Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Cleaners' Voice

At 6.30 this morning the body and brain were protesting.
'We like having a rest and getting up late!', they moaned.
But it's Offsprog Two's first 'A' Level today and she had to be up early too. Dazed, we motored through the kitchen on different tracks.
The sunshine outside the front door soon jerked me awake and the journey to the University of the East was positively a glide rather than a crawl as it usually is.
I was the first one there and had a solo sing until Ana, who is filming the process, arrived closely followed by two of the men cleaners, and then two women. Luis arrived with the juice and the bananas, and off we went. During the session we gained another woman and another (very shy) man. It's funny that every week different people turn up; it's not a problem because we are still developing the song, it's Easter and many people are on holiday and the whole project feels very positive anyway. Even just getting organised by Unison has got the cleaners a paid day off on Friday, which they would not have had without the Union's pressure.
Luis has called the song writing project 'The Cleaners' Voice', because through their song they will be able to express the way they feel and be listened to by the people who make decisions about their pay and conditions.
We taught the song to the new arrivals and Luis wrote out the lyrics for them. One verse is enough; I learned this the hard way earlier this week by trying to learn the Spanish translation and realising just how hard it is to sing a new song in an entirely new language. 
I think I am picking up little bits of Spanish, but not much; I do listen very carefully when Luis translates to the group and can begin to understand some of what he is saying. So we have decided to have little individual cameos within the framework of the song, which makes it even more personally relevant to the singers, and they will still get their message across. There are some Portugese people in the group too and we will translate some of the song into Portugese so that everyone is included.
Just like last week, it was a good feeling to end the session with smiles and a relaxed and happy group. It is a lot to ask of people at the end of a cleaning shift to come along, stretch and sing just when their bodies are requesting a bit of time out; these sessions are actually fun, I think, and of course it has the ultimate purpose of empowerment and getting the cleaners a better deal.
Luis, Ana and myself went to see the building where the first performance will be; it has a great reverb due to its industrial chic blend of glass and steel, and a perfect little walkway for the group to stand on and sing. It's light and airy and I think they will feel good while they are performing their song.
Sometimes, this reminds me of those school assemblies, singing hymns at the tops of our voices in unison early in the morning. Group singing is a fabulous way to start the day and this group of cleaners have strong and melodic voices- can't wait for next week, and the first performance!

1 comment:

Jude Cowan said...

glad the Cleaners' song project hasn't died - but with you leading it it so will not