Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises

Ex Cathedra, with the Everything to Everybody Project, launches Singing Playgrounds across Birmingham.

Ex Cathedra, in partnership with the Everything to Everybody Project and Birmingham Music Partnership have launched Singing Playgrounds for all Birmingham primary schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Ex Cathedra has reimagined its award-winning Singing Playgrounds for these times to enable Key Stage 2 children to play safely through singing in the playground, reclaiming Birmingham’s unique Shakespeare heritage for themselves.

This unique, free, singing programme will offer every Birmingham primary school access to an online resource comprising a series of lessons and films in which the Singing Playgrounds team will be in the classroom via the whiteboard facilitating and guiding children and teachers.

Children will be enabled to sing and play through singing, share their own singing games from their own families and cultures, and to create and compose their own singing games in their own responses to Shakespeare’s words.

Rebecca Ledgard Director of Education, Ex Cathedra said: “Children’s imaginations are full of sounds and their songs. Children often hum as they play. School playgrounds are a cacophony of happy noises.

“However, during this pandemic singing and musical-play is at risk just as it was in Shakespeare’s time when theatres and other venues were also closed. Now after isolation and ‘Lockdown’ children have returned to school for a new way of life, through socially-distanced interaction.”

Professor Ewan Fernie, Everything to Everybody Project Director said: “We are all missing theatre and singing at the moment, which makes it all the more wonderful to have a new Everything to Everybody Project song! ‘Be not afeard’ is a moving and necessary message to share with Birmingham’s children during these tough times. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Ex Cathedra’s inspired Singing Playgrounds project and to be turning children on to Birmingham’s unique Shakespeare heritage by turning the plays into play. We can’t wait to hear the new Shakespearean songs they invent for today’s city!”

At the end of the project there will be an online film exhibition of each school’s favourite song or singing games composed by one of their own children, as well as a new songbook containing all these new songs and singing games.

Stuart Birnie, Head of Music Service, Birmingham Music Education Partnership said: “This has been nine months in the making and we are so excited to see this amazing offer going live to schools this week. Ex Cathedra would normally have delivered their SingMaker to thousands of young children from sixty schools in Symphony Hall back in June. So, having to come up with a new plan due to the pandemic has been a huge achievement.

“Basing it on Shakespeare’s words and the Everything to Everybody project, this will support all schools in their music education and curriculum. Singing and music is an everyday right for children and having to re-think how we can do singing in schools has been a huge challenge. This project will bring happiness and music back into the classrooms of many schools in a very safe way.”

Singing Playgrounds is part of the Everything to Everybody Project – an ambitious celebration of one of the UK’s most important cultural assets: the vast Shakespeare Memorial Library housed within the Library of Birmingham.

The Everything to Everybody Project aims to give the city’s uniquely democratic Shakespeare heritage back to the people, and is a collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council, with funding also contributed by National Lottery Heritage Fund and History West Midlands.

Ex Cathedra’s Singing Playgrounds team has been working together for twenty years. They have implemented Singing Playgrounds in over 1000 primary schools in the UK and also travelled with it further afield to schools in Thailand, Uganda, Hong, Kong, mainland China, Singapore, and New Zealand. The team comprises the best vocal tutors and instrumentalists and writes its own repertoire for children to sing.

Birmingham primary schools should visit Singing Playgrounds to sign up for the Birmingham Programme with their school email address. Singing Playgrounds is free to all Birmingham primary schools.

Find out more about the Everything to Everybody Project here.