at last!

The days are finally starting to feel longer, and the extra sunshine (well, the sunshine we get in Great Britain) is giving everyone’s mood a bit of a boost. It’s even having an effect on our Zoom rehearsals – everyone joins the session with a smile on their face, and has that little bit more energy. It’s very invigorating!

It’s also great because there is a shared sense that we are finally approaching the light after a very long, dark tunnel. There’s talk of singing in person again, potentially some small performances, and maybe, just maybe, an in person social gathering. Imagine!

The advent of Spring and the start of our Summer term is always a nice time for the choir. As a rule, we feel uplifted. But this time it feels extra special – let’s just keep our finger’s crossed for the future!

Small Moments of Activism

Nowt so Queer as Folk, November 2016
Photographer: Dawn Kilner

This LGBTQI+ History Month, we here at Gay Abandon are celebrating those small, quiet moments of activism that comes with being a part of our wonderful community.

Activism isn’t always about grand, momentous events or huge parades (though don’t get us wrong, we love a good parade!), especially when it comes to fighting for LGBTQI+ rights. It’s also about the small gestures that we make in our everyday lives, going about our every day business.

At Gay Abandon, we change the lyrics of the songs we sing so they better reflect our own lives, or so they become more inclusive of the wider LGBTQI+ community. Where possible, we also try to champion music sung, written, or arranged by other LGBTQI+ artists and groups. There are numerous other little things we do or changes we make, so many in fact that it would be almost impossible to list them here in this little blog.

A lot of people outside of Gay Abandon wouldn’t necessarily describe us as activist, yet many members of the choir do, and it’s because of these small acts of activism that we do every Tuesday night.

There’s power in our little moments of rebellion and activism, so what are yours?

Community Spirit

Hands of Friendship, Gay Abandon’s 20th Anniversary Concert, Leeds College of Music, 21st July 2018
Photographer: Dawn Kilner

If this pandemic has taught the choir anything, it’s that we’re more than just a choir, we’re a community.

In the past, we’ve always tried to be more than just a group of LGBT+ people who get together on a weekly basis and sing, organising trips out together, Weekends Away, and socials like bowling, karaoke, and Soup and Sarnie nights before rehearsals. However, amazingly, this kind of activity actually increased when we were unable to meet together face to face.

An online book club emerged , bringing together people who wouldn’t normally chat at a rehearsal through their love of good LGBT+ literature. Our section leads went above and beyond as caretakers of the people in their sections, contacting people who hadn’t been able to join our online rehearsals to make sure they were okay and still felt involved in the choir. Members of the choir even volunteered to organise online socials, which included everything from treasure hunts to quizzes, so that the choir was able to maintain it’s social element that we all know and love.

It has been lovely seeing how much our members care about the choir, not just the singing bits, but all the other bits that make Gay Abandon as special as it is. Everyone has worked so hard to maintain the community spirit that Gay Abandon has, and we know that it is that that will keep us going right through to the end of this difficult time.

2020, And that’s a Wrap!

Nowt so Queer as Folk, Leeds College of Music, November 2016
Photographer: Dawn Kilner

Well, we think it’s fair to say that 2020 has been quite a year and we’re glad to see the back of it!

However, while its easy to focus on the bad, we thought we’d challenge ourselves by trying to come up with some positive things that we’ve realised this year. Here are some of the things we’ve come up with:

– We’re more than just a choir, we’re a community – when coronavirus struck, one of the things we were most concerned about was not whether we could keep on singing, but whether we could keep on being there for each other. We set up online rehearsals so that people could maintain a sense of normality and routine in and amongst everything that was going on, and checked in on those that weren’t able to make those rehearsals. We continued socialising, coming up with creative ways to spend time together that was interactive and fun (huge thank you to Brian for leading his book club, and Callum, Joe, Camilla, and Fiona for organising brilliant socials!). And we were kind to each other, encouraging everyone to reach out and talk if they needed help. For a choir that prides itself on being friendly, this is something that has been very inspirational to us

– We’re pretty darn resilient – Given that we aren’t regularly funded, and that we’re run by a group of volunteers who all have day jobs and aren’t arts professionals, we’ve done phenomenally well to keep the choir going during this difficult period. We’ve realised we’re stronger than we thought we were, and that it’ll take a lot to knock us off our feet! (Also, and on the lighter side, we’ve all realised were way better at using computers than we thought we were too!)

– We’ve achieved a lot this year – Despite everything the year has thrown at us, we have re-branded and built a brand new website, continued learning new songs and taking part in virtual events, and hosted a successful AGM, electing a new committee to lead us through 2021. Phew, no wonder we feel like we need this break!

2020 will always be considered a “bad year” (and that’s probably putting it mildly), but we’ve found it helpful to remember the good things that happened too, so they aren’t forgotten and overshadowed.

We’ve all done things to be proud of this year – let’s make sure we celebrate them!

A Word from our New Chair

Photo of Catherine, New Chair of Gay Abandon Choir
Hands of Friendship, Gay Abandon’s 20th Anniversary Concert, Leeds College of Music, 21st July 2018
Photographer: Dawn Kilner

At the AGM just gone, we said goodbye to our previous Chair Maddie, who has served Gay Abandon for the last 4 years, leading us through our 20th anniversary, several exciting performances, and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as sad as this loss is, this is also an exciting time for us as a choir as it means a new chair coming in bringing new leadership and a fresh perspective.

