Mov­ing story be­hind the ‘High Hopes Choir’


YOU’D want to have been made of stone not to be moved by the story of the High Hopes Choir, which was broad­cast on RTE for the past two weeks - Ire­land’s first choir for home­less peo­ple set up by David Bro­phy for­mer con­duc­tor of the RTE Con­cert Orches­tra.

An amaz­ing and up­lift­ing project, it was first aired shortly after the tragic death of Jonathan Cor­rie, a home­less man who ap­peared briefly in the first episode. The idea be­hind it is to give th­ese peo­ple a voice and to help them change the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of what it means to be home­less.

In just un­der two months in­volv­ing 20 re­hearsals and over a thou­sand cups of tea and cof­fee, more than 60 peo­ple, all deal­ing with home­less­ness come to­gether to cre­ate a char­ity sin­gle.

Th­ese are the same peo­ple that we all avoid mak­ing eye con­tact with when we see them on the street. We look the other way to avoid feel­ing guilty, to avoid see­ing the des­per­a­tion in their eyes and to avoid feel­ing bad.

All of them have a story to tell and mostly it in­volves drink and drugs to some de­gree. But they share one common goal - all of them want to get bet­ter. Tommy’s story was par­tic­u­larly heart­break­ing. A young man from Gal­way raised by a good fam­ily just lost his way fol­low­ing a re­la­tion­ship breakup and a bad pe­riod of de­pres­sion. He be­came a heroin ad­dict and now sleeps rough. You could feel his love for the mu­sic and he threw him­self into the choir with huge en­thu­si­asm only to dis­ap­pear a few weeks later back to his old ways.

Mousey is liv­ing in a hos­tel in Water­ford. He ad­mits drugs and drink de­stroyed his life but he’s clean now and the choir has given him a new lease of life. Gerry has lived in a hos­tel for 18 years. He wants to show peo­ple that he is down but not out.

New friend­ships have been forged and they all look out for one another. When Tommy goes back to the streets, Lisa from the choir checks on him ev­ery day. “There is no such thing as friend­ship on the streets,” says Tommy tellingly.

When Bressie, Shane Filan and Ed Sheeran drop in as the choir record their sin­gle, the women go weak.

“The hot flushes started! I thought they’d have to take me to the Mater!” joked Linda another home­less per­son who has re­cently been re­housed.

This pro­gramme is prob­a­bly one of the best doc­u­men­taries RTE have ever done. It has given th­ese peo­ple back a sense of self, given them con­fi­dence and al­lowed them to be­lieve that maybe things will get bet­ter. The fi­nal episode airs this Thurs­day on RTE 1 at 10.15 pm.

There was more talk on twit­ter on Sun­day night about Mel B’s sup­pos­edly bruised face and the fact she wasn’t wear­ing her wed­ding ring than there was about who was go­ing to win

The X Fac­tor - Ben or Fleur. It comes as no sur­prise there­fore that this year’s fi­nal drew its low­est rat­ings for more than ten years with an av­er­age au­di­ence of 8.4 mil­lion. At least 8 mil­lion of them only tuned in to see was Mel dead or alive after be­ing dra­mat­i­cally rushed to hos­pi­tal a cou­ple of days be­fore hand with a mys­tery ill­ness.

She did look sort of shook to be hon­est but I couldn’t tell if her face was as a re­sult of a bad make up artist or if she was bruised and swollen. Ei­ther way her per­sonal cir­cum­stances were the fo­cal point of the night.

But back to business. In the end Ben won although we all knew that Fleur was the bet­ter singer and you couldn’t help think­ing peo­ple voted for Ben be­cause he needed to win more than she did. Fleur is go­ing to be a star any­way and I sus­pect Syco will have her snapped up be­fore Ben does his first gig in But­lins.

Ac­tu­ally the best parts of the whole night were the guest per­form­ers - Take That, Sam Smith, Ol­lie Murs and Demi Lo­vato , not to men­tion all the pre­vi­ous X fac­tor con­tes­tants who turned up to sing a num­ber which in­volved the Blonde Elec­tra sis­ters kiss­ing each other on the lips , (eugh!) and Ste­vie Ritchie fly­ing in on a rocket.

It was all a bit mad but good fun. Some­how though I sus­pect this could be the end of The X fac­tor. Cow­ell is canny enough to know it has reached its sell by date and I doubt he needs the has­sle. Ch­eryl VF’s heart wasn’t in it this year and although I take my hat off to Mel B for be­ing a bril­liant judge, she’s not enough to save it.

At least we won’t have to look at Louis do­ing his grand­dad danc­ing any­more!


Black Mir­ror: White Christ­mas, Tues­day, 9pm, Chan­nel 4

I have it on good au­thor­ity that this is ab­so­lutely bril­liant, if a lit­tle bit nutty! This chill­ing fea­ture length sea­sonal spe­cial is of the crit­i­cally ac­claimed drama se­ries star­ring Jon Hamm, Rafe Spall, and Oona Chap­lin. In a mys­te­ri­ous and re­mote snowy out­post, Hamm and Spall share a Christ­mas meal to­gether, swap­ping creepy tales of their ear­lier lives in the out­side world. Along the way we see Jon Hamm of­fer­ing an un­usual form of ro­man­tic guid­ance to an in­ex­pe­ri­enced young man, watch Oona Chap­lin as she is thrust head­long into a night­mar­ish world of ‘smart’ gad­getry and ex­plore what might hap­pen if you could block peo­ple in real life just as you can on Face­book or Twit­ter.

The Fall, Wed­nes­day, 9.35 pm RTE 1

This be­ing the sea­son fi­nale, they moved the RTE show­ing to co-in­cide with the BBC one so that it wouldn’t be spoiled for any­one. This week Gib­son’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion leads her to Spec­tor’s lair but there is no sign of Rose Stagg. In­creas­ingly des­per­ate to find Rose, Gib­son in­structs her team to step up the in­ter­views with Katie and Sally Ann and Paul Spec­tor. How­ever it is only when Spec­tor makes a fi­nal play to re­main in con­trol that Gib­son is of­fered any sort of an­swers - and they fi­nally come face to face. Cue scary mu­sic!

The Crash, Thurs­day, 9 pm, RTE 2

This com­pelling two part drama tells the story of a real life crash in­volv­ing school leavers with bright fu­tures ahead of them. The story be­gins a year be­fore the crash. The drama cap­tures the hor­ror of the ac­ci­dent and the fren­zied ac­tiv­ity in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math as paramedics try to save them while rel­a­tives wait des­per­ate to know who has sur­vived. Then 12 months later, we catch up with the sur­vivors and their loved ones as they try to re­build their lives and come to terms with their loss.

Top: The High Hopes Choir on RTE was an amaz­ing and up­lift­ing project. Left: Black Mir­ror: White Christ­mas on Tues­day, 9pm, Chan­nel 4 I have it on good au­thor­ity that this is ab­so­lutely bril­liant and lastly the con­clu­sion of The Fall on Wed­nes­day RTE1 at 9.35 p.m.

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