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“The choir is my tribe, it’s my family” – Andrew, The Choir with No Name, Liverpool
For Andrew, sharing his story was not easy. There are a lot of painful memories, and he struggled from a young age.
Andrew grew up in the 1970s. His home life was chaotic and dysfunctional. He was bullied by classmates for being gay and dropped out of school at 14. He turned to alcohol and drugs to cope. Andrew didn’t know it at the time, but he was also living with chronic depression, which made him very ill and even suicidal on occasion.
In the 1980s, the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, at age 22, Andrew discovered he was HIV+, a diagnosis which felt like a death sentence at the time. He threw himself into drugs, alcohol and lost his job, his flat, his relationship. He was homeless and became sick with hepatitis.
“My attitude was, I am going to die anyway”.
Andrew ended up in hospital, and thought he was coming to the end of his life. He was told he would die if he had another drink, so he stopped.
This Boxing Day, Andrew will have been sober for five years. He was introduced to the Choir with No Name, an organisation funded by Comic Relief, nearly three years ago and says it has been a lifesaver. The choir supports homeless and marginalised people by bringing them together every Wednesday evening to sing, have a cup of tea, conversation, and a hot cooked meal.
Everyone who is a part of the choir has their own story. Whether that be homelessness, mental health issues, substance use or being marginalized. But when the choir come together on a Wednesday evening, these problems do not exist.
The weekly choir rehearsals have been Andrew’s saviour, keeping him sober and helping him avoid becoming severely depressed.
Andrew can no longer imagine his life without it.
‘Together But Apart’
A song written and performed by the Choir with No Name Birmingham during lockdown, celebrating their determination to stay together through the dark times.
‘Together But Apart’ by The Choir with No Name. © The Choir with No Name’
About The Choir with No Name
The Choir with No Name have been successfully running choirs and building joyful communities with homeless and marginalised people since 2008. There are currently five choirs: in Birmingham, Liverpool, London, Cardiff and Brighton.
They were founded on the premise that singing makes you feel good; it distracts you, helps you to build confidence, skills, and genuine, long-lasting friendships.
The choirs meet once a week for a cup of tea and a catch up. They sing their hearts out and then sit down together afterwards for a hot meal cooked by volunteers.
They regularly perform at a whole load of different places, from local homeless hostels to the Royal Festival Hall and everywhere in between. The choirs are a supportive, safe space for people going through a tough time to be among friends, where they can experience the joy of singing together, have fun, build confidence and skills, and feel more able to tackle life's other challenges, such as securing housing or finding work.
Your donations mean that Comic Relief can keep supporting community projects, like the Choir with No Name, at home and internationally, and help change lives for good.