So, without further ado, please let us introduce to you this bringer of change, new Chair of Gay Abandon, Catherine! Here is a little something that she has written about the appointment, what her priorities are, and how she feels the next 12 months for choir will be:

“Thank you Gay Abandon for voting me in as Chair at the AGM in October 2020. Since then we’ve had some “musical chairs” on committee with people changing positions but thankfully now also have a new Treasurer, and Membership Secretary – which I’m really excited about. (Thank you Chris and Jeanette!)

It will certainly be super challenging over the next 12 months, responding to the pandemic and finding a way that choir can continue to sing, and be a joyful community.

The first challenge will be the question of whether we can return to face to face rehearsals – and make no mistake this will be a huge decision for committee to make.

In due course, I think we need to update our legal structure and constitution. Apologies if this sounds a bit “lawyerly” – but I passionately believe it’s necessary, to put the choir on the best organisational footing going forward.

But most importantly, we need to make sure we continue to “have fun” – and build on the great ideas and enthusiasms expressed in the GA survey last term; a clear love of singing together as a social group, and performing, and also a desire to become more involved in the wider community.

I’m thoroughly looking forward to 2020/21; I know that GA will continue to grow and respond with friendship, creativity and song, under the expert musical direction of Ms E!”

The 2020 Annual General Meeting

Hands of Friendship, Gay Abandon’s 20th Anniversary Concert, Leeds College of Music, 21st July 2018
Photographer: Dawn Kilner

Yesterday we held our Annual General Meeting for 2020, and it was so lovely gathering together as a choir to reflect on the year we’ve had and look forward to what’s ahead.

Despite everything that COVID-19 has thrown at us, we still looked back on the last 12 months fondly, remembering everything from singing on Ilkley Moor in tinfoil ponchos (it was for an art film!), to the development of our beautiful new website and branding (thank you again Callum & Colin), to all the fun of book clubs, parties, and Zoom Singing. Even when looking forward, COVID-19 wasn’t able to get us down, with everyone feeling excited about what we have in store (watch this space!). As with any AGM, there were formal proceedings that we went through, but the whole evening managed to retain a sense of celebration for not only everything we have achieved, but also for what we will do.

One of the most important parts of the Gay Abandon AGM is the voting in of a new committee to lead us through the next year. To that end, we are delighted to introduce you to our 2 new committee members, Viv and Cathy, and to our new Chair, Catherine! We’re really looking forward to having all of you on board, and we are excited to see what direction Catherine and Jane steer the choir in.

However, while many of the existing committee members opted to stay on, some individuals did choose to step down, and we’d really like to thank Maddie, Liz, Helen, and Joe for everything that they have done while being on the Gay Abandon committee. You’ll be sorely missed and it’s been lovely having your advice and guidance.

Everything might feel a bit uncertain at the moment, but here at Gay Abandon we feel ready for whatever challenges and opportunities come our way. To 2021!

And we’re back! Sort of!

Photo Credit: Viperia Images, Gay Abandon Gets Fruity, Kala Sangam, 6th July 2019

This Tuesday marked the start of our new Autumn term, and we we’re thrilled to be back! Even if it was singing through a screen in our living rooms, kitchens, hallways (looking at you Chris).

The first Tuesday back after the Summer term is always a bit of a special time for the choir. It has all the excitement of a new year, filled with promises of adventures, escapades, and, of course, singing and new songs. And surprisingly this Tuesday managed to retain that feeling, despite the physical distance between us all. Not a single person left the Zoom call without a smile on their face and we all feel we have a new lease on life.

Yes, things are a little bit different than our usual start to the Autumn term. But it’s nice as well to know that somethings stay the same, no matter how much change we’ve gone through.

Here’s to another new term at Gay Abandon, let’s see what this one brings!

Gay Abandon’s Queer Folk Concert – CANCELLED

We are very sad to announce that we have made the decision to cancel our concert, Queer Folk.

The main reason for this decision is because Leeds College of Music are not holding any external events for the remainder of 2020, due to COVID-19. As a higher education institution and a venue, they need to ensure the safety of their students, and provide the students with safe performance and rehearsal spaces, which will mean students will need greater access to The Venue. We here at Gay Abandon completely understand and respect Leeds College of Music’s decision to do this.

Leeds College of Music did offer us the option of postponing the Queer Folk concert again to a date in 2021, but after much deliberation we felt that actually the right decision for us is to cancel the concert and focus on developing a new set for in the future. There are other reasons influencing our decision such as there being uncertainty around the safety of people singing in groups, which means that it is highly unlikely that the choir will be able to gather and rehearse in the immediate future, and that we would need a full term to get our set up to a standard that we are happy to perform in front of an audience. Furthermore, as an unsubsidised choir, it is financially not viable for us to hold a concert under social distancing conditions.

This has been a difficult decision for us to make, and we would particularly like to thank Catherine, our Concert Organiser, for all of the hard work she has put in to supporting the choir through this difficult period.

It’s not all sad news though! We have been able to continue meeting as a choir over Zoom, and will be doing so until we can gather again in the future. Jane has even started planning what our “Coming Out” concert (pardon the pun) could look like when we are able to perform again, and you should all definitely start getting excited about that…

In the meantime, everyone at Gay Abandon hopes you are well, and we really can’t wait to perform for you again soon.

For those who purchased tickets for the Queer Folk Concert

Leeds College of Music will be processing the refunds for any tickets purchased for our Queer Folk concert. To get your refund, please contact Leeds College of Music at reception@lcm.ac.uk and provide your booking reference number.

They have requested, where possible, for people to hold off on approaching them for refunds until Sept 2020, when their team will be back in the building.