Wera Hobhouse, Member of Parliament for Bath, supported the city’s more than 40 amateur choirs and choral societies last week when she questioned the ‘mistrust’ the Government has in voluntary organisations.
Under current Government restrictions, amateur choirs are not permitted to rehearse in groups of more than six, while professional organisations are still able to. This includes local Bath choir the Golden Oldies, a charity which uses singing to tackle loneliness in older isolated residents.
Like many activities, amateur singing was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic and Bath’s choirs have been left disappointed. The MP has called for a statement from the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, on the unfair treatment of amateur choirs.
Despite Ms Hobhouse outlining that the risk of Covid is exactly the same for both professional and amateur groups, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg was non-committal in his response.
After wishing Mr Rees-Mogg a happy birthday, Wera Hobhouse MP asked: “Unlike professional organisations, amateur choirs are not allowed to rehearse in groups of more than six, although the Covid risk is exactly the same.
“Does that reflect a mistrust of the Government in voluntary organisations – that they are less responsible and less organised?
“Does the Government not value the contribution that voluntary organisations and amateur choirs make to society at large? And can we perhaps have a statement from the Culture Secretary to explain this unfair treatment of amateur choirs compared to professional ones.”
Mr Rees-Mogg responded that June 21 is still “pencilled in as the date when we will be getting back to normal,” refusing to offer a statement from the Culture Secretary on the issue.
In her letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden of 25th May, Ms. Hobhouse stated:
“I am writing to you on behalf of Bath’s many wonderful choirs and choral societies, and the numerous constituents who have contacted me over the past few days about the unfair treatment of amateur singing groups, under step 3 of the England roadmap.
“Many of my constituents have also expressed frustration about the disparity between the guidance for amateur and professional choirs, despite there being no difference in Covid risk. Like indoor sport, choirs are an organised activity; they are easily able to put in place Covid-secure protocols and are supported by representative bodies.
“There are roughly 2.2 million singers and 40,000 choirs in the UK – Bath alone is home to over forty amateur choirs and choral societies. I am sure that I do not need to reiterate the enormous benefits of singing in a group to both mental and physical wellbeing, as has been well-established by an extensive body of research.
“It seems clear that the minimal risks of allowing amateur singing to go ahead are far outweighed by the many benefits. I urge you to bring the guidance for indoor singing activity in line with other professional music activity and indoor organised sports activity, as was the case between August and December 2020.”
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