A choir that provides an opportunity for women with breast cancer to socialise and perform is gearing up for a charity concert.
Kindred Spirits was formed last September when Frimley Park Hospital patient Linda Bellows approached professional musical director Steve Petch, who also oversees Rushmoor Odd Fellows Male Voice Choir and Crondall Community Choir, with the idea of setting up the new group.
Open to anyone who has had a diagnosis of breast cancer, it includes members at all stages of their journeys, from women who were diagnosed 20 years ago and have now overcome the disease to others who continue to undergo treatment.
The choir is set to perform as a special guest at Odd Fellows’ charity concert in the Princes Hall on March 7, to help raise money for the three charities chosen by Rushmoor mayor Terry Bridgeman – Farnborough RBL Poppy Appeal, disability day centre Parkside and Frimley Park Hospital’s Breast Care Appeal.
Linda, 61, from Weybourne, finished radiotherapy early last year. She said the project stemmed back to when she put on some music to cheer herself up and found herself singing and dancing along.
She said: “I was feeling a bit poorly so I put on an old Beatles CD quite loud and I started dancing around the kitchen and singing. It felt so good.”
The married mother-of-two attended the Moving On programme at Frimley Park, which helps cancer patients get back on track after treatment, and asked Macmillan breast cancer nurse Ruth O’Connor if there were any choirs she could join.
When she found out there was not, she and Ruth, together with Steve, founded Kindred Spirits, holding weekly rehearsals at Cove Methodist Church in Farnborough. The choir now has around 30 members.
“From something so odd as me dancing around my kitchen, something wonderful has come of it,” added Linda, who has now returned to work at Pullingers in Farnham.
Ruth, 42, from Farnborough, was a singing member of the choir up until the end of last year but has now taken a step back to co-ordinate the group.
“We didn't think it would take off in the way it has,” she said. “We're overwhelmed by the way it’s gone. It’s been heartwarming.”
Frimley Park Hospital provides some funding to Kindred Spirits, as does Macmillan, while members pay a small fee to be join. Ruth said she hoped the choir would eventually become self-funding by its members.
Steve, who lives in Fleet and was formerly musical director of the Aldershot Military Wives Choir, said he had been ‘excited’ about establishing the contemporary music choir.
“I couldn’t see any reason why we couldn’t do it,” he said. “The problem was whether anyone would turn up, but 25 ladies turned up that first evening.
“We had only been going eight weeks but we managed to get the girls enough courage and confidence to perform in Camberley town centre.
“I can’t praise them enough considering what they’ve been through. They have become a really close, tight-knit unit and the friendships have been incredible.
“For a lot of people it’s something they’ve never done before. They all have a common objective to get together to do something and learn something.”
Kindred Spirits’ first public performance at Camberley Christmas market raised £700 for the Breast Care Appeal. They hope to raise another large sum at next month’s Princes Hall gala.
Tickets for the evening show are available via 01252 329155. For information on how to join the choir