Words by Smiley Team
An online singing community founded in lockdown is still going strong and bringing people together across the globe.
In March 2020, James Sills was inspired by the viral videos of people singing from their balconies in Italy. He knew it would be difficult to recreate those scenes in the UK, so he set up an online singing session called The Sofa Singers.
Now, it's an inclusive and supportive worldwide community, sparking joy and connection through singing together online. “I started Sofa Singers as a direct reaction to lockdown when it became obvious that singing was going to be off the table for some time, but also any form of social contact," James tells Smiley news.
“I felt that this was the time more than ever that people would need to experience community and have their mental health supported.”
What James thought would be a one-off session, teaching a song with his guitar and encouraging people to join in on mute, created a community.
The Zoom session maxed out at 500 logins, the platform’s limit, with visitors from more than 20 different countries attending to sing.
“It really felt like I’d hit on something profound and I just leant in to it, and organised another session," he says. "At a very dark time it felt like something light and joyful, and we haven’t stopped since then."
And so it continued, with sessions becoming twice a week and often selling out of the free tickets within five minutes.
James even set up a members club for regular attendees, who pay a monthly subscription with additional benefits and members only sessions, where regulars have become “like a family”.
With James’ musical background in choirs and festivals, he was already aware of the mental and physical health benefits of singing together.
Members of the Sofa Singers often open up about how they’re feeling and what they are going through.
James has even had attendees who have Parkinson’s disease or are recovering from a stroke say that the safety of singing on mute without judgement has helped to improve their speech over time.
“I’m kicking myself for not thinking of this before the pandemic," he says. "We are reaching people who were already perhaps isolated, unable to access traditional groups. I really feel that Sofa Singers has untapped the potential of creating meaningful community online.”
“Singing has a particular magic, it is the thing that bonds us together the quickest. Even if the other people are on mute but we can still see them on the screen.”
Sofa Singers have powered on beyond lockdown and still meet in their hundreds twice a week, to have a group singalong.
James is positive that this big global family will be supporting each other for the foreseeable future.
GET INVOLVED: To find out more about the Sofa Singers and how to get involved, visit their website.
DONATE: By donating to Sofa Singers, they can continue their twice-weekly sessions which are provided free to members.