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UEL community choral project awarded Arts Council England funding to go digital during pandemic

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The project celebrates the hidden stories that make up diverse contemporary Britain 

A large-scale community choral project led by the University of East London has received a grant of £20,000 from Arts Council England to go digital in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Stopping Place, produced in partnership by the University of East London, Brolly Productions, Opera North and the London Borough of Newham, will move online through digital and social media platforms, making it more accessible in the current period of social distancing and lockdowns.

The project’s lead, Professor Dominic Hingorani of the University of East London, said, “The Stopping Place aims to capture and celebrate the often ‘hidden’ stories that make up diverse contemporary Britain. Whether, you have roots as far as South Asia or the Caribbean or as close as the next street, we want to map and showcase the rich cultural tapestry that makes modern Britain.”

The project places two female Romani characters at the centre stage of a ‘people’s chorus’ drawn from the community. The work explores the idea of the ‘outsider’ and examines the forces that make a community exclude others and insisting on sameness – the very opposite of diversity.

Professor Hingorani said, “Central to the project is community engagement and participation in a high quality and innovative performance that could not be developed or realised without those participants and location.

“Everyone will have the opportunity to engage in arts practice which reflect their particular cultural journeys. These will then be made into installations across Newham as well as becoming part of the design of the production.

He continued, “This grant will enable us to create a digital space for innovation in which to develop the artistic work and crucially continue developing an interactive programme of participation online.”

Professor Marcia Wilson, dean of the University’s Office for Institutional Equity, said, “Equality, diversity and inclusion is central to our Vision 2028 institutional strategy and our success in that aim recently reflected in our 1st in the UK and 2nd in the World ranking for reducing inequalities (Times Higher Education World Impact Ranking, 2020). This project will help reflect the diverse and often hidden histories that make up Newham, engaging new audiences, especially among those who may not have been involved in arts events before.” 

There are plans to expand the project from Newham to Leeds, leading to a full production in autumn 2021 at the Howard Assembly Room, Opera North, and growing the project’s national and international reach.

Professor Hingorani runs the cross arts company Brolly Productions with designer, Rachana Jadhav, alongside his work at the University, which involves running postgraduate programmes in acting and theatre directing, as well as conducting research.