The History of Voices for Hospices

Voices for Hospices was conceived in 1989 by Sheila Hurton, to raise vital funds for, and public awareness of, the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher by staging a single “Come and Sing” concert.

Since those early days this initiative gained pace to become a global event.

The aim of the Hospice Movement is to bring care, freely, to all who need it, whether as an in-patient, day patient or at home. The concept of a nationwide simultaneous singing event as a means of raising money to help achieve these aims was enthusiastically supported by hospices throughout the UK. The first “same day, same time, same music” concert took place on 5th October 1991, under the banner of Voices for Hospices. There were 113 UK performances of Haydn’s Creation and the event was sponsored by Scottish Mutual Assurance. These concerts attracted the support of BBC Radio 2 and other BBC and local radio stations, and were a great success in terms of  funds raised and publicity achieved for local hospices.

The sponsorship of BT plc for three years from 1994 enabled this simultaneous singing event, now with either Handel’s ”Messiah” or “Hallelujah Chorus” as its focal point, to grow far beyond anything originally  envisaged. A feature on BBC’s “Songs of Praise” in October 1996 contributed to a more than doubling of UK performances to 319, ensuring that most areas,  and therefore most hospice and palliative care units, were included in the event. Coverage by the media both at home and abroad grew significantly. The 1997 VfH concert also attracted the Patronage of HRH Duchess of Kent.

By the Millennium Voices for Hospices had grown from one UK event in 1991 to 312 performances in over 40 countries. These figures reflect the appetite and enthusiasm for an international event which unites and encourages those working in palliative care, and creates new opportunities both to raise funds and increase awareness and understanding of what they do. In some participating countries, where there are  few hospices and palliative care units,  they reported that the Voices for Hospices project helped lessen their isolation and drew much needed attention to their work.

Voices for Hospices now takes place every two years around the globe on World Hospice and Palliative Care Day – on the second Saturday of October. Sadly since the death of Sheila, its inspirational founder, the VfH movement has lost some of it’s original focus but it is still in the hands of an enthusiastic and willing band of supporters across the five continents.

The VfH Choir has been set up to to build on existing VfH support and help re establish the ideal of voices joining together in support of the Hospice Movement. The performance on October 15th 2017 will enable people to sing the same work, at the the same time and in the same place to raise money for the following Hampshire hospices: Countess Mountbatten, Naomi House and Jacksplace, Oakhaven, Rowans and St Michael’s. .

The Voices for Hospices custom of lighting a candle at the start of the proceedings and all reciting The Hospice Prayer will be continued as part of our ‘Come and Sing’ performance. This focusing of everyone’s attention on the main aim of the day is always a truly amazing and moving moment.

The “official” VfH date for the next concert is Saturday 14th October 2017–however as we have been granted free use of Eastleigh Football Club, and to avoid a clash of football dates,  we have planned our contribution for Sunday 15th October.

Thank you for supporting this Worldwide Project.