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Gospel choir's quest to stamp out gun crime

QUARTET: Paige Falconer, Bev Thomas, Ivylou Falconer and Michelle Johnson

ACTIONS SPEAK louder than words, as the saying goes, and this could certainly be applied to the director of a West Midlands gospel choir when she met a mother and daughter whose lives have been changed forever by gun crime.

Ivylou Falconer, who runs the Black Country Community Gospel Choir, was so moved by the story behind the anti-gun charity Pandora’s Box that she held a concert earlier this year and raised more than £2,000 to help fund its work.

Willenhall-based Ivylou listened to a presentation from the Pandora’s Box team last year when they visited Bilston’s New Testament Church of God.

Ivylou, who is a foster mum, told The Voice: “Many of our choir members were there and we found what they told us was so moving that we decided there and then to hold a fund-raising concert to support them.

“Small charities like theirs do such good things within the community but operate on a shoestring, with less and less financial support, so we felt it was the least we could do.”

Pandora’s Box was launched nearly three years ago by Bev Thomas and her daughter Sophie in the wake of the notorious double shooting of Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare on New Year’s Day in Birmingham 13 years ago.

Sophie’s twin sister Charlene and Letisha, both teenage students, were innocent victims who became caught up in the crossfire of a gangland feud while simply standing outside a New Year’s Day party at a city hair salon. The crime shocked the nation.

The choir organised a concert which carried the defiant message: ‘no weapon shall prosper.’ Artists included well known local singers Annette B and Peter Spence, the Living Waters Children’s Choir, Natty Joshia and Tri-Unity.

Ivylou, who has fostered nine children, added: “Our aim with our concerts is to win souls through music. Getting the word of God across to people through music is very important to us.

“We also believe that nothing is more important than helping to get the message out to youngsters about how carrying guns and knives simply destroy their own lives and those of others. As a community choir it’s something we feel so strongly about.”

Ivylou invited Bev Thomas to receive a cheque for £2,053 that will go directly into the Pandora’s Box fund.

Bev said: “I feel overwhelmed by the hard work of Ivylou and her choir to help us get our message out there.

“I am passionate about raising awareness and educating not just young people, but also their parents about the deadly dangers of becoming involved in a gang lifestyle. We can’t thank the choir enough. We are planning more presentations in the region later this year.”

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Eddie Edmead, who helps to manage Pandora’s Box added: “We can’t thank the choir enough for all their hard work and effort to raise what is a fantastic sum of money for us because funding for so many causes, including ours, is a real challenge at the moment.

“Pandora’s Box was something borne out of charity, but it is getting a vital message out there. It’s all the more powerful and poignant because it is based on real experience. The effect on people who listen to the Pandora’s Box story is profound.”

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