What Does Handy Voices Mean to Me? by Shakeel Marham

Photo Credit: Stu Allsopp

Photo Credit: Agata Urbiniak

 

Shakeel asked to write a blog for HV as he feels that “It is impacted me so much in my life, I have to tell everyone”.  Shakeel was part of our youth music project, Youth Handy Voices that ran in 2018 in partnership with the My Normal Project at the Ark T Centre and funded by Youth Music. When that project ended, Shakeel decided to join the adult choir to continue with his journey and had excelled. Here in his own words are his thoughts and feelings about HV.

 

What Handy Voices Means to Me?

 

Inclusive:

Handy Voices is an INCLUSIVE Choir, as they accept anyone and everyone on a huge on a wide spectrum. Some examples include, people who are deaf, Hearing, Hard of Hearing, Disabled, and from the LGBTQIA+ Community and Allies.

They are a Signing Choir:

Handy Voices is not just an ordinary Choir they are a Signing Choir, meaning they perform with Sign Language, and they use Mouth Patterns whilst singing to the songs and Music.

They Use BSL:

Handy Voices uses British Sign Language, this is because BSL is the language that most Deaf people use, and it is nationally recognised as the language that Deaf people in the UK. Also not only does Christine teach us songs in BSL she also teaches us BSL Signs for allowing to converse with people who are Deaf, who are part of the Deaf Community, and also tells us what the signs mean, and how people in the Deaf Culture use them.

Supportive:

Handy Voices is very supportive, it is approachable and if you have any problems then you can talk to someone without any hesitation, and they can help you to sort out any problems. Also, the people in Handy Voices are very encouraging and will help you if you get stuck with anything. Another reason why I love Handy Voices is because Christine asks everyone how they feel and depending on how a person feels, whether they are feeling Happy or Sad, Stressed or Excited, the others can emphasize how a person feels which I personally find very important as it shows there are people out there who care for you, without judging anyone.

 

Photo Credit: Stu Allsopp
Photo Credit: Stu Allsopp

Friendly:

Everyone at Handy Voices are extremely friendly, and welcoming, and you can easily make new friends, and there are not any signs of or any bullying. This makes Handy Voices a Fun and Safe Place to be, and it such a Lovely Place, personally it makes me feel that is one of the places that I go to that makes feel that is where I belong.

My Second/ 2nd Family

I have made so many friends at Handy Voices, who are all my close and Best friends which makes me feel that they are my second family. Also, I feel very comfortable and confident talking to all the people in Handy Voices.

Performance Opportunities:

Due to Handy Voices I have had so many amazing opportunities, most of all I have had so many performing opportunities, some examples include:

Performing at the Royal Albert Hall, this was amazing as I have never heard of the location before, and it was amazing seeing the location as it was classy and very grand, and the interior design was so beautiful and stunning. Also, it was amazing to have a Standing Ovation at the end, and seeing a Balloon Drop in reality as well as having Indoor Fireworks and Confetti Machines. Handy Voices was performing there as it was part of the BBC Youth Proms Event. Following the performance at the Royal Albert Hall, there was a re-enactment of the performance at Blenheim Palace earlier on this year, which was fun as I have been to the Palace in the past, but I have never performed there before.

Performing at the Cowley Road Carnival was very fun as I have performed there twice in a row, last year was fun as I never go to take part in the procession before, and I am managed to experience something new, and performing there this year was also fun, as I discovered and explored a new part of the Carnival that I have never been to before.

 

 

Photo Credit Rand Russell

 

Performing at the Cogges Manor Farm Farmers Market in Witney was very fun, as I have never been to Witney before and I explored and discovered a new part of the country which was fun. Also, it was fun touring the Market after the performance, however whilst we were performing the weather turned, which meant there was a massive downpour of Rain.

