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Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! This is my first entry – thanks for visiting!

I’m a community choir leader and singer specialising in early music. I research the history of songs, and the role of the arts in health and wellbeing.  I make performances which engage & include audiences and link to closely to communities, places & history. In this blog I have loads I’d love to share: thoughts and discoveries about songs, singing and the arts, and aspects of my work. I’m planning to share something every week.

This first post is about a choir I lead called The Dragon Café Singers, and our most recent performance on December 5th 2019 in Concert for Winter, at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. CFW is the Globe’s free annual showcase and celebration of the past, present and future of Southwark. This is us on stage in December, with amazing tuba player Oren Marshall, & instrumentalists from The Globe.

The theme of the concert was Roots. We wrote a new song, and we’re recording it soon.

We’ve performed annually in CFW since 2014, and this has inspired us to write original songs, which form most of our repertoire. Last year we recorded a CD of our music.

This is the first track ‘Drive the Cold Winter Away’, written for Concert for Winter in 2017. We’ve used the melody of a sixteenth century English ballad, with new words about love, food and community, and a samba rhythm. https://soundcloud.com/vivien-keiles/drive-the-cold-winter-away

The Dragon Café is a place of wellbeing which pops up every Monday from 12 midday in the Crypt of St George the Martyr Church, opposite Borough Tube Station. Activities are free and open to all. Fresh low-cost vegetarian food is cooked on site, with produce from nearby Borough Market. I lead a drop-in singing group at 1pm every week, which I’ve done every Monday since January 2013. The Dragon Café Singers songwriting and performing group meets on Mondays at 3pm. Everyone is welcome to both groups!

In this video, Jacqui, a member of our singing group, shares her story. Jacqui has several long-term conditions, including Parkinson’s. Jacqui became a patron of The Dragon Café in 2016, on the advice of her GP, and comes nearly every week. She enjoys singing, dancing, visual art and many other activities. In the video, Jacqui explains how singing has brought her speech back. https://vimeo.com/283913323/2f718c6952

My work at the cafe is at the heart of the new Arts for Health training I have designed for General Practitioners. The experience and co-production of people who use services is central to this training.

The cafe was founded by Sarah Wheeler, a visionary arts activist, who lived locally, and was a long-time user of mental health services. She envisioned a creative cafe in the crypt of St George’s, a place to ‘create, relate. integrate’. Sarah passed away in 2016, but her legacy lives on in Mental Fight Club, the charity she founded, the aim of which is:

“The promotion of social inclusion amongst people who are socially excluded from society or parts thereof as a result of mental ill-health, through the provision of creative events which foster social connection and allow for the exploration of mental illness, recovery and well-being for all”.

This is an image of our first performance at The Globe in December 2014, with Sarah Wheeler standing on the right, in a black beanie. This first post is dedicated to Sarah, Mental Fight Club, and all who help to make The Dragon Café a creative place to be, for everyone. With gratitude.