The Songbook

This songbook has been written using the words spoken to us. Every word, every phrase and every story was told in our workshops. Some of the songs focus on specific groups or places, others bring together themes and ideas which resonated across the country. Each song represents a moment, a pattern or an idea which describes a significant facet of modern British identity.  

Altogether, the songbook gives a snapshot of the character of modern Britain. You can read about the background to each song below.


Performance resources

You can find all of the sheet music for the songs below along with recordings and backing tracks. They’re free to download and perform and we’d love to hear from you if you’re singing them - get in touch at hello@whenwecollide.co.uk 

There’s currently SAB, SATB and unison arrangements of most of the songs - the first and the last songs have 2 and 8 part arrangements. 
PLEASE NOTE: the SAB and 8 parts versions were updated on 10th January 2019, so download the new versions!

Why SAB parts?
The majority of the songs have been written with an SAB parts, as oppose to SATB, as many community choirs may potentially have a shortage of men. The male part is therefore a Baritone line, which should be suitable for most male voices and doesn’t go too high or low. If you feel that a traditional SATB part is more suitable for your choir, please do get in touch and we can send extra scores to you.

Credits: All songs sung by Rosie Adediran. All piano accompaniments played by Michael Robson-Kiernan.

1 - I Am Waking

 

I Am Waking

We are a transient nation of individuals. Developments over the last hundred years have allowed us to travel and spread ideas across the world. This dramatic increase in personal mobility has changed the face of Britain by mixing people from all corners of the country and the world. Gone are the days of unique local customs, provincial cultures and isolated communities. With parochial images of Britishness fading into nostalgia, we instead define ourselves by the things we have done and the journeys we embark on. 
With the disintegration of geographical community comes the opportunity for us to shape our own lives and to connect with people from all walks of life, but with this freedom comes a sense of isolation. The single most common statement across the whole project was in a written part of the workshops: “Nobody knows how lonely I am”. Is the breakdown of local community to blame for this pattern? Or is it an inevitable problem for a quickly evolving society? 
This song is a bittersweet celebration of individuals, and our individual freedoms, charting the journey of many blue dots on many google maps.
 

We Spread Our Wings

This song is based on a story told by a woman in the Royal Opera House Community Chorus. It is a celebration of youth, friendship and life in Essex in the 1950s. She spoke about how the world felt so much bigger; moving to Clacton-on-Sea was a huge adventure, and Pakistan was impossibly far away. This song shows us how much this country has changed, but it also echoes an obsession with the sea which still resonates with people today (in fact – stories about the sea featured in all 24 workshops!) Britain hardly “rules the waves” these days, but the people of this island nation still have a carnal draw to the ocean.  
 

I’m Letting Go

This song is based on the incredible life story of a woman from Edinburgh Police Choir. The many chapters of her life were littered with adventure and tragedy. We were struck by her strength when faced with difficult decisions and her ability to leave one life and embark on something entirely new. This act of painfully extracting herself from a situation mirrors the wider political struggle as Britain wrestles uncomfortably for a Brexit deal. 
We couldn’t tell you what she thinks about Brexit, but her words beautifully capture the unease of the nation as it tries to remove itself from something in the hope that it’ll bring a better future.   
 

We Are Chaos

The workshops highlighted the family unit as the single most important building block of British society. It is the framework upon which people form their political ideas and make life-changing choices. It also forms the emotional heart of our country. We spoke to many single mothers about the joys of family life, but just under the surface lay fragility, uncertainty and pain. This song contains four stories from four of the incredible women that we met across the country as they describe the wonderful chaos that is family life in the UK.  
 

The Kettle’s On

In the midst of a housing crisis, it was little surprise to discover that finding a home was a seminal moment in the lives of many of the people we spoke to. This song contains three stories of people finding sanctuary. The first shows a family escaping inner-city life in Liverpool. The second came from a man being offered a dilapidated flat in Poplar after months of homelessness - he was mesmerised by the light streaming in through the windows, and told me that “nearly all the good things in [his] life spread out from that moment”. The final verse comes from The Include Choir, a Makaton choir for people with speaking and communication difficulties. Many of these singers had exceeded the expectations of those around them by managing to live independently.
 

