Baz Chapman and Fiona Harvey are working with the Sing Up Foundation to help create a legacy for the World Voice programme (see our news item in November).They talk about their work so far and the likely next steps for this important international programme.
Where to start?
Our initial work has focused on research and consultation – after all, it’s 8 years since the first World Voice programmes began, and a lot has happened since then!
Building on Sound Connections’ excellent evaluation of World Voice, we’ve been keen to find out how things are now in those countries who engaged with the original programme, and to understand how best to support them in the future, particularly through a digital platform of songs, resources, etc. Our conversations so far have been fascinating.
We’ve spoken with representatives from 10 countries: Brazil, Chile, Ethiopia, Greece, India, Lebanon, Nepal, Palestine, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. Given that all were, at the time of their initial World Voice programmes, ODA Countries (recipients of Official Development Assistance for developing countries receiving UK aid), it was unsurprising to learn that all were facing significant challenges as a result of the pandemic, and the continuation of singing in their schools has been patchy. However, the over-riding message from our conversations has been that World Voice was a transformative and hugely positive programme, whose impact and legacy lives on in some way, whether that be through World Voice songs continuing to be sung in schools, influence at national level on the place of singing within the curriculum, support for refugees, or the legacy of the visits by the World Voice trainers:
“Richard Frostick was the one special key element that we probably wouldn’t have been able to do this without. It's been 6 years since we had Richard here – they still talk about him!... it was his methodology that stuck.”
British Council representative, Chile
As a result, there was a strong desire from all the nations we spoke with to continue World Voice in some way, even though the capacity for state schools in these countries to pay for support or resources is largely non-existent. Which poses us an interesting challenge – How to make it free?
What do these nations want?
In the UK, we tend to think of a digital music offer for schools as being something accessed via desktop, laptop computer, interactive whiteboard or tablet, whereas teachers in most of the schools in World Voice countries do not use, or have access to, these devices for teaching. Smartphones linked to Bluetooth speakers, and either streaming (where wifi/phone data permits) or using downloaded media files is the norm, and means that we need to approach any digital platform in quite a specific way.
Most nations would want their schools to be able to access the bank of World Voice songs that were created during the programme, along with its supporting resources. There are currently insufficient funds to deploy our World Voice expert trainers around the world again, but there was strong support for the idea of creating podcasts and other forms of professional development, so that teachers and trainers in those countries could continue to develop their practice. Likewise, the networking aspects of World Voice – sharing songs and approaches across nations – was felt to be a valuable aspect of any future offer. So we will plan the legacy offer of World Voice on this basis, and are still working on how best to create a platform which is free to access by those schools who cannot afford to pay.
In addition to our work on maintaining some sort of global membership of World Voice, there are two strong themes emerging from our research that we feel are important to address:
1. A number of World Voice countries used World Voice as a way to support young refugee and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors. We will be channeling some of the World Voice legacy into action research in the UK to explore further how singing can be used to break down barriers and help welcome children and young people into new countries.
2. Perhaps the most significant and alarming issue arising from those countries with whom we’ve spoken has been the situation with the mental health and wellbeing of their children and young people. In the wake of the pandemic, there is anecdotal evidence of this becoming a global crisis. Whilst deeply concerning – and reflective of our situation here in the UK – this presents an opportunity for World Voice, which all the nations we’ve spoken to support. As we know, group singing has extraordinary potential to help improve mental health and wellbeing, and to support schools to bring their young people together in bonding and uplifting activities. Singing must be a part of society’s response to the pandemic, and its ability to enhance mental health and wellbeing will form a major thrust of the legacy of World Voice.
Please explore our World Voice area to find out more about World Voice, download the evaluation and explore the resources, teaching videos and songs.