Singing In… Hillsborough Park: An Interview with Pete Burchill

One man and two women stand in a line singing, they are holding books and there is a brick wall behind them.
5 adults dressed in bright colours singing outdoors in the sunshine
Photo – Brittney Ann Lawrence Photography

As part of RivelinCo’s series of FREE taster sessions in Hillsborough Park in May, we’re working with Singing In… to build an intergenerational community choir for Hillsborough. The free session takes place on Wednesday 18 May, 12:15 – 13:30, in the Pavilion, and anyone is welcome. We caught up with Pete Burchill from Singing In… to tell us a bit more about it!

What can people expect from the Singing In… Hillsborough Park taster session on Wednesday 18 May?

It will look very much like the first session of any new choir, but there will be no need for people to read music and we’ll sing things that people can pick up very quickly. A nice mix – some folk and traditional songs, some more current and up-to-date. We’ll go into harmony very quickly, I think people will be surprised at how quickly we’ll be making a really good sound. A lot of people who have not sung before think they will only be able to sing the tune, but it’s incredibly easy to sing in harmony, especially if you’re in a group and you’ve got the confidence of other people around you singing the same part. It’s much easier than you might think.

Is it really true that anyone can sing?

Absolutely, we do believe that anybody can sing. We all do it at school when we’re young, but like a lot of other creative skills and instincts we shut down a bit in adulthood and our defences come up so we end up saying we can’t sing. But as a general rule, pretty much everybody can sing, and with a good teacher – which Kate really is – and being in that safe space with lots of other people, you’ll be surprised how quickly it comes back. We hope that people from all walks of life and ages and backgrounds will come and try it, and I think people who come will be surprised not just at what they can do but at what an amazing sound you can create when you bring a group of people together.

How do you feel about bringing a choir to Hillsborough Park?

I used to live in Hillsborough and what’s going on in the park is just amazing. Clearly the park has been crying out for a café and more community focus for a long time and it’s thrilling to be starting something new as part of such an exciting initiative. It’s really great that Age UK Sheffield are involved and it’s going to be exciting to work in partnership with them too. I’m hoping this will grow quite rapidly and become a part of the community in Hillsborough, not just our group but the other activities as well. I think over recent years in particular you’ve really seen the area growing into a more mixed and dynamic community and Gathering Ground is going to be a key and exciting part of that. I’ve spent a lot of time with my daughter in the park thinking about what the area needs, and it’s so exciting after all this time to finally see it happening.

Can you tell us a little bit about Singing In…?

We started in 2016 by holding some singing holidays in the Lake District, known as ‘Singing In… the Lakes’. The idea was to bring people together with a range of different experiences, some of them who sang in choirs and some of them who might never have sung in their lives at all, all for the joy of singing. In 2019, Kate and I decided to expand Singing In… into community choirs and it was a huge success. We brought in similar ideas from the holidays: a choir that was completely accessible to anyone who wanted to sing, with no auditions. Since then, it’s grown and we’ve opened a number of choirs, as well as a weekly ukulele group in Oughtibridge, and now we have the exciting developments in Hillsborough Park!

Why is it important for people to sing?

There is a lot of academic research that supports the huge benefits of singing and it’s interesting that they’re not just mental health benefits, but physical as well. Singing is proven to reduce stress, boost lung function and immunity and enhance memory. So as well as the social benefits of coming together in song, it can have many positive impacts on your overall well being. It’s so absorbing that you just completely forget about the outside world and all the challenges you might be facing.

There is no need to book to come along to the taster on 18 May, but arrive early to avoid disappointment. The full programme will be available to book very soon! More details about this event, and all the other free tasters, can be found at

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