INCLUDE: Fostering inclusivity through music

Jan Sheward, the founder of Cancer United, talks about OutSingCancer choir's participation in Making Music’s INCLUDE programme and their efforts to break down boundaries and become a more inclusive and diverse choir.

Music can unite people from all walks of life, transcend boundaries, and bring communities together. Cancer United’s OutSingCancer choir has experienced this and is privileged to have been chosen by Making Music to embark on an inspiring journey through the INCLUDE programme, an 18-month initiative to help music groups become more inclusive and connected with their local communities. 

The following article is our story, why we wanted to be part of INCLUDE, and what we've learned and hope to achieve from the programme

Who are we?

OutSingCancer is a group of passionate singers, who have been affected by cancer in some way, come from diverse backgrounds, genres, and abilities, joined by cancer and the love of singing. Our members range from beginner level to experienced singers.

We take pride in creating an environment where everyone can express themselves through music and singing. However, we also recognise that there are barriers that prevent some members of our community from joining us and participating in our magical journey.

Photo of OutSingCancer choir rehearsing with keyboardist wearing jumper saying "united against cancer" on the back of it.

Choir warming up for a performance in a community centre

Why did we want to take part in INCLUDE?

Our desire to participate in the INCLUDE programme stems from a deep belief that music is a universal language and so should be accessible to all people regardless of age, race, religion, background, or physical/health abilities. We want to break down the barriers that limit participation in our choir’s activities and are committed to embracing diversity. 

We want OutSingCancer to learn how to do that so that we can reach those in the community who have been affected by cancer and could be helped and supported by joining our choir. 

What have we learned so far?

Our journey in the INCLUDE programme so far has been marked by valuable lessons. Through conducting demographic research using the Census Comparison Survey, we have gained insights into the composition of our community and have identified areas where we needed to improve our inclusivity efforts. These findings highlighted the importance of tailoring how we market the choir to meet the unique needs of potential new members as well as the current diverse members.

What are we hoping to learn and achieve?

We hope to learn more about the specific challenges faced by different people within our community. We aim to implement targeted strategies and initiatives to address these challenges and create a more inclusive environment within our choir. Our goal is to see a more diverse and engaged membership that better reflects the diversity of those affected by cancer in our local community.    

Is there anything we're looking forward to?

We're eagerly looking forward to implementing our action plan over the next 18 months to foster greater inclusivity. We're excited about its impact on what we see as a cancer community within our local community. 

Additionally, we can't wait to host our upcoming local events on 12 March and 21 June, which we want to be a celebration of what we’ve learned and the joy for music and singing within our community.

To sum up:

Our journey in the INCLUDE programme so far has been transformative. It has reaffirmed our belief in the power of music to bring people together and has inspired us to continue working towards greater inclusivity within OutSingCancer. 

We are immensely grateful for the support of Making Music and look forward to sharing the success of our learning with other Making Music members. 

Find out more about OutSingCancer on the Cancer United website

Follow OutSingCancer on Instagram