Tag Archives: army

Diving lessons with a difference

Some of the most popular posts on this blog over the years have been those relating to the history of the Marshall Street Baths and its more recent refurbishment, so we thought you might like to see a few more pictures from the art deco pool’s past.

Westminster City Archives holds an amazing album of photographs showing servicemen training at the Marshall Street Baths in World War Two. Among them were US Paratroops and Dutch servicemen.

Dutch servicemen at Marshall Street Baths c1939-1945. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

The collection includes three black and white photographs of US paratroops training at Marshall Street Baths, jumping into the pool whilst wearing full combat gear (1943-1945), and three black and white copy photographs of Dutch servicemen between 1939 and 1945.

 US paratroops training in full combat gear at Marshall Street Baths c1943-45. Image property of Westminster City Archives.US paratroops training in full combat gear at Marshall Street Baths c1943-45. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

These Grade II listed buildings, also known as the Westminster Public Baths, were built in 1850 and retained their original usage until 1997. Public funds financed the construction for the health and well being of local people; the institution provided hot and cold washing facilities for local people and their garments. The building is noted for its architecture and is Grade II listed.

Since 2010, the Marshall Street Baths has been a modern leisure centre, so you can still visit and imagine the space in this unusual incarnation as a military training zone. Training aside, those jumps look fun…!



They came, they sang, they conquered

Joint Force Singers - first rehearsal, September 2015

Joint Force Singers, the twelve-month choral collaboration between Westminster Music Library and Westminster Armed Forces, started on a high note last Saturday morning, as 30-or-so determined choir members braved the rain to attend its inaugural rehearsal. Young and old alike were joined in the Guards Chapel (the Royal Military Chapel) of Wellington Barracks, united by a love of music, to commence the year-long project. Since the project’s inception almost a year ago, a generous grant from the Community Covenant Grant Scheme and a lot of hard work have turned the dream into a reality. After much planning, publicity and recruitment, it was a joyous moment when our choir met for the first time and the music-making began.

Our singers come from all walks of life, although many joined the choir having already attended one of Westminster Music Library’s many concerts or sing-alongs which happen regularly on weekday evenings. Others were recruited after reading a press release, or even seeing a poster whilst walking around London! The multiplicity of backgrounds encompassed in our choir shows most clearly that music, and in particular, singing, has great power to unite. As choir member Rowena Heale told West End Extra,

“It’s all about singing great songs and meeting new people in Westminster.”

There are still a few spaces to fill in the choir and anyone is welcome to join for free who would be interested in this exciting project.

Joint Force Singers - first rehearsal, September 2015The morning began with Tim Heale, London Garrison Welfare Officer and member of the Joint Force Singers Steering Group, introducing the choir to some of those who would be leading the project: Ruairi (Musical Director), Felicity (Project Officer) and Helene (Accompanist). Ruth Walters, choir founder and Westminster’s Music Services Co-ordinator, was unfortunately unable to attend but Jon from Westminster Music Library was present to document the morning.

After Tim’s welcome, the choir launched straight into rehearsal with great vigour. Despite the blustery rain coming down outside, Ruairi’s enthusiasm was infectious and his wide range of singing exercises soon got us all warmed up both vocally and physically! With Ruairi at the helm, this is sure to be no “stuffy” choir, as many choir members commented during the tea break.

“Ruairi isn’t like other conductors,” noted one experienced singer, “he really has a way of making rehearsal fun.”

Joint Force Singers - first rehearsal, September 2015

We are indeed fortunate to have such talented musicians leading the rehearsals. Accompanist Helene has studied piano accompaniment at one of London’s most prestigious conservatoires, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, while Project Officer Felicity Hayward is herself an experienced singer and project leader. With such an accomplished team to steer the choir, we anticipate high-quality music-making to be associated with the Joint Force Singers’ from the very beginning.

Ruairi continued rehearsal with the familiar ‘My bonnie lies over the ocean’, but if anyone in the choir thought they knew it already, they’d certainly never done it like this before! Ruairi had the choir sitting and standing every time a word began with “B”, and clapping on every “M”. I can’t imagine what a casual observer may have thought, had they happened to see this group of singers standing and clapping at seemingly random moments, giggling away the whole time! While the game may have appeared silly, its fruit was evident as soon as we moved on to the next song, ‘Nanuma’, a Ghanaian round. By getting us to move together in ‘My bonnie…’, Ruairi had instilled a sense of togetherness in the newly-assembled choir, and as a result they learned the new song in no time, with beautiful results. It was clear that Ruairi’s directing technique produced incredible results in no time – and the choir had fun, too.