Finally Performing at Common People Music Festival last year was fun this was because I have never been to a Music Festival before and it was nice to perform thrice over the course of both days, and it was nice to see one of my favourite bands live, which was Boney M. Also, it was nice to get in for free as we all got free wristbands, which we had to wear for the whole weekend as to show that we were performers. Finally, it was also nice to go whilst I still had the opportunity as it was the last year last year, as it now closed, as Common People have now gone Bankrupt.

 

YHV and HV perform at the Common People festival

Handy Voices Overall:

Overall, I love Handy Voices as it has had a positive impact on my life as I have l have had a chance to learn a new skill, and I have boosted up my Confidence to perform at various locations without feeling very nervous, and has allowed me to flourish as a person over the past year. I am also very thankful to Christine to allow me to join Handy Voices, which personally to me was a very valuable opportunity off a Lifetime, and I got to meet more wonderful people in my life.

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Testimonial from our own Jo Lamb

 

As we have started a new term, I have asked our members if they wanted to write about their experiences with Handy Voices. This entry is from our own Jo Lamb who has been part of the team since  2017.  Jo has overcome some incredible obstacles over the past few years and recently has handed her Masters! We are so proud of her and her achievements. Here is what she has said about HV.

 

Photo Credit: Agata Urbiniak

I started at Handy Voices in January 2017. I had seen a post on Facebook about recruiting new members and was just recovering from an operation, so was looking for something to occupy some time and keep me busy. Unfortunately, I only attended one session originally and then had to have a bit of a break whilst I got my head around the cancer diagnosis that came from the result of the operation!  But when I did go back a month later I was immediately welcomed again with open arms and caring words. I felt a part of the group from the start and all the members were so supportive, especially whilst I finished off my treatment.
During my time in the group, as well as performing at various festivals and special events, I have competed in Jersey in their Signing Choir competition where I was pleased to receive a silver award for my first solo.
I have also helped out as a volunteer for the Youth Handy Voices group and accompanied them to the Royal Albert Hall last year to be part of the Oxfordshire County Music Service Buddy Ensemble which was repeated at Blenheim Palace in June 2019.
The best thing about Handy Voices is that it is always more than just a Choir group. We listen to each other’s problems. We celebrate each other’s achievements. We mourn each other’s losses. We are a family.
I will be forever grateful for finding this special group at just the right time in my life.
Ph

 

HV moving to WEDNESDAY evenings!

Handy Voices Sessions moving to Wednesdays.

So it is confirmed that Handy Voices Signing Choir rehearsals will revert to  Wednesday evenings from 7:30pm to 9:00pm.  This change is due to my acceptance on a Masters and my lectures are in Wolverhampton on Mondays.  I am sorry for the change but there was nothing for it.
Additionally after 5 years really working hard to keep subs and costs down, I sadly have to increase subs by £1/session.  This means that the cost also has changed to £6/session however I can offer the discounted rate of £66/term if paying for the full term via BACS.  Please let me know if costs will be an issue to attending and we can have a conversation about this.
The Autumn term is 12 weeks with a break for half term.

The new dates for Handy Voices Signing Choir Sept- Dec 2019 are:

18 September
25 September
2 October
9 October
16 October
23 October
6 November
13 November
20 November
27 November
4 December
11 December
Get in touch if you have any queries and hope to see you there!

What does it mean to be more inclusive? Blog/Vlog I wrote for Youth Music July 2018

Here is a a copy of the Blog/Vlog I wrote for Youth Music in July 2018 as part of the Youth Handy Voices music accessibility project I partnered with the Ark T Centre from April- December 2018.

Vlog: What is Youth Handy Voices? available here

Thank you for watching my vlog. In addition to how this work has inspired me and helped me grown as a practitioner, I also wanted to share with you the learning that we have made in making the space that we have created as safe and as inclusive as we can.

I know that depending on where you are based “difference” can mean a lot of things.  I emigrated to the UK and I have a different accent. At 5Ft 10”, I am very tall “for a woman”. These differences to those around me can create a perception about me.  The important word in that sentence is perception. What we work to do in Youth Handy Voices (YHV) is to remove this perception. We are all different, but that does not mean that we are not equal. At YHV we encourage individual voice and preferred ways of communicating.

