When We Collide: A British Songbook is a songbook written by the people of the United Kingdom about our collective identity in the wake of the EU referendum. This historic moment has forced the British nation to re-evaluate how we define ourselves, how we distribute power, our place within the EU and our relationship with the rest of the world.
It moves away from traditional notions of Britishness and uncovers what is actually important to this nation; what we care about, what we fear, and what we love. We are no longer a nation characterised by patriotism and a stiff upper lip. The movement of people and ideas around the UK and the world has signalled an enormous shift in our national character.
In order to start untangling this complex personality, we spoke to people in schools and community choirs across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. 24 groups and over 600 people took part in these storytelling workshops including fishermen from Yorkshire, teenagers in Grimsby, a cross community choir just outside of Belfast, and a police choir in Edinburgh. We talked about the moments that defined us personally, the moments that defined our communities, and the moments that have defined our nation. There were tears and laughter – stories that brought us closer together, and stories that showed us how quickly this nation is changing.
The songbook has been written using the words spoken to us. Every word, every phrase and every story was told in our workshops. Some of the songs focus on specific groups or places, others bring together themes and ideas which resonated across the country. Each song represents a moment, a pattern or an idea which describes a significant facet of modern British identity. Altogether, the songbook gives a snapshot of the character of Britain at this pivotal moment in our nation’s history.
When We Collide: A British Songbook was commissioned by Sky Arts Art 50 and created with support from Arts Council England. The songbook is in the final stages of preparations and will be published online for choirs across the country to download and perform. We're currently organising singing days at the Barbican, Sage Gateshead and Snape Maltings where you'll be able to hear and perform the songs so check back soon for more info!