Hi - my name is Rachel and I'm Chair of the Choir with No Name’s Board of Trustees. The Board is the group responsible for deciding our strategy and the governance side of running a charity. I took over in 2011 from Sally who did a fantastic job getting all the governance sorted, so that made it really easy for me coming into a young but well-run charity.
I met Marie when the Choir with No Name had only just started. Graham Allcott, who is a mutual friend and has been a trustee, suggested that I come along to a rehearsal as he thought I'd be interesting in supporting Marie in some way. When I first met Marie I thought she was hugely talented, energetic and had a really good approach - and I still think that now! The other thing that struck me is how different the Choir with No Name is to other charities I had seen. It was just about giving people who often live quite isolated lives an opportunity to feel part of something, make friends and have fun. No form-filling, no questions asked. Just come along. Simple, but effective.
I work as a consultant in the "not for profit" sector which means I get to see all types, shapes and sizes of charities. Sometimes it concerns me that charities feel the need to keep thinking of new projects and other services they can develop that might appeal to funders. I think that has increased because of the huge challenges of securing funding. What I liked about the Choir with No Name was that it was just that. A choir. It didn't try to do all sorts of other things that are done very well by many other great charities that work with homeless people, like Crisis, St Mungo’s and Centrepoint.
In fact, when I became Chair of Trustees in 2011, one of the first things we had to do was think about writing our new 2011-2015 strategy. All the trustees, volunteers and, most importantly, choir members got together to think about what we should be doing in the future. After much discussion, we agreed - we should have more choirs. Just that. No fancy new projects. Just more of the same because we have seen that the vision Marie had still works. So that's our strategy. We want more choirs in more cities, Although Marie and I did laugh that it had taken so much deep discussion to come up with such a simple strategy! But we think that is what we do best and our latest choir in Liverpool is proof of that.
As Trustees we are incredibly lucky to have a talented group of volunteers and choir members, supported by our small but hardworking staff team. They are a great bunch of people coming together every week for rehearsals to sing, have dinner and most importantly have some fun. I always enjoy my regular catch ups with Marie where we talk about the business side of running the charity but also how choir members are doing and it’s nice that I can ask how they are doing - the ups and the downs. It’s great to see how the choir is playing its part in boosting confidences, making friendships and giving people an opportunity to be creative. I love that and it inspires me to do as much as I can as Chair.
Whenever I tell people about the Choir with No Name at first they are intrigued and then when I play one of the songs from the album they all say "wow - they are good!". Yes, they are - really, really good.
Where do I want us to be in the next year? In some really high profile venue, with a sellout audience full of our Official Groupies and all our choirs performing together. Everyone singing, laughing and having fun. That would be just perfect!