In a first for this podcast, I have two guests this week - Tom and Emma from the New Tottenham Singers, a community choir with big ambitions. We talk about both of their crossings of the river (fuelled by a love of food), the origins of the choir, challenges of the last 1.5 years and rehearsing via zoom, most memorable moments and a huge selection of top tips (remember to check the website where I collate all the top tips from each episode).
New Tottenham Singers website: https://www.tottenhamsingers.com/
Haringey Fringe on the 31.7.21 at Lordship Hub - the singers will perform on the day!
Hi, I'm Jamila and anybody everybody Tottenham is a bimonthly podcast, introducing the good people of Tottenham to you. In today's episode, I'm talking to Tom and Emma from the new Tottenham singers. And we talk about a little bit of choir stuff. But we mainly cover food. This choir seems to be very food obsessed. But there is such an array of excellent top tips. So have fun. Thank you very much for being on my podcast today. I've got the new Tottenham singer. And I have two guests with me today. So could my guests please introduce themselves briefly.
So I'm Tom fowkes. I'm here as the musical artistic director of the New Tottenham singers.
And my name is Emma Franklin. And I am the Chair of the new Tottenham singers and one of the alto singers.
Could you both tell me a little bit about your connections to Tottenham, how long you've been here?
So mine is shorter. So I'll go first. And so I moved here with my husband. Eight years ago, we moved here because we were living in South London atthe time, knew we wanted to move back north of the river. And we're constantly driving through Haringey green lanes on the way to see houses elsewhere. And I kept just seeing shops on the green lanes, you know, they've got amazing produce. And food is my job and my obsession, and I just kept saying, "I want to live here." I want to live somewhere where you can get five types of chilies at midnight. This is my kind of place. And so we suddenly changed where we were looking at and moved here. Yes, eight years ago, yesterday.
Yeah, it was the butcher for me, you know, as you well know, that was the butcher for me, as I've been here a bit longer. I officially moved here in 2009. But I actually had friends in the area at the time. So even though again, I was in South London, I didn't realize that you were - we've both done the cross the Thames, transfer - things just open later, don't they?
Yeah, it's just better. And so I lived in in Greenwich, and I knew people here and I thought, well, I'm constantly driving backwards and forwards. And in fact, the butcher that I used in Lewisham, was going to be closed down because they were completely redeveloping that High Road. So I'd already started buying from the butcher, here from Dewhurst, on the high road. And I just thought," well, seeing as I now know, this butcher as well, it only makes sense to move to Tottenham". So that's what I did in 2009. And yeah, but you're absolutely right. fresh produce. Yeah, I was lucky, because I knew people already. So I think I already felt part of the Tottenham ivibe and the Tottenham community and stuff. So it was quite an easy transition for me.
And do you feel Tottenham has changed much over the last nine years or 10 years that you've guys been here?
I would say in some ways, yes. In some ways, no, you know, in many ways, it has improved, it is getting better than it was in terms of, you know, what is available, you know, nightlife wise, amenities wise. And you know, there is investment and there is improvement in the area, I think that the character has not necessarily changed, I think that the better parts of the character of the area have maybe been slightly more drawn out. I mean, one thing that was always clear about Tottenham was that there's, there is a slight village feel to it, isn't it, you do feel you can't really get away with anything without the neighbors knowing very much. You're gonna get caught you know, and I think that's stayed. And that's fantastic. And I think that things are improving. I think that there's still quite a long way to go. I mean, I look out of my window now. And I just see a celebration of fly tipping that I don't see anywhere else in London. So there are things that still need addressing there is still a long way to go. But it certainly has improved and what for me is interesting about Tottenham is just the the breadth of people that we have living here the diversity and I guess , we're here to talk about a very serious choir that is based in Tottenham. Now that's not necessarily something that people would associate with this postcode, with this area. Yeah. Which is actually one of the you know, the really important things about this choir and about this mission, but it's that idea you can have so many different things happening and so many different people to which all these different things are therefor appealing. And I think that's a great thing about the area.
