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?

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.

Gay Abandon’s New Home (and Look!)

It’s been a bit of a crazy time at the moment. For us here at Gay Abandon, we’ve sadly had to stop taking on new members, have postponed our up-coming concert, and, possibly the most difficult of all, we’ve had to figure out how to use Zoom (Jane, you have the patience of a rock for dealing with all that technology!).

However, these changes haven’t all been negative. Deciding to take advantage of the imposed “downtime”, we accelerated our plans to re-brand ourselves, designing a new logo and building this very website that you’re currently visiting. It’s quite nice isn’t it?

We think so, and we’d like to thank Associate Choir Member Colin Beesting for the design of our stylish new logo, and Richard Parkin and Callum Holt for designing and building a website that will hopefully last.

Welcome to our new digital home. Have a look around, make yourselves at comfortable.

We hope you like it.

Resolutions

It’s that time of year again.

Christmas has passed, New Year is just around the corner, and we’re all now only just sitting down to think about what our resolutions will be for the coming year (that is, unless you’re one of those really organised people who plan ahead, in which case go you!).

We’re asking all the usual questions: What do I want to change about my life? Will I really stick to this after 5th January? How hard can it be to make a change? If it was so easy, why haven’t I made this change before now? Now that I think about it, why have I only started worrying about this one thing now? If it was really important to change, why am I waiting to make a resolution about it? Okay, so I might have a tendency to overthink my own resolutions…

Fortunately, Jane and the Gay Abandon Committee like to overthink a little less about the choirs own New Year’s Resolution, which this year is to ensure that Gay Abandon stays the warm, welcoming, and beautifully sounding choir that it has grown to be.

I hope we manage to stick with it, but I’m not too worried.

Happy holidays everyone, we wish you a very happy New Year!

Reflections from a New Member

I thought for this month’s blog, it would be nice to share with you all a reflection that a new member of the choir has written about their experiences of joining this term (especially as by now you’re probably a little bored of everything I’ve written!). It’s lovely hearing from someone else that our choir really is the friendly, welcoming place we try and make it. Have a read yourself:

“Having previously had experience of singing with other groups, joining Gay Abandon has proven to be a fantastic choice for my Husband and I.

“We were looking to join a group that would fulfil our hopes of making new friends while finding a hobby that we both enjoyed; finding the Gay Abandon choir has been more than either of us could have hoped for.

“We were both welcomed with open arms by every member of the Choir and quickly found our place. Every rehearsal we’re learning new songs while reminding ourselves of number we’ve previously learnt.

“The Choir Master, Jane, is just fantastic! Each week she makes sure everyone is included and confident with what they are singing and she clearly puts a lot of work into the performance programmes, rehearsal music and arrangements. You never feel pressured to perform and, not only is the Choir inclusive, they are thoughtful, generous and giving.

“Joining Gay Abandon has been an incredibly positive experience and I can’t wait to sing with them for many years to come!”

Lighting Up Leeds

This October we were fortunate to once again be invited to perform as a part of Light Night Leeds, the UK’s largest annual light and multi-arts festival. Spread over 2 days, this years festival was exploring the theme of Mind Body Spirit, and the whole city was alive with lights and people.

Our own performances were on the Friday evening, with us performing twice in the Victoria Gate shopping centre, and twice in the Victoria Arcade. While we revived some hits from our last Fruity concert (our favourites being Tourdion and Dancing Queen), we also incorporated some new songs we have been working on such as “There’s a Fire in My Heart” so that some of our incredible new members could perform with us.

We absolutely loved performing at the event, and really hope we get invited back next year as well. Thank you Light Night Leeds for being so wonderful!

P.s. If you want to see images of us performing, keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter pages over the next month!