We do this in several ways:

Come As You Are:  

It is very important that we arrive into the space and be open to what other’s experience is AT THAT MOMENT.  One YP commented that “We all come into the space as we are, whether we are feeling good, not so good, whatever, it is ok”.  We value each person that comes in and we have a semi- anonymous check in on how we are feeling, and each person can share further if they want.

Supportive sharing:

In addition to the check in we have a space in each session asking if anyone has anything that they want to share about the day/week/ what is happening with them.  This is not a therapy session, but we use this time to support each other’s concerns and celebrate achievements.

Joint Agreement:

 We have a group contract on how we will communicate and learn with each other.  This includes how we address each other. If we have new people in the room, we introduce ourselves stating our name and preferred pronoun (he, she, they, etc).

Focus on the “Can”:

Many of our members have a disability. This does not mean that we change the learning goal, but it does mean that you may need to be flexible on the timing of it, and the method of how you get there. Everyone works to what they can do, often challenging themselves to go beyond their own expectations. No one is ever excluded.

Create leadership opportunities in the session:

I have designed the sessions so that in almost every session a YP leads on part of the session. This means that everyone has a chance to share their talent and their way of learning. This is very important to help build with team confidence as well as personal resilience. This opportunity may be the only time that this YP has the chance to shine. It can be invaluable in outreach with this YP and their peers.

Time:

All of this takes time, so I make sure that each session has it planned in. What you find out is that connection time and promotion of voice is the most precious of the session and is often the most valued because the learning is set up on this basis of trust and knowledge that each person is valued and important to the team.

Get It Wrong:

Doing all the above and being aware doesn’t mean we always get it right. We are human and sometimes get it wrong.  But it is also part of life and learning to be wrong. Recognising that and making it right actually builds more trust in the long term.  In the session there are goals to be achieved, however patience and learning patience from each other is also one of them. When we do get it wrong we fix it by talking about what happened and work on the best ways to make sure that trust and communication is bridged again.

The above are what have worked for my group as perhaps they may seem too simple to work. The main learning that I have taken is that it does not take much effort to make your sessions more inclusive, but the difference it makes to the YP is that you have created a safe space to learn, grow and have fun. And remember, your perceptions might be the only thing that is standing in your way.

 

Youth Handy Voices Signing Choir was a part of the My Normal Music Project at the Ark-T Centre from April- December 2018.

I Need To Make Sure I Am Not FLAFFING! Really? Do you?

This was a blog that I wrote a couple of years ago when I was a Workplace coach. I offer this blog to all the young people  who have finished their exams, got their results, and are trying to figuring out, “What now!”   And to my friends/family looking to see what their next step might be, I offer a bit of advice about not discounting journey they have already taken.

 

Flaffing, yes, that was the term used. You don’t know it? Well, I must admit neither did I but it came up in one of my last coaching sessions with one of my coachees. It is apparently the noise and flapping sound that an ostrich makes when it is running around at top speed seemingly going no where… fast. I am not sure if she made it up or not, but it does create a visual.

My coachee was determined that “this time” she would plan her next career step and that each and every role that she was going to apply for would be that stepping stone to the job that she “really” wants to do.  But I was wondering, is that what is really needed?

Is there a way seeing the value in the “Flaffing”?

Clearly she is a driven person, bright, articulate and trusted in her field. Throughout her career ( so far, she is still under 30 years old) she has gained many transferable skills and could set herself up in a number of prestigious careers, all worthy and have value. She would not have gained many these skills if she had not taken the path she went on. I also having worked with her and also have been the pleasure of her coach would have ever thought of her as a massive bird running out of control with no direction. So where does this assumption come from? And if it is true, what has she learnt from the journey?

So my question to her was, “So what?, so you have been “Flaffing”. Explain what’s wrong with that and do you really want to change that?”