Yeah, I don't think it's changed as much as people outside of it think it has. There have always been great places, great venues, great shops to go to. There's just a little bit more of that about now. And the community vibe, I think has always been very much the thing. And yeah, I completely agree with what Tom said about there is very much a village feel, I mean, we're incredibly close knit with all our neighbors in a way that my siblings who live in the countryside, essentially, they don't know their neighbors in any sort of way. I know mine, we're all very, very close. And similarly, Tom knows all his neighbors, and we all say hello, on the street. I think Tottenham has a bit of an issue in that it's been growing constantly in this time, and the council based amenities haven't grown to match that. So you know, lots of housing has been built around my part of St. Anne's , but not a single new doctor surgery has been built in the area. And my husband is a teacher - a primary school teacher, no new Primary School is being built for all these huge, huge amounts of families that have been drawn to the area, by the improvements and the new builds and things like that. So that's a sort of, it's a double edged sword of the development of Tottenham. It's not quite keeping pace with what people need. And that's what I feel can be leading to some of the problems that Tom alluded to, like fly tipping, and things like that.
So could you tell me a little bit about the forming of the new Tottenham singers? How did it come about? Were you two involved in it or?
No, so the choir was formed before I moved to this part of London. Actually, I joined it,
you joined in 2017
four and a half years ago. So it had been around it was well established before before I came on board. But Tom was the founder.
Yes, indeed. But thank you for making me feel really old with that little introduction Emma, that's, that's hugely appreciated. Yes, I was there right at the beginning, there was some local funding towards building some form of community choir within Tottenham. And I was asked to take a lead on that. And so that was kind of a formation year a trial year of what could could happen. And there was a desire within that. That came from that for acquiring the area that was very much about high musical standards, about aspiration, about having something that is not just a nice community thing to have, but an actual cultural arts organization, with a future.
And I think at that point, it's worth saying it was a desire that was coming from the choristers,
yes, oh, yes,
it was very much, a chorister led thing. So these were people who lived locally, a lot of them worked locally, as well. And they wanted to sing for pleasure. But they also wanted it to be more than that to be more than just some people coming together to sing together for fun. They really wants to want to push and develop and learn more and be more than the name Tottenham suggested at the time. And that's why.
So Tom, what was or what is your background? Why were you in such a good position to start this choir?
Because that's what I do for a living. I mean, I'm a professional musician. And I specialize in musical direction and in choral training, and conducting. So as I said, people, people knew me in the area, both professionally and on a friendly level. And that's why when they knew, when people heard that I was moving to the area, and it coincided with all this, I was approached, because they knew that I was the person to ask, but yeah, it came very, very much from the choristers, from local people. And in fact, we do have still some people in the choir who have been there since day one. We call them founder members, maybe we should call them the elders of the choir,
they would hate that
they would, that would be quite fun to call them that just to get that reaction. I might try that tomorrow in rehearsal and see what happens. Yeah,
I was gonna ask about your greatest successes. What are your happiest memories over the last couple of years where you're like, "Yes, that was good."
We strive to always be good. I don't let them out if they're not good,
really he doesn't.
I think that one of the things that I think both of us would probably say, would stand out would be 2018. We did a concert of remembrance for the 100 year anniversary of the armistice in 2018. And we did was a wonderful program include The Howard Goodall Eternal light Requiem, which is this fantastic piece that is based on the basic concept of a traditional Requiem, but its uses poetry, both romantic poetry and very contemporary poetry, and, of course, some war poetry and was always written with a kind of War Memorial bands in mind by Howard. And it is one of the stunning contemporary pieces of choral music, in my view, and is it is firmly rooted in the very best of the English choral school. It really is
It is a beautiful piece of music, it really is.
And I think that was a very special year for us, because that was an incredibly powerful concert at St. Ignatius in Stamford Hill, which is a wonderful venue. You know, we had our orchestra we had our professional soloists, the choir did sound very, very good.
How is he with praise, Emma? It looks like he's a bit stingy?
That's about as good as it gets.
But that was a special gift, because we did that. And then, at Christmas, we did something completely different. We did a big kind of Broadway style Christmas, at the Bernie grant Center, which is where we have rehearsed since 2011. We've been based there until March of last year, when when you know, they are an art Center, they're closed we very, very much looking forward to going back there, when that's the right time for them. At the moment, we're based at Bruce Grove primary school, and will be until the end of this year. But we did this, you know, big 16 piece, pit band, and all glitzy and, and two acts show very much Christmas on Broadway. I very much enjoyed having my, my read lineup where I had five, five read players with I think it was something like 23 instruments between them on the doublings. That Yeah, that was, it was really fun.
