By Heg Brignall
Hello, my name is Heg and I direct The Great Sea Choir. I started the choir in 2012 with a small group of around 15 singers. Over the last five years the choir has grown from strength to strength and is now 45 members strong. The choir’s repertoire is predominantly focused toward folk music though the choir has explored many styles, all with their own unique, folky twist. From traditional songs to contemporary, to pop as well as other genres that compliment the strong folk style; gospel, world and blues can often be heard in our set. Performing is the main impetus for what we do and we have performed at some fantastic events and festivals over the years. We pride ourselves on a high standard of singing and we are ambitious about creating an excellent sound. The choir’s name refers to the idea that when voices come together in harmony, the sound is like a great sea; ebbing and flowing, crashing, turning and moving as one. It is also a nod to the uplifting, free-spirited energy of sea shanties and other folk songs.
From the beginning, I wanted the choir to be a safe and welcoming space which is open to all. We don’t hold auditions and we welcome all ages and abilities – from beginners to practised singers. We are an open, friendly community founded on an ethos of mutual respect and trust. The social and community aspect of the choir is at the heart of what we do; we are supportive, uncritical and take care of each other. We treat everyone equally, with fairness, dignity and respect and without discrimination based on gender, race, sexuality, religion, disability or age.
The choir members and I developed this ethos together and in 2016 we discovered Bristol Zero Tolerance which allowed us to further commit to supporting our members in tackling gender-based violence within our community. We incorporated the pledge into our ethos statement and also raised money for Bristol Zero Tolerance and local rape crisis service SARSAS at our annual winter concert in December 2016.
I’m so incredibly proud of the choir and it has been wonderful to watch it grow, both in terms of the sound we make and the community which has blossomed. When I started the choir, I could not have anticipated just how special it would be to belong to a family who all have such strong convictions when it comes to equality. We are delighted to be affiliated with Bristol Zero Tolerance which has helped strengthen the values of the choir and helps to reaffirm the message we put out to new members.