Romance

This song was inspired by a story told by London Lucumi Choir: “Five years ago, I had an exhibition of photographs in Soho. I was single, happily single. I was 55 and I was thinking, this is it now I'm single, but you know, I'm creative and I'm enjoying myself. I sold some of the photos and I met the person who bought the photos. He gave me the deposit for the photos and it was quite a lot - like 80 quid or something and I thought, I'm going to buy myself the most beautiful bra in the world! And nobody is ever going to see this bra, but I don't care. So, I honoured myself and bought this beautiful lingerie. Anyway, later on he wrote to me and said “I really liked this photograph, have you got anymore? I might be interested in buying.” And then we met and had a coffee, and then a few months later… we got married!”
We met many other strong and vivacious women across the country and three of them form the verses of this song. Britishness is no longer about modesty and reservation – we are noisy, we are generous, we are bold. 
 

We Are An Island

Discussions on British pride were always divisive, and few people were able to articulate what exactly there was to be proud of. One aspect of Britain that did unite people was a love of the countryside. This song is an ode to the British landscape – the lowlands, the coast, the hills and the mountains. 
 

This City is Electric

Liverpool is one of the most distinct and vibrant corners of the UK. One member of The Choir With No Name described the city best: “I feel strongly about Liverpool because of the adversity the city has faced. But we’ve stood together, we’ve stayed strong and we’ve won.” It is a city where violence, hardship and joy live fiercely alongside one another. The song is a testament to the warmth and resilience of the people of Liverpool.
 

An Oath

Many people, all over the country, felt like “citizens of the world” rather than “British citizens”. Some of the strongest proponents for this stand point were people in the military and the services. The people in these traditionally patriotic organisations spoke about their dedication to a wider humanity; from a 92-year-old sailor from the Men of Staithes liberating prisoners from concentration camps in 1945, to soldiers, police, prison wardens and navy personnel. These people had huge insight into the human condition, and a powerful devotion to the people they protect. In many ways, this is a military anthem for the 21st century – dispelling nationalism and embracing a wider humanity. 
 

I am a Midwife

The nation’s relationship with the NHS is at the heart of both our national pride and our national fear. We met many front-line NHS workers, in both the Imperial Trust Choir, and across the country. The dedication of these people was overwhelming, but punctuated with an urgent sense of frustration as the deteriorating infrastructure of the NHS hampers their ability to do their jobs.   
Text for this song came from all of the midwives, doctors and nurses we met along my way, especially the “tall poppy” who battled for change in such a hostile environment.   
 

Crossing

The question of national identity is hugely profound in Northern Ireland, especially for a cross community choir. Our discussion centred around the emergence of a distinct “Northern Irish” identity, and the vital role this has had in creating unity. However, this identity has little legal status, as they are continually required to identify as either Irish or British or both. The middle section of the song reflects this dilemma. 
The first and last verses are taken from a description of life during The Troubles. This suspense resonates with the current unease that runs through these fragile communities, as the powers that be struggle to find an acceptable Brexit deal. 
 

History

Which elements of British identity do we treasure and still define us? Which parts of our history are we ashamed of and want to conceal?
This song is based on the story of a young woman going through her grandparents’ possessions. After the sudden death of both her grandparents, she arrives at their cottage alone to deal with the things they’ve left behind. She finds remnants of their last days – cigarettes in the ashtray, breakfast in the top of the oven, Grandma’s false teeth, but also mountains of objects and junk. She spends months going through everything, working out what she wants to keep and what she wants to throw away or sell. 
This act of choosing your legacy is at the heart of this song. As she decides which bits of her grandparent’s past she wants to keep, the country is working out which parts of British history we want to use to define us – which heirlooms are still relevant? And what facets of Britishness are we ready to part from? 
 

When I Get My Chance

We asked a group of primary school children what they thought about British identity and they talked furiously about race relations, immigration and their dreams of creating a fairer world. Their perception of the UK was starkly different to those of an older generation. They held no assumptions that Britain is a world power. To them, it’s a small and imperfect corner of the map.
 

When We Collide

“We are strong when we collide” was written by a teenager from Havelock Academy in Grimsby and is a striking summary of the state of British identity. Our local communities are splintered and fractured, but even in this division we crave unity and togetherness – if the first song highlights our isolation, this song is a celebration of our changing communities. This text sits alongside snapshots of joy and connectivity taken from all across the project, many of which reflect our unwavering affinity with the sea.