Five hundred years ago, Sir Thomas More wrote Utopia, a book that transformed the way we think about the future. To celebrate the 500th anniversary of its publication, King’s College London, Somerset House and the Courtauld Institute, have commissioned a Utopia season and the We’re Here project is part of that series.
We’re Here is a project that explores the nature of contemporary life in British cities today but in a unique way – through the creation of a national, scratch choir that will come together for one day only on 27th August 2016 in Somerset House to perform a song written specially by the We’re Here team of collaborators: Boff Whalley, Dan Bye, Sarah Punshon, Rachel Thomas and David Green.
Why a choir? A great choir is much like a great city. A choir creates harmony from diverse voices. It depends on differences in range and pitch of its members. Singing together allows people to create something that transcends the sum of their individual voices. Trust, collaboration, difference – as well as musical ability –these are the bases on which choirs exist. And these, too, are the qualities that underpin a good city. Accepting difference and welcoming different groups of people, opens up cities to new and creative ways of thinking; collaborating with diverse individuals allows the city to function; and trusting individuals helps to build stronger communities.
With this in mind, the We’re Here project team gathered together participants in workshops in Birmingham, Leeds, Leicester, London, and Manchester. The We’re Here team has written words and music that incorporates the experiences and ideas gathered in the workshops. The Utopia choir that will perform this song is made up of a representative sample of the British population today – in recognition of the fact that for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Somerset House itself was home to the census and the registration of births, deaths and marriages. It was, in many ways, the place in which the British population came together on paper and so is a fitting site for the Utopia choir’s one-off performance.
As part of the Utopia season, there is an exhibition called Paths to Utopia in which the We’re Here project is represented, including a film of the workshops and the We’re Here wall. If you want to add your ideas about what would make a great city, visit the wall and leave your mark!
The Paths to Utopia exhibition runs until 2 October 2016 in the Inigo Rooms, East Wing of Somerset House.http://www.kcl.ac.uk/Cultural/Cultural-Institute/Utopia2016/Utopia2016.aspx
For information about the We’re Here project see http://www.werehereproject.com/
For information about the Utopia2016 season see http://utopia2016.com/
Professor of Historical Geography, Department of Geography