Photography by Hope Fitzgerald

Hearts for the Arts 2021 Shortlist – Sea Folk Sing

Sea Folk Sing - a project supported by Local Authorities in Kent County, Medway, and Swale Borough - has been shortlisted for Best Arts Project in the 2021 Hearts for the Arts Awards.

Sea Folk Sing was a 2-year project involving people over the age of 55 from areas of Swale and Medway in creative writing workshops which led to the production of new compositions which were then performed as the finale of the project. Produced by Ideas Test and Sparked Echo, the project received funding from Kent County Council, Arts Council England and the Baring Foundation with additional support from Medway Council, and Swale Borough Council.

Sea Folk Sing consisted of four main parts across the two-year period:

  • Part one involved a series of workshops in Medway and Swale run by composers. The task was to discuss and work on ideas around the theme of rivers, which would contribute to a final piece of music.
  • Part two: workshop contributors were then invited to join in a series of rehearsals with the various Ideas Test organisers and musicians, in order to create a choir that could perform in a range of venues across the areas of Gravesend, the Medway Towns and Swale.
  • Part three: performances took place in theatres, buildings and out on the street.
  • Part four involved a final get together to celebrate the project, evaluate it and see the videos taken of the events. At each event there was a catering team ensuring that the participants were well looked after.

And then, as a result of Coronavirus, a fifth part of the project was added: Ideas Test arranged further online workshops led by composers and collaborators of the songs that had been written and performed over the two years.

Sea Folk Sing addressed head on the need to engage an older population actively as participants in the arts. To encourage an older generation to explore their own creativity and to show the world that their voices, ideas and experiences are important, relevant and still need to be heard and enjoyed. A truly collaborative project, the participants of Sea Folk Sing had the opportunity to create new pieces of music, to get involved with activities outside of one’s comfort zone, and to meet new people in new situations – very few participants knew each other at the start of the project. Those who took part spoke of the joy, excitement, the  sense of community, of something to look forward to, of something to look back on with pride, the feeling of not being redundant and instead of still being included and thought worthwhile.

What the judges said:

 “A wonderful project that has clearly brought joy to all those who participated at a time when joy was in short supply. We were particularly impressed with how the project supported older people, including supporting their confidence on Zoom and generated a sense of community and pride in the local area.”

“At a time when so many are isolated and alone, especially older people, it was great to hear about a project like this that built on people’s sense of pride and ensured they were still being heard.”