Hannah Morpeth recently spoke to Laura Brewis of We Make Culture, a Sunderland based arts organisation who are making cultural opportunities to boost wellbeing.
Having little children makes it difficult for any of us to be able to culturally engage in what we want to however Laura shared her love for listening to podcasts, as they’re much easier to squeeze in around a busy life. At the moment Laura is particularly enjoying Literary Friction, we are excited to give this a listen now! She has also “managed to sneak to the cinema a few times and have seen some great female-led films- Lady Bug, Funny Cow and Tully.- and also really enjoyed Mortal Fool’s Brainstorm at Caedmon Hall which had an amazing teenage cast. I’m really looking forward to Curious Festival that’s on over the next few weeks too, especially as the kids can get involved too- we’re all off to the Rainbow Rave at Seven Stories in July.”
Pop Choir is ran by We Make Culture, they currently have two choirs in Sunderland (one at Fausto in Roker and the other at Washington Mind) with the plan of a third choir in South Shields starting up soon. As the name suggests they sing contemporary songs and are for anyone in the community to join, whether you’ve sang before or not. We asked Laura the reasons behind setting up the choir: “I am lucky enough to know amazing musicians like Jennie and Liz (the choir leaders) who were up for giving it a go, but mostly that lots of people singing together is a really joyous thing! Setting up the first one really was an experiment, which luckily the Cultural Spring (the Creative People and Places project in Sunderland and South Tyneside) were willing to back, but we really didn’t expect it to take off like it did.”
Culture and Wellbeing
Pop Choir seems to be giving people that time to themselves, when they do something because it’s fun and for one reason or another people usually find it difficult to make this time, forever needing to do something for someone else. “For lots of people Pop Choir is the first time they’ve participated in anything for years, it’s improved people’s mood and wellbeing and people really enjoy feeling part of something bigger than themselves.” Laura rightly reminded us that cultural activities need not be mega serious or formal, “actually just belting out some George Michael hits on a Monday evening is a great way to set you up for the week!” And the best of these activities “do all of the things that research (and instinct) tells us will increase wellbeing and resilience- they build communities, they help us achieve something of personal significance, they build friendships, they help us reflect on ourselves and the world and, very simply, they are enjoyable.”
Arts and Culture in Sunderland
Sunderland recently had its moment on the bigger stage whilst bidding to be city of culture in 2021, a bid they sadly didn’t win however the process has shone a light on great things happening in Sunderland. “There’s been loads of investment in the city in recent years, to support people, venues and organisations, and everything is beginning to feel much more joined up. There’s also been a bit of an attitude shift in the city too, so the arts and culture are seen as valuable for their own sake but also useful for addressing wider issues, like wellbeing or community cohesion. For a new organisation like We Make Culutre, it’s really exciting to be part of it all!”
Pop Choirs currently meet on a Monday at Fausto, Roker 6-7:30pm and Tuesday’s at Washington Mind 5:45-7:15pm. There is no need to book, just come along. Pop Choir runs on pay what you can with a suggested donation of £4. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Further details can also be found on their Facebook page.
“Come and try it! It’s really informal- there’s no auditions, we don’t ask anyone to sing on their own and you don’t have to be able to read music.”