Joint Force Singers - first rehearsal, September 2015

We are privileged and grateful to meet in the beautiful Guards Chapel, and if anyone, regardless of singing experience or ability, would like to join us, our next couple of rehearsals are as follows:

  • 12 September, 10.30am-12.00pm, Guards Chapel
  • 19 September, 10.30am-12.00pm, Westminster Music Library

An interactive rehearsal and workshop will also be happening on Saturday 3 October at 10.30am at Westminster Music Library: a perfect opportunity to drop in and see what the Joint Force Singers are all about. A number of high-profile concerts are planned over the course of the year, the first being on Tuesday 15 December at 6.00pm at Westminster Music Library.


Joint Force Singers set to hit the right notes

JFS logoThanks to generous funding from the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme, Westminster Music Library has recently launched Joint Force Singers – a brand new choir which will unite members of the armed forces who are local to south Westminster with civilians from our resident population.

The inspiration for Joint Force Singers came from our work in Westminster Music Library; for a number of years we have organised a wide variety of musical activities for our residents and local community groups, and musicians from Westminster’s Wellington Barracks are amongst some of our most regular visitors, either borrowing music or performing in our popular free concert series. Joint Force Singers gives us the perfect opportunity to bring everyone together.

It has been well documented that singing in a choir is not only a relaxing and enjoyable activity, but also has great health benefits and promotes long lasting friendships.

Ruairi Glasheen (Joint Force Singers Musical Director) with Westminster's Lord Mayor Locum Tenens Councillor Judith Warner

Ruairi Glasheen (Joint Force Singers Musical Director) with Westminster’s Lord Mayor Locum Tenens Councillor Judith Warner

Westminster Music Library will be working in partnership with Westminster’s Armed Forces and local community organisations to bring people across Westminster together in song, and through their involvement in Joint Force Singers serving personnel and their families will have a unique opportunity to promote the incredible work that they do.

We are encouraging singers of all abilities to get involved, with no audition or specialist music skills needed – Joint Force Singers is about getting together with your community.

Colonel Hugh Bodington (Wellington Barracks) with Westminster's Lord Mayor Locum Tenens Councillor Judith Warner

Colonel Hugh Bodington (Wellington Barracks) with Westminster’s Lord Mayor Locum Tenens Councillor Judith Warner

Joint Force Singers have an exciting year ahead with plans to take part in a number of high profile events at well-known Westminster venues, with a grand finale performance in 2016 at The Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks. Continuing the relationship with the local military community, concerts will be accompanied by musicians from the Corps of Army Music and will feature specially created works based on the music associated with the British military.

Recent choir recruit Rowena Heale is from a family of serving personnel at the barracks:

“I’m really excited about being part of Joint Force Singers; it’s not a “stuffy” choir, it’s all about singing great songs and meeting new people in Westminster.

I think Joint Force Singers will help us build a stronger community; my husband, who serves in the army, agrees that the choir will be an enjoyable and fun activity for those posted to Westminster, and will also help to improve a service person’s life, including their families. Even my 17 year old son has become a member of Joint Force Singers!”

The Choir will number up to 50 adult members. Rehearsals take place on Saturday mornings at Wellington Barracks and are due to commence in early September 2015. There is no cost to join and rehearsal sessions are free, why not “enlist” today?

To find out more or to register, email jointforcesingers@gmail.com, or call Westminster Music Library on 020 7641 6200.


Westminster Music Library – our next big adventure

Westminster Music Library logo

As the dust finally settled on our Arts Council funded project Behind the Lines (a year long programme of music workshops featuring the music and composers of the First World War), I was pondering during the depths of winter 2014 over what we in Westminster Music Library could do next…

Some might argue that being the award-winning Westminster Music Library – one of the largest public music libraries in the UK – ought to be enough. All those fabulous books and scores, staff with amazing music knowledge, interesting events for everyone from toddlers to senior citizens… but the problem is – well it’s not a problem exactly, it’s just that we do love a challenge.

Last November I discovered that The Army were offering funding for projects that would ultimately raise awareness of the British Armed Forces in civvy street, surely we could come up with something for such a worthy cause? Hadn’t we already worked with a bunch of musicians who were based just a step away in Wellington Barracks, all those brilliant recitals with members of the Welsh Guards Band? So that just left the “civvies”, how on earth could we join the two up and still involve Westminster Music Library?


Some scratching of heads and drumming of fingers later the light bulb came on, and we had it – a choir! But not just any old choir, one that would be made up of both army personnel and civilians, accompanied by musicians from the Corps of Army Music, and to add a bit of an extra challenge, grand finale concerts held in the Guard’s Chapel at Wellington Barracks.

So (apart from asking for the money) how would this involve Westminster Music Library? That’s the easy bit: you want something for your choir to sing? Doubtless we’ll have it, and if we don’t, we will pull out all the stops to get it for you. You want somewhere to rehearse? Our newly refurbished Library has just enough space for a choir, and of course there’s a rather nice piano here too.

British ArmyNow all we needed was a bit of cash to get it up and running – would our military friends like the idea? You bet they would, so move over Gareth Malone, let battle commence!