Collaborative filmmaking

This is why we do it

New voices are hard to find. They are even harder to get heard. This is why Project 1961 has decided to make the film in a collaborative way. To make sure it is representative of the young people it is about while challenging stereotypes.

Hear My Voice is a Billy Elliot story – in reverse. When TJ won a scholarship to an exclusive London choir school at 7 his ambitious single mother Bea thinks she has achieved her dream of rescuing her young black son from the hood. By thirteen TJ had become lead Chorister and is applying for Eton – and seems to be well on his way to fulfilling his dream of becoming a world famous opera singer.

But when TJ’s voice breaks and his mum Bea passes away  – TJ ends up back in the hood living with his estranged eccentric Congolese father Ron and going to a local school. Slowly he starts to discover the joys and harsh reality of being a young black boy growing up in East London.

Can TJ still fulfil his dream of becoming an opera singer or can he find a whole new voice with which to sing?

Director Pinny Grylls is developing this film in collaboration with 6 talented actors/writers of Intermission Youth – all of whom come from the same communities as our main character TJ and his friends. Together with Aga Serugo Lugo and eight East London music creators she is also developing the musical landscape of the film. This music and writing will come from the heart of the diverse and much loved community in which she lives. 

Hear My Voice seeks to bring two worlds together.  Upper middle class London and the Hackney hood – as a young black boy – where does TJ feel he belongs?

Late in 2019 we started with a series of opera workshops with Aga supported by The Royal Opera House (including visits from the Jette Young Artists singers.) With their generous support we have also seen four operas this season at the Royal Opera House.

In 2020 we successfully raised development funding via Kickstarter. Since the summer we have been developing the story and characters online with our writers room from Intermission Youth. Now we hope to move into a real life workshop and develop a script. 

At the same time we are developing the music for the film through workshops with diverse young musicians in East London supported by a small grant from Westfield East Bank Creative Future Fund.

Story

Synopsis

When TJ won a scholarship to an exclusive London choir school at 7 his ambitious single mother Bea thinks she has achieved her dream of rescuing her young black son from the hood. By thirteen TJ had become lead Chorister and is applying for Eton. Encouraged by his proud mother, TJ’s dream is to become a world famous opera singer.

But when TJ’s voice breaks and his mum Bea passes away – TJ is forced to leave the protective bubble of his boarding school and return to Hackney under the care of his estranged and eccentric Congolese father Ron. His choir master, himself a scholarship boy, tries to rescue him from his fate and get him on track to apply for Eton. But Ron is determined to wrestle him from this mostly white upper class world and take him back to his roots, his music and culture.

A fish out of water – TJ does not speak Lingala and the only thing he knows about Congolese culture are a few lullabies his mother used to sing. His father immerses him and his older sister Jessye in a whirlwind of Congolese weddings, music, and culture. But Ron struggles to connect with TJ and be the dad he wants to be.

At the local Hackney school TJ is being called a ‘coconut’ by his new peers – who think TJ sees himself as better than them. But when TJ is stopped and searched for the first time, his new school friends take him under their wing to teach him the ropes.  Soon he becomes immersed in their musical scene of Drill and Grime whose lyrics speak about the realities of being a young black person growing up in London. His sister disapproves of this scene and tries to bring him back to his dream. Meanwhile his dad teaches him the Congolese drums and they start to connect.

Can TJ still fulfil his dream of becoming an opera singer or should he find a whole new voice with which to sing?


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