Her answer came as a bit of a shock to me, she felt that any career decision she made at this moment would affect her for the next 10 years (including who she will marry, if she marries, if she has kids, and when) and ultimately her entire life. Now that is a lot of pressure for anyone!

As she is an activities person we came up with 3 criteria for her to think about her skills and the types of jobs she would want to apply for to help with this (unproven) assumption:

  • What skills did she have that was she confident about and felt she could do easily
  • What skills did she have that she wanted to build and could be improved
  • What did she not want to do anymore and would not consider doing.

I hoped by thinking these through she might see the benefits of some of her journey and be more confident in the learning that has taken place for her so far.

The ostrich is also famously known for “sticking its head in the sand” oblivious to what is actually happening around them. In a world where woman are often meant to be a little bit of everything, and with the rampant “fear of missing out”, perhaps self doubt has meant our youth need their journey planned and that “Flaffing” is not allowed? But this way of thinking does not allow us to take stock of the positives of what we have achieved, learned and what we can learn in the future.

Guest post by Eva Chapman: 5 Things That Make Handy Voices Special

Over the summer, as we are on break, I have asked members of our team to if they wanted to write a guest blog. This article is written by our member, Eva Chapman.   Enjoy!

 

5 Things that Make Handy Voices Special

 

Everyone is accepted for who they are

At Handy Voices, everyone is welcome. disability, sexual orientation and even signing ability don’t matter because our wonderful leader, Christine, makes sure that everyone feels welcome and supported to join in.

I started Handy Voices with almost no sign language knowledge but through learning songs and doing bits of grammar and vocabulary in our weekly sessions, I now feel much more confident when I stand up and sign in front of an audience – so confident that I recently performed my first solo!

‘Perfect’ doesn’t matter

We work hard at what we do, but at no point does anyone expect you to get it all right. We mess up a lot, including in performances, and that’s okay because Handy Voices creates an environment where it’s not about how well you do, but whether you tried your best.

Music can be for everyone

Other choirs allow their members to get involved in the music they make depending on how good their singing voice is, how well they can read music and if they can hear. At Handy Voices, I have learnt that music really can be for everyone and you don’t need the ability to hear or sing to enjoy it. I love music in all its forms and, for me, re-creating songs visually in BSL has opened up a whole new way of experiencing music.

We care about the whole person

We always start our sessions by checking in with each other, so that we are up to date with what’s going on in each others’ lives. This makes Handy Voices one of the most special groups I have been involved in, because it is a place where I can go to share how I’m feeling and what’s been going on with me, whether it’s good or bad. We support each other through difficult times and celebrate with each other when things go well, which is so important to me.

We are a family

Once you join, you’re in for life. I joined Handy Voices when I had finished university and started working in Oxford. Lots of my university friends had moved away, I was working at a new company and living with people I didn’t know. I am so grateful to my Handy Voices friends for welcoming me with open arms, laughing with me every Monday and becoming my Oxford family!

 

Handy Voices Signing Choir meets on Monday nights from 7:15pm-9:00pm at the Oxford Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre in Oxford. All are welcome.  More information can be found here.

Handy Voices members to be involved in Buddy Ensemble at Blenheim Palace on 10th July 2019

Great news!   HV members have been asked to be part of the performance by Oxfordshire County Music Services.  Handy Voices and Youth Handy Voices were part of the incredible performance at the Music for Youth Proms performed at the Royal Albert Hall in November 2018. OCMS has been asked to repeat this performance in style at Blenheim Palace on Wednesday 10 July and we will have invited to have a special role in this show.

This show promises to be  a spectacular performance featuring the Buddy Ensemble from the Royal Albert Hall and featuring other top Oxfordshire Ensembles including Flute Ensemble, Brass Ensemble, Clarinet Choir, Bassoon Ensemble, String Quartets and Oxfordshire Youth Choir.

Tickets £10 from www.blenheimpalace.com/ocms

A message from Angela Turton, Head of Oxfordshire County Music Service:

I am delighted to invite you to a very special concert at Blenheim Palace on Wednesday 10 July at 7.30pm.

