Funds will be raised at a concert in Ramsgate for a choir organisation which helps excluded and isolated people, such as those in secure psychiatric settings or people who are serving custodial sentences.
Liberty Choir runs a ‘through the gate’ programme of high-quality singing and social development.
It is designed to help develop skills and self-confidence, open up the world of arts through singing and provide access to new social networks as the participants re-enter the wider community.
Turning a life around
Among those to have benefited from the scheme are Ramsgate couple Ross and Vicky Bell.
Ross, a former Captain serving in Iraq, returned to civilian life in 2005 with undiagnosed adjustment disorder leading him to make poor life decisions, including a large-scale VAT fraud, which resulted in an eight year prison sentence.
In his first months in prison, frightened and alone, he discovered Liberty Choir – a full-circle charity where volunteers from the community form an integrated choir with prisoners every week, and support them on their release. The seeds of hope were planted which flourished in a delightful and unexpected way.
Ross is a graduate of the first Liberty Choir programme in 2014, in HMP Wandsworth. He was released from HMP Standford Hill in February 2018.
During his time in the choir Ross found he had talent for singing tenor and also started to write a weekly blog “The Man Inside”
He was able to access a guitar which he learnt to play, wrote songs and now – many years of rehabilitation later – sings in a soul choir, has recorded an album, completed a masterclass in songwriting and has one of his songs covered by the Cuban Brothers.
He said: “Liberty Choir was instrumental in changing the course of my life.”
Wife Vicky spent 15 years working as a PA in London and returned home to the coast where she met and married Ross.
She said: “”I will never be able to fully express how much comfort and relief Liberty Choir gave to me and our children, to know that he had contact with the outside world, with people who were there with the sole purpose to connect with him and offer him unconditional support and positivity.”
Ross and Vicky who were both born in Thanet and have lived in Ramsgate for the past 15 years, have been joined by friends and family to form the Ramsgate Liberty Choir Fundraising Committee.
This will support the work which turned Ross’s life around and help other serving prisoners find a way through their most challenging days and an even bigger challenge – for those who have no family left and have burned their bridges – to navigate life on the outside.
Find out more about Liberty Choir at https://libertychoir.org/
Ramsgate gala event
A gala event – From Darkness to Light – will take place at St George’s Church, Ramsgate on Saturday September 30th from 6pm.
It will three community choirs – Neptunes Choir, the work of the multi talented Naomi Hammerton, the amazing voice of Liberty Choir founder MJ Paranzino “a vocal powerhouse” and Ross Power Founder, Musical Director, Arranger and Vocal Leader of the London and Kent Soul Choirs who has joined forces with Ross Bell to form the band Rosko Piko.
The gala concert is the vision of Andrew Gibson, director for the Ramsgate Festival of Sound and he will curate the evening.
The St George Church Project 200 is looking at other ways for their buildings to be used to serve the local community and in recent years there has been a rapid increase in artistic activity in Ramsgate.
They have also been a venue for concerts, hosting a Baroque concert in December 2021 and hosted numerous performances for the Ramsgate Festival of Sound.