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Sewing for the NHS and more

With live performances and education work no longer possible, Opera North staff have been putting their creative skills to the best possible use during lockdown by helping those most in need. We asked some of the volunteers to tell us more.

Our Costume department have been using their sewing skills to help protect key workers in the NHS. From their homes, they have been making a variety of PPE using material sourced by the Head of Costume. So far, they have already donated over 400 masks and caps to hospitals across Yorkshire and also further afield in Manchester and Milton Keynes, as well as making much-needed scrubs alongside staff from the Leeds Playhouse.

Amy J Payne from the Chorus of Opera North has been volunteering as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language for Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network (LASSN). Unable to hold face-to-face lessons at the moment, Amy has been producing some online teaching materials for them by recording herself reading simple stories and educational materials.

With her husband, Ian Wilson, who works as a lighting freelancer for Opera North, she has also been creating short videos for LASSN’s website, so learners can keep learning while lessons are on hold.

Claire Pascoe as Emma Jones, Byron Jackson as Henry Davis, Amy J Payne as Olga Olsen, Richard Mosley-Evans as George Jones, Miranda Bevin as Greta Fiorentino, John Savournin as Carl Olsen, Christopher Turner as Lippo Fiorentino and Robert Hayward as Frank Maurrant, with children in Street Scene © Clive Barda

Many people have also been volunteering with Slung Low – a community group with which Opera North has worked on many occasions in the past. Slung Low is part of Community Care Volunteering, coordinated by Voluntary Action Leeds and Leeds City Council to help vulnerable people in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Emma Barnett and Alex Bradshaw from Education are just two of the Opera North staff involved with the initiative. They have been sorting all the fruit, vegetables, tinned goods and dairy, which have kindly been donated to the scheme, and sorting them into bags and crates ready to be taken to those in the city who need them most. Alex has also been honing her van driving skills, collecting food for the response from the supermarkets or from The Real Junk Food Project.

Volunteering with Slung Low to take food parcels to those in need in Leeds

“It’s been good meeting people from Slung Low and other charities and arts organisations who are giving their time to help others. The staff at Slung Low are so kind to those who need help and working so hard to find the people who need support at this time.”

– Emma Barnett, Orchestral Activity Manager

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