Coronavirus: beautiful message of hope and solidarity amid the crisis

Members of Chichester Festival Youth Theatre have combined their talents to create a beautiful video offering comfort and solidarity to those in care homes.

Ella Bassett
Ella Bassett

It is now available for all to enjoy on YouTube – an acapella version of the song Stand By Me.

Youth theatre members recorded their parts individually from their bedrooms – parts which technology then brought together for the finished product. The song was first performed in 1961 by American singer-songwriter Ben E King and written by King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It has since been covered by John Lennon.

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Now the youth theatre has made the song their own with an enchanting new version.

Ella Bassett, a community trainee with the CFT, has co-ordinated the project and is delighted with the results.

“The learning, education and participation (LEAP) department at the theatre take on three trainees each year, and I am the community strand. I do all the administration for the adult classes and I look after the outreach work with care homes and also look after the early-years programme.

“It has been different and difficult in recent weeks (with the coronavirus crisis), but we are still working from home, and actually we are busier than we ever were before. We are still trying to come up with ways that we can reach out to the community.

“As part of the training I am completing a Gold Arts Award, and part of that was to project-manage my own project. I had a project all planned, but it had to be cancelled because it was all very hands on. It had to stop, so I was all a little bit ‘What am I going to do!’ I had my plans all in place and they had to be cancelled.

“But then there was an appeal sent out by Wellington Grange care home saying that they were wanting letters and pictures. It wasn’t directed at the theatre. It was a general appeal.”

But it seemed the perfect trigger to create a new, alternative project: “The idea is to try to bring the community together in these difficult times. Everyone really needs something to keep their spirits up.”

The youth theatre members chose the song and put the recording together, with Ella effectively producing it.

“I just think it is gorgeous. They have all come together, and it is beautiful, and I love the way they address the residents at the end with their messages. It is really lovely. It just shows beautifully the kindness and the talent that they have.”

The video has now gone out to a number of care homes, and Ella is hoping that it will be the start of a two-way dialogue with residents living in isolation.

Ella comes to it all after a very happy ten years with Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, during which she appeared in four youth theatre shows and one professional production, the latter being Flowers For Mrs Harris, the show which the CFT is streaming during the lockdown. The show is available to watch online until Friday, May 8 at https://www.cft.org.uk/flowers-for-mrs-harris-broadcast“Being part of it was the best experience of my life,” Ella says. “I was one of the Dior models, and it was just the greatest experience. It was magical getting to wear a gown like that every day and feeling like a princess! And every single person that we worked with on the show was just so lovely. I was a bit star-struck, but it was the most wonderful experience, such wonderful memories.”

Taking part in the video were: Ellie Bradbury, Annalise Bradbury, Libby Bradbury, Ellie Dickens, Alfie Scott, Anna Foye, Molly Berry, Ella O’Keeffe, Emily Wells, Evie Carter, Flo Clark, George Goldsmith, Georgia Cornell, Hannah Lipton, Josh Collins, Joe Clines, Lewis Rennison, Libby Connor, Polly Maltby, Patrick Durand, Richard Chapman, Isacc Sturge and Sophie Cook.

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