How a singing project in Houghton is helping beat the post-lockdown blues

A new singing project is helping people reconnect after lockdowns, aiming to build confidence, reduce loneliness and isolation and bring people together through music.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 3:16 pm

Find Your Voice with Unity Choir is run by Houghton-based social enterprise the Singing Elf. It offers fun and friendly singing tasters across the Coalfields, followed by regular singing sessions in Kepier Hall, Houghton.

Taster sessions take place in Philadelphia, Hetton, Easington Lane, New Herrington and Penshaw, providing the first opportunity for many to sing together in person since March 2020.

Singing Elf vocal tutors, Rebecca McGarvie and Sinead Livingston, are leading sessions each Tuesday evening and some daytime sessions too.

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Vocal tutors Rebecca McGarvie, front left and Sinead Livingston with some of the Find Your Voice singers.

Those not ready to sing in person can join the Tuesday sessions on Zoom.

Anyone joining the free sessions is greeted with smiles, cups of tea and a chat. Rebecca and Sinead lead a gentle warm up and introduction to get people moving and using their voice, before learning some new, upbeat songs.

The project, funded by Sunderland City Council, is suitable for anyone, from beginners to experienced singers.

The health benefits include helping with breathing, posture and fitness, boosting endorphins, easing anxiety and strengthening the immune system. Community singing is also a great way to beat loneliness and connect with other people.

Rebecca said: “This pandemic has meant that it has been harder to keep connected with their community. Singing is an amazing way of coming together. It’s a really fun way to make new friends and build your confidence.

“We know people may feel nervous having been away from singing for so long, so these sessions are designed to ease you in with no pressure, promising escapism, laughter and friendship."

Sunderland City Council’s executive director of neighbourhoods, Fiona Brown, said: “Covid-19 and the related social restrictions may have presented challenges to many of the city’s residents, as they have been unable to see friends and family or take part in their usual hobbies and activities.

“As a council we are delighted to fund projects such as the Singing Elf as part of the Covid Social Isolation Programme, which supports the many fantastic groups who work hard to ensure people across the city have the support they need.”

For a full list of sessions and to book a place, visit

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