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Pioneering group that brings music to deprived parts of Manchester wins national award

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A group of Manchester musicians have won a national award for their pioneering work to bring singing and music to those who cannot otherwise afford it including refugees, migrants and schoolchildren.

The Olympias Music Foundation runs lessons, workshops and choirs in Longsight and Rusholme, wards within some of the highest levels of urban deprivation in the UK.

They won the Grassroots category of the Community Integration Awards for their work which they say promotes confidence and integration amongst vulnerable participants who also include victims of modern slavery and domestic violence.

The classes are run students from the Royal Northern College of Music. Their sessions give participants routine and a goal to work towards, as well as a chance to meet with other individuals in a similar situation.

Jo Yee Cheung, Olympias Music Foundation Director, said: “Winning the Grassroots Champion Award has been a tremendous experience – from the day spent making the film in Manchester, all of the expert help we’ve received to develop and expand our organisation, and of course the fantastic awards ceremony in London.

“The process has been so encouraging for both the team and the groups we work with. We are very grateful to the Community Integration Awards for this wonderful opportunity and excited about what the future has in store for the Foundation.

“Music is a powerful tool for social good – it transcends language and culture, raises people up and brings people together. However, much work is still needed to democratise music and to make it something that is not only the prestige of the privileged but something that everyone can access, regardless of how much money you have or where you live. We’ve seen children and adults transform as into happier, more confident and emboldened versions of themselves a result of musical engagement. We hope that our work will continue to help many others, and inspire those we help to share their talents with the rest of the community.”

Jo and her team collected their award at a ceremony in London, presented by the Mexican human rights activist Laura Alvarez and the Chair of the MigrationWork Trust Rachel Marangozov.

Rachel Marangozov said: “We’re thrilled to have received so many incredible entries to this year’s award and want to congratulate our winner and runners up for their outstanding work.

“At a time when there is a distinct lack of central guidance or funding for integration work in the UK, it is often left to organisations such as these to plug the gaps in support and advance positive integration outcomes for their local communities. It is absolutely vital that we recognise and celebrate the hard work that they do; this is what the Community Integration Awards are all about.”