And then as well as that, I think, for me both as a singer and as chair of a choir during - hopefully touch wood = the hardest year we will ever endure. The last year, keeping the choir going during a pandemic was something that Tom and myself and the rest of the committee felt that it was very important to just keep going. And to do it in the best and obviously the most safe and legal way we could do it. But to at no point say "that's it we're going to stop." So we did all sorts of variations on virtual rehearsals, we just kept going. We didn't stop. Our choristers kept turning up week after week online to rehearse via Facebook and zoom. And it was incredibly challenging. We were working towards performing for a requiem. We had to postpone that concert four times and rearrange it because of the rules constantly changing. We had reached the point a couple of weeks ago, where we thought we were never going to get to perform this piece that we'd been working on for a year and a half. And then at the last last moment, the guidance was slightly changed. Our insurance confirmed we were safe, we had the right numbers. And we were able to go ahead with the for a concert at St. Ignatius church, performing not to a live audience, obviously. But we did a live digital broadcast, which was the most technically involved thing the choir has ever done. It was live broadcast to over 90 over 90 audience members that night and has been since viewed. I don't even have numbers but so many times. And given that we'd rehearsed all but two rehearsals in lockdown. So in our own rooms, not hearing each other. It was just the most amazing feeling to all be together albeit two meters apart, and sing together as a choir all together again, I got really emotional, I think quite a lot of us got really emotional. And just this relief of being able to sing together again when you've been missing that for a year was just incredible. And I was incredibly proud of the choristers for pulling that off because to rehearse by yourself when 90% of our choristers don't read music. I read music. I think there's about six other people who read music in the choir. That's it. No one else reads music they learn by ear and they pulled it off and it was just superb.
Yeah. Tom, you also agree with your criticism. You were pleased?
No, absolutely. No, it was. I think we got one physical rehearsal with the organist and the soloists. And then we had the afternoon the day itself, which of course is spent generally doing a tech rehearsal. So yeah, I mean, I think I think that it's fair to say that our organization is pretty amazing. Our choir is pretty incredible in that way.
How many people are in the choir at the moment?
At the moment, we've got about, we've got very small numbers, we've got about 30 / 35. At the moment, it is the smallest we've ever been, obviously, we haven't been able to do much recruitment over the past, well, nearly two years. And we are very much looking to expand that again. I mean, at its peak, we had about 80 members that was, yeah. 30 to 35 at the moment is is too small, really, for moving forward. It's fine for at the moment for with everything being spaced out and socially distanced. But obviously, that's coming to an end, thank God. And we'll certainly be at an end by September. And so we are looking to really improve. That's one of the reasons we're we're at the festival on the 31st of July, we're also going to have an open rehearsal, a common singing day as we may well call it on Saturday, the 11th of September. And that's going to be a big part of our of our recruitment strategy and initiative for September. And for, you know, the start of next season, which everyone will be able to know details on as they come in at the website at www.Tottenhamsingers.com. because as you have said, our wonderful committee do keep that website up to date and relevant. And so yeah, as soon as we know, the website will know.
Yeah, and our come and sing days are, they used to be a traditional part of our recruitment, we've not done them for a couple of years, because we've been that peripatetic in our rehearsal venue, because of, obviously, the Bernie Grant happens to be closed down and things during the pandemic. But basically, it will be an open rehearsal, the choir will have only had one rehearsal at the beginning of term prior to it. And so we'll be doing a mixture of new and old things. It's a drop in an afternoon where people who are interested or think they might be interested in the choir, and can just come in, sing, get a feel for what we're like, eat some delicious cakes, hopefully, and then socialize in the evening afterwards, because the social aspect of the choir is a big part of it as well. We're really, really diverse bunch and we're proper, Tottenham diverse were a mixture of black and white, young and older, our oldest, our oldest member, Brian is I think he's 80 something.
Yeah, he's in his late 80s,
just for me, is that one, just one day in September, where people can pop in to ...
So what will happen is in what we were, we're redoing this from this September, and we normally do it every September and will indeed in the future, is we'll be recruiting everywhere will there'll be flyers and social media and things like that, to get the word out. And then the first three rehearsals of a new term, the fixed dates are the first three rehearsals is the second, third and fourth week of September, will be free for anyone to come and try out for the choir, though people can just turn up on on the Tuesday evening, when we'll be rehearsing at the school. And people can just turn up or they can drop us an email, or tweet or Instagram or Facebook post and get in touch any way they want. And let us know. And they'll be welcomed to come and sing with us or if they would prefer just to sit at the back. They might get away with that for a good half an hour before Tom drags them into the crowd and makes them sing. But no one is made to audition. There are no requirements to stand in front of a group and sing your favorite oration. It's just a matter of we find out what part you sing or think you sing because what people think they sing is often very different to what they do. So we're split into Sopranos altos, tenors and basses. And within those were split into first and seconds, so the higher and the lower parts. So you'll just be put with a group of friendly people, give them some sheet music, and we're we'll just sort of just start singing. And the idea is that people just sort of hit the ground running, sing, pick up what they need to ask questions of us. But then in addition to that, we're having this open day this come and sing day. So that would be on top of the three open rehearsals, but it's a whole afternoon so people can drop in whenever they want. I mean, obviously the idea is to get a real feel for the choirs to come at the beginning and stay for the whole thing. But if people don't have that time, they can just drop in and come and sing with us. The clue is in the name and get a feel for us get chatting to literally any member of the choir and they will tell them everything they need to know about us.
