26 Shining Light: Irene Lofthouse – Aimes Freedom Choir

Dear An,

My friend, I cry when amid the beauty which is the AIMES choir. Not the hot tears of the past (though they still visit), nor the body-wracking silent dry sobbing in so many cramped spaces. These are tears of joy. Did you ever think I would use such a word again? Joy!

When I am there, soft feathers surround me, enfold me and my friends, caressing us, slowing our heartbeats as we bring our minds to the present, concentrating on the now, on our breathing, our place in the circle, our names, on the ball that moves from hand to hand like a planet orbiting, linking us together on its celestial journey.

You know my childhood was stolen. We girls and ladies arrived here in England – rescued from being cash cows, profitable portable products, playthings and punchbags – fractured, fragile, faceless, broken, voiceless, invisible, isolated, stateless. But somewhere in the heavenly realms the celestial spheres heard our tormented souls sobbing, not singing and led us to a place of sanctuary and safety, of family and friends.

Our angels understand the pain deeply buried in our flesh, hearts and minds; know the dehumanisation and deconstruction we have faced. They do not pry. They allow us to grow at our own pace. We are children again learning to play (some of us never had the chance), learning games that teach concentration, focus, confidence, sharing. But most of all, we sing.

My friend, we sing LOUD! The music lets us share emotions, our bodies become electric responding to its beat, its cadences, its melodies and harmonies. It penetrates to our soul and our voices soar like larks ascending to float on thermals pushing through the ether to chime in the heavens where pain cannot reach us. And we feel joy. It’s in the faces around me and on those of audiences when we give private shows.

I am hoping that soon, I will be an alumnus of the choir so I’m part of the public performances. I can show the world then how the AIMES choir has helped me recover my sense of me, helped me reinvent my place and purpose in life. You know from my letters how my confidence has grown; like some other women in the group I’m studying for a degree in childcare. I’m helping in the crèche for experience, which also brings me joy. 

I am so lucky I was referred to AIMES, to have the opportunity to reclaim me, to develop my skills. I know how challenging it is for the angels who provide our succour, how draining we can be because of our emotional and mental states. All our languages, our problems, our tantrums, how often we beat against them. Their sanctuary gives us space to work through our anger, to look beyond, to realise our resilience. 

They give me back my voice and, like Whitman, ‘I sing the body electric’ joyously raising the rafters.

With love Yen

Irene Lofthouse

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