Choir hits the right note with Community Foundation’s funding

A Barnsley choir at risk of folding following the Covid pandemic has found a new beat thanks to funding from South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation (SYCF).

Hoyland Community Choir received a £1,500 grant from SYCF via its Small Grants fund to help fund weekly sessions as well as outreach activities such as performances in local libraries and care homes.

The money was also used to recruit a professional musical facilitator and keyboard accompanist to support a wider range of music.

Established in 2016, the choir meets weekly on a Friday morning at the Salvation Army, Hoyland Common to perform a variety of musical genres from hymns to songs from shows.

Before Covid, the musical group regularly attracted between 30 and 40 singers but during, and since the pandemic when it was forced to switch to online sessions, this figure dropped significantly with some participants becoming less confident, frail and unable to participate.

However, with the help of the SYCF funding, Hoyland Choir is working to rebuild its user base and attract new groups members. It now welcomes around 20 people each week.

Helen Harding Maclaren, secretary of Hoyland Community Choir, said: 

“Because we received grant funding and assistance at a critical time, our group was able to continue through the Covid period and survive it, when a lot of similar groups folded due to the challenges of that period. 

“We are incredibly grateful to South Yorkshire Community Foundation. When we needed it most, we received tremendous help, support and encouragement from the SYCF team.

“We are peer-led, friendship singing group with a health promotion focus singing all sorts of songs new and old.  We are mainly retired people though we have had younger participants joining us for sometimes extended periods of unemployment or ill health.

“In two instances, we had people join us for the duration of maternity leave, bringing babies with them to meetings. Many of our participants are single people, some join when recently bereaved. A high proportion of our group have a variety of health challenges.”


One of Hoyland Community Choir’s weekly musical sessions . Copyright: Hoyland Community Choir

Through Covid period, the choir posted musical resources to its YouTube channel, making them available to other groups and individuals across the country.

It has also taken part in a recent research project by The University of Sheffield, analysing success factors in groups that continued to function through the Covid period. 

Helen added: 

“In the current year, we're looking to undertake more outward-facing community-based activities and to develop our understanding of how our sessions actively contribute to positive mental health and can become inclusive for people with Alzheimer's. 

“We attribute our continuation as a functioning group in a large part to the support and encouragement we have received from the organisations including SYCF which have given us grant funding and supportive encouragement over the years.”



SYCF awarded grants totalling more than £1.7m in 2023 to help transform the lives of people and communities across the region.

Jess O’Neill, grants and partnerships manager at South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation, said: 

“It is fantastic to see Hoyland Community Choir not only surviving post-Covid, but thriving - thanks to a combination of our funding support plus the passion, vision and commitment of a group of dedicated community heroes.

“At South Yorkshire's Community Foundation, we’re committed to supporting and building strong resilient communities. Hoyland Choir’s success story is a wonderful example of the positive impact our grants programme has on local individuals and groups across the region.”


Meet Jess

Jess is responsible for leading the team that delivers effectively and efficiently the SYCF's Grants Programmes and identifying improved ways of working and streamlining. Jess will be the lead officer for managing SYCF's proactive volunteer recruitment for its panels, recruiting and increasing diversity, training and providing on-going support including an annual panel members event. Her working days are Tuesday to Friday.

Jess O'Neill

Grants and Partnerships Manager

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Jess O'Neill