Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, London Youth Choirs (LYC) has spent the last decade championing inclusivity within choral music, offering a centre of musical excellence for the full spectrum of London’s diverse communities. Proving particularly poignant during the charity’s anniversary year, a report last month – from think-tank Onward – showed a concerning decline in access to music for those from lower income backgrounds, with music lessons largely being the preserve of wealthier children, who are currently three times more likely to sing in a choir or play in a band. In contrast, LYC’s citywide network of four regional and six central choirs for ages 7-23 puts choral singing within reach of children and young people in every London borough.
The charity’s inclusive and secular musical and educational approach provides provides opportunities for members from different communities, cultures and backgrounds to pursue their passion for music under the stewardship of LYC’s professional conductors and highly-qualified musical and pastoral staff teams. Undoing the perception that choral music is an elitist pastime, LYC has made a concerted effort to integrate the rich cultural fabric of London’s society into their network of choirs. As a collective, 42% of the members in the central choirs – meeting near St. Pauls in Central London on a weekly basis – combined with those participating in the regional choirs come from diverse backgrounds.
A Decade of Performance
Having appeared on Good Morning Britain and closed the Royal Variety Performance in the past week alone, LYC is now celebrating its 10th anniversary, culminating in a landmark concert on 9th May 2023 at one of the world’s most iconic venues – the Royal Albert Hall. More than 7,000 children have benefitted from LYC membership and engagement activities over the past decade, with the charity witnessing an 81% increase in membership over the last six years. This is set to climb further with the establishment of a 10th choir which will be based in North East London, due for launch in January 2023.
Since its inception in 2012, LYC has become London’s first-ever citywide choir solely dedicated to children and young people, having taken its inspiration from the London Olympic Games which united people from all over the capital through sport. Since then, the choir co-founded by Rachel Staunton and Suzi Digby OBE has performed across the capital alongside artists of international acclaim, such as the Rolling Stones, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Ellie Goulding.
Accessibility to Choral Singing in London
Throughout 2023 LYC will celebrate and champion three themes which will also set the tone for the organisation’s next ten years; access, belonging and excellence. Through their ten choirs around London, the charity looks to champion local talent in communities – some of which rank among the most socio-economically challenging in the country. As a registered charity receiving no regular public funding, LYC has relied on fundraising to deliver its programme for young people. Since 2012, it has raised a total of £2.5 million, supporting the provision of subsidised places for all members alongside cost-free memberships for one in five participants, and free auditions for all applicants since 2021.
Putting pastoral care at the heart of the organisation has helped LYC’s members feel more included, supported and listened to, especially after the isolation of Covid lockdowns leading to higher levels of anxiety young people are now experiencing.
Changing the stigma that only those from a privileged background can join a choir, the majority of members (63%) at LYC receive state funded education. With the support of a £1m anniversary appeal, LYC is introducing an initiative to double the financial assistance offered to young people, strengthening the charity’s commitment to widening the accessibility of the choirs and the training they offer. This will help to further establish LYC as an organisation that allows children to flourish in an exciting and creative environment, with 90% of members already agreeing that participation within the charity has aided the support of their mental health and wellbeing.
To discuss how the charity is expanding access to music for children and young people in the Capital, Directors of LYC, Rachel Staunton and Nina Camilleri, are available to speak on the following:
The pastoral support offered by the choir
How the choir is supporting families during the cost-of-living crisis
Access to the arts amidst funding cuts
How the charity provides an inclusive space for members of the choirs