Song competition celebrates diversity in education.
Birmingham was treated to a variety show with a difference on Tuesday 2nd February at Matthew Boulton College as schools competed to be the winner of an Equality Song competition. The songs were performed at the showcase supported by Birmingham City Council and organised by Educate & Celebrate, the UK charity that makes schools and organisations LGBT+Friendly.
Rockwood Academy and Nansen Primary moved the audience to tears early in the evening with their uplifting tune We are Human which included the words: “We are human, we have the right to be who we want to be. Liberate, educate and celebrate!”
Earlier in the day musical director for the event, former Fuzzbox singer Vix Perks, had promoted the event on BBC WM and played the song entry by Balaam Wood Schoo , Shine a Light, about which ateacher comemnted, “The Educate & Celebrate showcase is a good opportunity to demonstrate some of the talent we have in our school and to do this with a strong inclusive message.”
The Westminster School song was Be The Star You Are and they were equally supportive of the occasion, saying “The equality theme runs throughout our school and we are proud to participate in such an inclusive and inspiring event.”
The event included short speeches from a range of local faith groups, supporters and allies. Colin Diamond, the Executive Director of Education for Birmingham City was supportive of the organisation and the impact its work has had in school across the region: “I am proud to be here representing Birmingham City Council tonight. Our council is one of the forerunners raising LGBT issues in schools and I must thank Educate & Celebrate for what you are doing and for this showcase during LGBT History Month. I have visited many schools in the region and I am proud to see the difference Elly Barnes has made.
“When I enter schools I am delighted they have a sign that says everybody is welcome regardless of race, faith, gender and sexual orientation, which is one more step towards true equality.”
In addition to the songs there were two Equality plays for Birmingham devised by students with the Round Midnight Theatre Company that included highlights from Educate & Celebrate’s PRIDE Youth Network campaigns about sexual orientation and gender identity.
One of the plays by George Salter School questioned that “Gender means different things to different people. Identity means different things to different people, but should there be adaptation or segregation?” This highlighted this issue through the scenario of a trans pupil not knowing what changing room to use and the distress that mixed messages from the school could cause.
Elly Barnes, organiser of the showcase and CEO of Educate & Celebrate said: “This Midlands Schools Showcase was phenomenal! We had a great turnout and a range of talent on show from all of the schools. The equality songs and plays show how accessible music and the arts can be in engaging students in changing hearts and minds for social justice. The night was made extra special by speeches from a Faith Communities Officer, the Birmingham Liberal Jewish Community and the Director of Education Church of England. And of course Maureen Younger was a fabulous fun host. Lovely to see the positivity and confidence the showcases give to young people, they can now ensure that their own schools are LGBT+Friendly.”
Deputy Director Andy Sylvester from Creative Arts at BMTEC who hosted the event outlined why it was important to the him personally and the venue: “This event comes close to my own heart, as a gay man I feel strongly we need to push forward with this inclusive agenda and engage with people in society at all levels, including all schools.”
Cllr Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, added, “The work of Educate & Celebrate with schools has been inspiring and is changing the lives of children across our city. I look forward to hearing the winning song and well done to everyone who took part.”
The audience were asked to vote for their favourite from the seven Equality Songs that debuted at the showcase and there will be a further chance to vote online through the Birmingham City Council and Educate & Celebrate websites. The winners will be announced by the end of LGBT History Month during February and will get the chance to record their song in a studio.