Last November, 570 of our Oxfordshire children and young people performed magnificently at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Music for Youth Proms. Oxfordshire’s Lord Lieutenant, Tim Stevenson, has asked me to produce a local version of this spectacular concert. The participants: singers, orchestral players and dancers, were buddied together – those with special educational needs and disabilities alongside their able-bodied buddies.

The children not only performed to an extremely high standard, they also brought the house down with an extended standing ovation and many audience members reduced to tears!

Whilst we cannot reproduce the 12-minute performance exactly as it was, the indoor space at Blenheim Palace will accommodate 50 performers who are excited to re-live this special performance, the memory of which will remain with them for many years. Additional items in the concert will be provided by Oxfordshire County Music Service’s advanced chamber ensembles, making for a varied and high-quality concert programme which I am sure you will enjoy.

Handy Voices reinstated! Sessions from 3 June 2019 to 22 July 2019

Very happy to announce that after a short hiatus that Handy Voices Signing Choir is back!  We have a few performances already lined up,  Oxford Pride: 6 June, Cowley Road Carnival: 7 July and the Supernormal Festival: 2 August.  Session still run on Monday evenings from 7:15pm to 9:00pm from 3 June to 22 July.  Sessions are £5/session including free tea/coffee/biscuits.  All are welcome and no BSL experience needed. Hope to see you there!

Handy Voices Closing for Time Being

It is with great regret that I have decided to close Handy Voices Signing Choir for the time being. As most of you know my family has had two family bereavements that have taken emotional and physical toll. My focus must be right now on taking any extra energy that I have to heal. This will take effect immediately– so this means there will not be a session tomorrow (Monday).
All subs that have been paid for future sessions by members who sent a bank transfer will be reimbursed asap. I am very sorry about this, but hope that we can reinstate Handy Voices again when I and my family am strong enough. I thank you for your help, support and kindness.

Stop the Press– Article on Youth Handy Voices entitled ‘Life changing’ choir to perform at St Edward’s

‘Life changing’ choir to perform at St Edward’s

Monday 3rd December, 7pm, open to the public, free admission

A unique carol concert performed by sign language choir, Youth Handy Voices, including pupils from St Edward’s School will take place at 7pm on Monday 3rd December. The programme will feature festive favourites such as Silent Night and hit songs including This is me from The Greatest Showman.

 

Some of the performers will sing the carols whilst the choir sign them in British Sign Language, offering a visual expression of the lyrics which can be very emotive.  The community project brings together young people with different abilities from different backgrounds to learn from each other, make music and have fun. The young members of Youth Handy Voices will be joined for the performance by the adult choir – Handy Voices. The experience has been rewarding and even life changing for those involved.

 

Of their recent participation in a major concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the Youth Proms (7th November), Teddies pupils Bunny Lytle and Val Purik said, ‘Maybe we did not change the world that night but certainly a lot changed for most of us in the choir. I have met a completely new group of people that I would never have met if I hadn’t signed up to take part. Being one team with such beautiful people helps me to understand the world a little better – it has been a very emotional experience.’

 

Choir member Shakeel, from South Oxford, feels his experience with the choir has been ‘life changing’, helping him with interactions and even a clear career path that he wants to follow.

 

The sign language choir is just one of a range of community partnerships undertaken by pupils at St Edward’s – elsewhere, pupils give one-to-one support at the Endeavour Academy, enjoy crafts sessions with pupils at Northern House, offer sports coaching with Wolvercote Primary, perform concerts at the Lady Nuffield Residential Home, and work with adults with autism and learning disabilities at Farmability, a co-farmers programme.

 

‘One of the huge advantages of being a city school is that we can be part of our local community and really get involved ….’, said Paula Diaz Rogado, Head of Community Service.

 

For more details, contact Tracy van der Heiden, details above and below.

 

 

Will Griffiths

Media Manager

St Edward’s School

Woodstock Road

Oxford OX2 7NN

Tel: 01865 319398