And how do you do this? Like I can't sing But you know, when you had 80 people? Or did you have like one or two people who couldn't really hold a tune? What do you do, then?
I couldn't possibly comment on that.
What do you do, then? You know?
Well, you know what, it's a very interesting thing. What do you mean by you can't sing, when did you decide you can't sing, Who told you, you cannot sing, and what is the psychological background to the concept that you are unable to sing, because you are a human being. And one of our most basic facilities is that we can all sing, we all have a voice. And this is why singing is such an important part of our human identity, it's part of our cultural identity. And it's a key part of our cultural identity, because it is the it is the least elitist form of music making that can be done. The fact is that you turn up with an instrument that is already there, and works. And you just have to be helped to know how to use it. Yes, you will have to learn how to learn the correct notes, how to know when to use the voice at the right time, within the music. It's not a free for all. But the basic instrument, the concept of singing, is that it comes with you, and then someone like myself is able to show you how to use that. And of course, doing it within a larger group setting within a choir removes the inhibition of that one on one being put on the spot. Within the group, you are able to develop and to be almost - what's the word -hidden away from from being singled out as it's a group activity. But, but you should definitely come along and then we will find out what "I cannot sing" means. And I can assure you that I cannot promise you that you're going to end up with a professional career as an opera singer or a recording contract for Sony artists. But the idea that you cannot sing,
I know, I know. I mean, I think I sing beautifully. It's just other people that disagree. So are you ready for your top tips?
Well, this is one of the one of the interesting things. We're a very food obsessed choir, I'll be honest food and drink obsessed, we we have a shared love of singing and also lots of
So no sports recommendations like best sports venues from you guys?
But in nonfood recommendations, I think Tottenham cemetery, which sounds really grim if you say it to someone who doesn't understand how beautiful London cemeteries are. But it's an incredibly peaceful place and the ponds there specifically, the amount of birds live aquatic bird life, there is just incredible , just a beautiful, peaceful place. And then also, we're so lucky with green spaces. And markfield Park is one of my favorite because of the beam engine markfield beam engine is it's only in operation a couple of days a month. It's just such a beautiful, beautiful piece of engineering to go and witness. And also right by the park my new favorite favorite place is Craving. So it used to be called craving coffee. And now they're just calling themselves craving because they're now a restaurant as well. So they still do the amazing coffee, which they've always done. But now in the evening, they do incredible ramen, really, really good ramen, and I've eaten in almost every ramen restaurant in London. And they are absolutely amazing, which they serve with brilliant cocktails. And then in the morning on their brunch menu, they have the best hangover cure in London, which is a fried egg, chili cheese croissant. And the first time I had one, I wanted to go and get drunk and have another hangover all over again, just so that I could eat it again and have the same effect it was it's just amazing.
I'm glad you mentioned Markfield because I completely forgot about Markfield Park. I think we'd be in a lot of trouble. If we didn't mention the tottenham marshes.
I think you're probably right.
I think we'd be in a lot of trouble the Tottenham marshes which are just this amazing. Marsh land full of wildlife again, it's all about wildlife, but they also produce honey. The Friends of Tottenham marshes produce honey they have beekeepers on the marshes. So and it's the most amazing honey it is - I now do not buy honey from anywhere else. I only get the local honey And the knowledge that it's, you know, that parts of the honey came from your own flowers and your own garden, you know, because they're flying around the whole area. But the Tottenham Marshes is absolutely wonderful. And just this big flat expanse of space, definitely the Tottenham marshes. If we're talking non food orientated, I mean, we're, we're gonna
come straight back to it
It comes straight back to it. I mean, I do also like, I like Bruce castle Park. I think that that's amazing with the old oak tree. And that oldest part of Tottenham. I mean, they've got All Hallows there, which is this ancient parish church, and you do feel like you know, you, you can feel a connection to history there. And I think that's a wonderful park. I think it's actually an underused park in many ways.
