Switch On

OPERA NORTH & St George’s Crypt

photo from the play

Switch On

Jen Heyes:

For the last three years, Opera North has been working with vulnerable and homeless adults who access the services of St George’s Crypt in Leeds by providing weekly music and drama workshops followed by a chance for self-reflection.
Launched in September 2013, Switch ON was originally set up with the aim of helping rebuild participants’ wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem, enabling them to become more independent and to increase their interaction with other people. By engaging actively with the arts, it was also hoped that those involved would gain valuable life skills which would encourage them to access training, voluntary positions and jobs.

The project proved so successful that it eventually ran for a year longer than originally planned, with the Switch ON group members working together to compose and stage a number of performances in Leeds. However, it has finally drawn to a close having exceeded all its original aims and anticipated outcomes. Many of the participants are now independently accessing the Opera North programme and seeking out training opportunities, with some gaining employment and even starting their own businesses.

Having seen the massive impact the project has had on the lives of those who took part, we asked a couple of them to share their thoughts on Switch ON with us:

Well, what a journey I’ve been on taking part in Switch ON every week for three years. It has allowed me to access high quality arts provision, music and drama sessions and given me the chance to go to external performances. It has really broadened my horizons in my life. So much thanks to Switch ON Opera North and God bless St George’s Crypt for helping me on my life’s journey.
Switch ON has been an emotional and physical lifeline to me over the past, nearly, two years. The dedication of all the people involved, staff, volunteers, and participants has inspired me to develop and grow along my life’s path. I’m happier and more confident having been a part of this most awesome group.
— Switch ON participants

To celebrate the successful conclusion of the project, the group performed some of the songs and music they had created during a Switch ON sharing event at St George’s Crypt. They were also given the opportunity to record some of their original composition work at Opera North as a lasting momento of Switch ON and the difference it has made to them.

Photo credit: Adam Robinson