TEN YEARS AFTER
( a wee insight into our journey to date)
A few of a certain generation may remember the great band of the late 1960's/early 1970's who went by the name Ten Years After and rose to fame at Woodstock all those years ago.
Alvin Lee the bands lead guitarist apparently named the band 'Ten Years After' in recognition of the fact that it was ten years since the breakthrough of Elvis Presley.
While no way in the same league I thought I'd borrow the title since it's ten years since we held our very first Glee Challenge. We have had some journey since then.
For us the Glee Challenge started off as a small fundraising project to raise some money for the local children's ward following the theft of some of funds. It was a small exercise, 5 local schools and a few local groups, a dance group, a martial arts group and a few people to act as judges which included a nurse manager from the Hospital and a certain Mr Mclaren. Yes, he's been with us from the very beginning. We raised some money, donated it to the hospital and thought nothing more about it.
Roll on 2014. We were asked to do it again, 15 choirs and this time we asked for a performer, George Kennedy, to join us. The show ran well albeit there was a little bit of controversy regarding the winner, another story, and we raised more money for the hospital.
Word was out. We were then approached the following year to run an event in Edinburgh and whilst at the same we were trying to consolidate in Fife. We ran both, 21 choirs in total and around £5,000 raised for Edinburgh Sick Children and the Victoria Hospital. More queries were now coming in; for Falkirk, Stirling, Perth and Kinross and more. However, up until now we had personally underwritten all the events with our own money. The risk was now too great so we needed to find a way to allow us to meet the demand - The Frisson Foundation was born - 27th May 2015. It's aim, as a charity, to widen and provide opportunities in music and song, and the accompanying benefits, for children and young people.
The growth continued through 2016 - 2020, we held our first National Final in 2017 and by the start of 2020, more than half of Scotland's local authority regions engaged. over 240 choirs had joined us, and 36 events planned. Little did we know what would happen next. (As a little aside in December 2019/January 2020 I had turned down a little work in China for family reasons which as it turned out was the right decision). Covid struck, 18 events in and we had 18 more to go - we didn't know what we were going to do but neither did anyone else know what they were going to do. Over the weeks that followed we considered our options and decided to maintain a presence and in 2020 we were one of the first organisations to create a virtual children's Glee choir. Over 100 days of lockdown, 700 people registered, 450 engaged on our designated Facebook page, 25 online workshops (including sing-alongs) were held, 160 videos were submitted and over 1,800 people viewed the premiere. We concluded the whole lockdown with a teachers’ Glee Choir performance. We screened our choir in June 2020 and you can see our story in Education Scotland's - What Scotland Learned https://bit.ly/3PfdQyJ
We laid some plans down for 2020/21. These had to be the most flexible options we could put together and we revised them every two weeks as we and the whole of the world tried to work out how and when Covid restrictions were going to play out. We ran a Signing Glee Choir Challenge through the year and provide a series of supported signing videos, our Glee Challenge wall, https://bit.ly/42NX2BX ,showcased all the choirs and we even live streamed from six schools for Make Music Day, June 21st 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS8KScRdHSA We had survived and not only that we continued to meet our aims of providing opportunities for children through music
However, as we approached 21/22 we know that Covid was continuing to plague us all and it was incredibly difficult to work out what the best plan of action would be. Again, we had multiple plans in play and we decided on a flexible hybrid model. The Covid restrictions continued, and we had our own family tragedy in amongst it all, but somehow we kept things going. Our hybrid model worked, 60 choirs joined, and as we progressed restrictions eased enough to allow us to have a live final. In June 2022 we held our first live event since March 2020 - the 2022 National Final - ten choirs, 1200 people Glee was back. We were on our way back. But more trouble lay ahead.
2022-23 - COMEBACK YEAR
We were through the worst of it or so we thought. In August 2022 as schools returned it became obvious that there was still some recovering to do and that the Covid restrictions would still have to be managed. With that in mind we pushed ahead with a set of plans which while flexible hadn't really anticipated how long the Covid restrictions would continue to impact but to complicate matters further we now had a bitter industrial dispute in the school sector.
At the turn of the year, restrictions were easing slowly but the turmoil in the schools was increasing a number of schools pulled out. We were no longer sure if any of our events would go ahead. Our carefully, crafted plans were in the air once more and negotiations and discussions etc with venues and others had to be reopened.
Questions, so many questions. Would the schools come? Would children still want to join Glee? Could the time be found for Glee? Would carers/parents/families be interested? What plans can we rework and how flexible can we make them? We would have liked to ask would we be funded but we don’t get funding despite our attempts and some very heavy discussions. That will be the subject of another blog. The question became what would happen financially? Would Glee survive? We were working almost non stop - could we do it? It is no exaggeration to say that Glee was on its knees. We held our breath!
The Tayside events in late February were locked in. We had no option but to go ahead. Uncertain and tired we arranged a meeting of our Board of Trustees for a few days after the Tayside heats. In addition, to approving our annual accounts it was a single item agenda - should Glee continue? It all hinged on three nights in the Caird hall.
We opened in Dundee with three amazing nights in late February. All three nights ran the full gamut of emotions and put us through the wringer.
The Caird Hall has been a special place from the first time we held our events here, one of us has a longer affiliation, and boy did it and the Tayside audience help us get off to the start we needed.
We met with the Trustees a few days later - after a long discussion, a couple of hours anyway, we agreed to keep the 2023 Challenge going and to review it as we moved along.
Motherwell was next, we’d had a few hiccups for this one for the reasons above, so were even more nervous. It was fantastic. Disruption in the schools started to settle. The rest of the events ran.
A huge thank you to all the people who turned out in their droves.
Glee was back and seemed stronger than ever.
TEN YEARS LATER
It was rumoured that when Ten Years After broke up Alvin Lee wanted to put together a new band with the name Ten Years Later to celebrate going forward. He did form a few bands and continued for some time but he didn't use the name.
We now have to look at how the Glee Challenge will move forward. We already have applications for next year and the venues are booked but there are still big questions to address of which funding is one. if your school hasn't contacted us for next year please do so as soon as you can.
What we do know is that Glee does deliver what it says it does and Glee 2023/24 is on.
Glee is back!
This blog is 1 of 3 - Glee by numbers and Against the odds