And then, in terms of drinking establishment, right. It seems completely counterintuitive to mention a building that is at the very top of the high road on the highest peak of Tottenham but the high cross, there are still people in Tottenham who don't know about the high cross and this absolutely baffles me. So for people who don't know about the high cross, it is a former public convenience. It's a toilet that was renovated a couple of years ago and has been turned into the most fantastic boutique pub. So there is only at the moment with social distancing [counts] 1, 2, 3, 4 I think there's five tables inside and there's another five tables outside so it is a small pub, but it is so welcoming. The staff there are so wonderful, they have an amazing array of ales, they have wonderful cider, they have good wine list, and their food is just sublime. They, the food comes out of this minute kitchen that you think a human couldn't stand in
i mean i would actually go into the realms of being controversial and say that I actually would argue that it is the best Sunday roast available in Tottenham. Chris' Sunday roast.
I would agree. Yeah.
And actually they don't have real ales because they don't have a cellar but they have lots of craft beers it is so you're absolutely right, it is such a good selection. We love the High Cross.
It's also got really cute staff. Shout out to Joe
I could not forgive myself if I did not mention the institution the legend that is san marco and san marco is pretty much at the bottom of my garden. So I know San Marco and its menu pretty well and Graziano who just runs one one of the greatest gems of restaurants I think it's you know it's it is a generation of restaurants that we don't get is going and yet there it is still in Tottenham. You know, the pizzas are fantastic the menu, just really really old school. Delicious, hearty Italian home food. But I would actually argue I would say that their filet steak is one of the best foot steaks in London and I have eaten a lot of filet steaks in London and I've cooked a lot of filet steaks and I and Grazs filet steak in the Vecchia Romagna sauce, the brandy cream and peppercorn sauce that that that is one of life's greatest joys and by all means Dewhurst the butcher Chris has taken on the butcher. Chris is doing a wonderful wonderful job there. It's and it's close to San Marcos so you can go buy your meat and then go. It's Dewhurst, Dewhurst butcher and it is just opposite the what I call the Bruce grove junction. We are so blessed to have a local butcher there are certainly places not just in London but actually across the country that no longer have local butchers you can go to Chris to get your meat and it is wonderful and it is good value and once you're there you see you can just wander down to Holcombe road market and you've got the grocers there you've got the fishmongers We are so lucky to have these things but I'm always saying to people, you know, "please use them because unless we use these local things" and so many people that are there" used to be this here there used to be that here and it's all gone now it's all " "Oh did you use them?" "Oh no, I didn't use them myself but it's such a shame they've gone" you need to use these things.
Actually that's the true hidden gem of Tottenham is Dewhurst triple smoke gammon
usually only at Christmas although sometimes they get them in specially for Easter if we ask triple smoked gammon from Dewhurst at Christmas. Yeah, that is the true hidden gem of Tottenham
but yeah,go to Dewhurst ask to speak to Chris and say that Tom sent you and you, you, you will have done a good thing that will improve your life. I think we're lucky. We've got so many hidden gems, I think we could mention various places. I'd actually like to mention Mona's, because I think that's great, a small cocktail bar that is opened up and you know, in the last couple of years, again, just a bit further up the High Road towards Aldi, I think we could actually go on with recommendations. And I think it can take hours. And I think the fact that we can get so passionate and have so many things with which to answer this question. I think we're quite blessed with that. And we're lucky and we need to celebrate that,
obviously. Oh, and one thing that's actually involves burning calories rather than eating them, roller nation, if you've not been to roller nation yet, what are you doing? It's a real taste of nostalgia. Going to a roller disco, when you are in your mid to late thirties is just the craziest thing ever. But it's so much fun. And that's just by Bruce Grove.
So that's opposites San Marco, isn't it. So you could even combine two things, but yeah, we are we're lucky. We're lucky and we should be grateful.
Okay, that's fantastic top tips, I definitely gonna check out some of them. Thank you very much for all these top tips that we can try out. Thank you for being on the podcast.
Thank you for having us.
Yes, it's been wonderful. Thank you so much.
So if you want to see the new Tottenham singers in action, your opportunity is this month on the 31st of July. They are performing at Lordship Hub for the Harringey Fringe Festival. So this is the first time it's running and it's a trial. So check out both websites, the new Tottenham singer website which is very up to date. Also, I know their Twitter and I think their Facebook as well. And also the Lordship hub has a very good website. And if you're interested to maybe join so in September is when the recruitment starts. Okay, happy singing and eating, bye. I hope you enjoyed today's episode, learned something new. And let that Tottenham love grow. Take care and until next time, byyyyeeee
Transcribed by https://otter.ai