The Choir with No Name

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Duration: 10 minutes

Singer and broadcaster Cerys Matthews presents an appeal on behalf of the Choir with No Name, a charity which invites homeless people in from the cold to experience the transcendent power of music by singing together as one. She discovers that the regular commitment, and sense of purpose that belonging to a choir gives its members, can form the foundations of a new life.

The film features Shane, whose life fell apart after his mother died. Alcohol, drug use and having to sleep rough took a heavy toll and he tried to take his own life. But joining the choir gave him a desperately needed sense of belonging and the confidence to rebuild his life. He's now in work and recording an album.

Last on

Thu 19 Dec 2013 12:30 BBC Two Scotland only

See all previous episodes from Lifeline

  • Donate now

    Cheques payable to: The Choir with No Name

    Postal address:

    The Choir with No Name
    Unit 9 
    33 Rushworth Street
    SE1 0RB

    Tel No:

    020 7202 6647


    Text info:              

    LALA08 followed by amount e.g. £5 to 70070


    Online donations:

  • Cerys Matthews

    Cerys Matthews.jpg

    For me, music is the thing that makes the world go round. It cheers me up when I’m low and helps me celebrate when I’m happy. Creating music is the most amazing thing; moments where everything gels between you and your fellow musicians and the music takes on a life of its own can be a magical experience. 

    Choir singing provides that magical opportunity to everyone. Everyone who’s brave enough to give it a go. You can imagine how important it can be for the Choir with No Name members, who’ve been down on their luck for a long time. The sense of joy and fun they get from singing, as well as the instant community you get when you join a choir, can be the key to their recovery.   

    At the moment this opportunity is available to homeless people in London and Birmingham. This Lifeline appeal will help the Choir with No Name fulfil their plans to make it available to homeless people across the country, starting with their brand new choir in Liverpool. 

  • The Choir with No Name

    Behind the Scenes 4

    The Choir with No Name runs choirs for homeless people, and other men and women from the very edges of society. We were founded on the simple premise that singing makes you feel good; it distracts you from all the nonsense in life and helps you to build up your confidence and abilities.

    Joining one of our choirs helps our members make friends and find a place they belong, where they can get back on their feet. We currently run three choirs - two in London and one in Birmingham - and in January we’ll be launching another in Liverpool. Our plan is to start one new choir per year until there’s a Choir with No Name in every UK city that has a problem with homelessness. We give our members a weekly opportunity to get together and sing their hearts out, then share a delicious hot dinner (cooked by volunteers) at the end of each rehearsal. We also put on regular gigs.

    Homelessness is about so much more than the lack of a roof over your head. There are usually a complicated mix of triggers, including relationship breakdown, mental illness and addiction. And many people affected by homelessness struggle with loneliness and isolation.

    For our members, you can plainly see the difference the Choir with No Name makes. People often come along for the first time nervous and painfully shy, but leave with a grin from ear to ear and the promise to be back next week. For folk whose lives have been in chaos for a while, having something they look forward to every week that they commit to is a hugely worthwhile thing in itself. Add to that the thrill of performing and the confidence it inspires, and the solid friendships that blossom between the singers, and we’re on to a total winner. Dean from our South London choir says: “I feel like rehearsals are my drug for the week - I don’t need alcohol. It gives me hope, glory and a space to express myself.”

    Homelessness is on the rise. Your donation will help us continue to work with the increasing numbers of homeless people, and also to take our work to new cities across the UK.

  • Shane

    Shane - first contributor.jpg

    38 year old Shane from London had a stable family upbringing. But after he started to use heroin in his late teens, he quickly found himself going off the rails and eventually became homeless.

    Shane said, “I was living, I was present but I was literally dead inside, you know, so I had to fuel that with drinking and using drugs”.

    After years of substance abuse and sleeping rough, the pressure eventually became too much to bear.

    He said, “I got a point where I just thought ‘no, I can’t go on like this, I can’t deal with the pain’. I attempted to take my life. I didn’t want to be here anymore”.

    But then Shane found the Choir With No Name, and through having something continuous to be a part of, and the uplifting power of music, Shane has managed to turn his life around.

    He said, “If I hadn’t been with the Choir With No Name, I don’t think I’d be as confident as I am today without singing and nurturing music”.

    Shane has continued to develop his singing and is currently recording his first album.

    You can listen to his music on YouTube.

  • Suzanne

    Suzanne - second contributor.jpg

    Suzanne experienced a series of horrendous sexual attacks when she was a teenager. Afraid to tell anyone, she found it difficult to cope with what had happened to her and turned to drink.

    Suzanne said, “The bottle was my mate. Nobody else was my mate, but the bottle was my mate. And without the bottle, I didn’t exist”.

    Struggling to get her life together, Suzanne ended up in prison. On her release, she then faced the difficulty of having nowhere to live.

    She said, “I was homeless for 3 years and I was on the streets. I couldn’t get myself together. I knew that this, this thing I’ve become, drinking and abusive, and swearing and nasty, I thought ‘that’s not my character’. I’m not nasty inside”. 

    A friend told Suzanne about the Choir With No Name, and having now attended for 5 months, she’s beginning to feel hopeful about the future.

    She said, “the more I think about going there, and concentrating and doing what I’ve got to do, the better I feel. So the best thing I ever did is join the choir”.



Cerys Matthews
Series Producer
Alex Steinitz
Executive Producer
Ruth Shurman


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Lifeline has helped raise money for hundreds of charities across the UK and abroad.

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