OPINION: African choir beautifully illustrates Norfolk's diversity

The African Choir of Norfolk performing at the Norfolk Arts Awards 2021

The African Choir of Norfolk performing at the Norfolk Arts Awards 2021 - Credit: Simon Finlay Photography

The African Choir of Norfolk have been on their first road trip outside the county this past weekend.

Ten members of the choir were invited to perform at Compton Verney in Warwickshire as part of Celebrating Sanctuary programs of events at the famous stately home.

This trip was a far cry from the choir's beginnings when I first received a phone call from Hostry Festival Director Stash Kirkbride for a meeting.

Our paths had only ever crossed once before then, at Holt Festival where we hit it off straight away. At the meeting Stash wanted to know if I would be interested in leading a signature project for the Hostry project and setting up an African Choir of Norfolk.

I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task but I was excited to have been asked.

With plans in place, a date was set up for auditions where a hand full of professional and novice singers turned up. The feeling in the room was magical and it has remained the same ever since.

The African choir of Norfolk is now a 20- strong representation of the African continent made of people from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Jamaica, Senegal to name a few, all of whom live and call Norfolk their home.

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Though some members are outside the county the choir offers something completely unique which people are prepared to travel as far as London, Birmingham and Ipswich to be a part of.

The pandemic was a big blow to many of us, but we quickly adapted and carried on learning songs online thanks to zoom platform.

Anna Mudeka (left) leader of The African Choir of Norfolk, which performed at the Hostry Festival 20

Anna Mudeka (left) leader of The African Choir of Norfolk, which performed at the Hostry Festival 2021 launch - Credit: Richard Howes

In October 2021 we finally launched to a sold-out performance at the Hostry festival and the feeling was electrifying. Our shows are energetic, lively, happy, sad, funny and everything in between, we aim is to take our audience through an everyday experience on the African continent with songs which reflect everyday life.

The two words Africa and Norfolk are causing some confusion around the globe with some people unaware there was such a diverse of cultures in Norfolk.

The women and girls in the choir are very proud to share their heritage and celebrate our beautiful county.

I personally am very grateful for the welcome and support I have been given since I came to Norfolk all those year ago. The opportunities and encouragement I have had from venues, organizations and the local Norfolk population is reflected by all of us in the African Choir of Norfolk.

The choir celebrates different shades, sizes, shapes and ages which make it really special. Each time we meet we check in and out with each other as we try to navigate family, work and other commitments life sometimes throws our way. It’s not easy but after a singing session together we know there is no greater feeling like it.

Hostry Festival hopes to secure funding to open regular sessions where the wider members of the public can come and experience some of the joy we share in the choir.

The African Choir of Norfolk is a five year signature project for the Hostry festival and each year the choir will perform songs from different parts of Africa until we can sing songs from all 54 nations of the great continent by year five.

We would love to hear from anyone who has a song from Africa they think we could sing or if you would like to join the choir or to find out where else we will be performing, please do visit our website. www.africanchoirofnorfolk.org