New Sing out Strong choir for Blackpool aimed at boosting mental health

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A new choir is being set up in Blackpool next month – aimed at helping to improve people’s mental health.


Stewart Hankinson has conducted many choirs

Sing out Strong is the world’s biggest mental health choir and the organisation provides opportunities for people to improve their wellbeing through singing.

Now it is setting up on the Fylde coast.

The Blackpool and Fylde Sing out Strong choir will meet up on Monday mornings from 10.15am to 11.45am, at the Michael Hall Theatre School on Preston Old Road, Blackpool.

Choir leader is Stewart Hankinson, a highly qualified professional musician who is originally from Lytham and has led choirs at youth, school and community level and performed at venues including the Royal Albert Hall.

Stewart, 61, who now lives in Freckleton, said: “Singing is often used as therapy, it is so good at lifting people’s spirits and taking them to a completely different place.

“That is what we are looking to do with this choir.”

Sing out Strong started life as a UK family of choirs for mental health and well-being, back in 2019, and since then has grown from strength to strength.

When the first lockdown hit the country, there were six choirs on the English/Welsh border, each meeting regularly to enjoy music, friendship and mutual support.

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed down the in-person groups, Sing out Strong switched to running free, on-line choir sessions available to anyone and everyone, being the first UK group to “go virtual”.

Since then, there have been seven unique projects featuring everything from original charity singles to famous, classical works, and the organisation has gone global, working with 11,000 singers in 100 countries.

The Founder and Principal Conductor of Sing out Strong is Emma Rowland, a professional choral conductor with post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

Emma set up SOS as a safe place where people could come and sing for their well-being, but also could be open about their mental health or if they were just having a bad day.

All material is upbeat and positive and relaxation exercises are included at the beginning and end of every rehearsal.

Sing out Strong also organises Wellness Days where choir members can try new well-being activities.

Additionally, all choir leaders are trained in mental health safeguarding.

As well as raising awareness of mental health and singing together for fun and friendship, the choirs will come together regularly for spectacular fund-raising galas in aid of

mental health charities.

Choir fees are capped, free places are offered for carers, additional support is made available for disability or learning needs and nobody is ever auditioned, put on the spot or expected to join in or perform.

Founder Emma Rowland said: “I know, from personal experience, how singing and social inclusion can make you smile – even when you think you may never smile again.”