A community choir for those who live with, or have lived with, cancer is looking for new members.

The choir is free, and open to those aged 18 and over who have had a cancer diagnosis at some point in their life.

The only other requirement is that members can get to Bolton town centre for rehearsals on Monday evenings, with beginners welcomed.

“The longest distance so far is 55 years post-diagnosis,” founder Karen Elliott explained.

While she has not had cancer herself, Karen was inspired to set up the choir after her father was diagnosed with the condition when she was younger.

Karen said: “It wasn’t the greatest experience that we had as a family, so I reached a place where I felt I wanted to use that experience in a positive way, so that other people wouldn’t go through what we’d been through. I got involved in local and national stuff around cancer.”

The choir provides a ‘positive, fun, and diversional’ activity for members, but also provides the opportunity for members to meet with others going through similar experiences.

Karen adds: “If everybody had breast cancer, their experience would still be slightly different because we’re individuals.”

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Bolton has now got its cancer information and support centre, in the form of Macmillan, but that does not mean the choir is going anywhere.

Bolton Cancer Voices was set up 12 years ago to provide local support for those who had personally experienced cancer.

At the time, cancer choirs were not as common as they are now.

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Karen said: “At the time we were very much trailblazers when it came to harnessing the therapeutic value of singing, or singing in a choir.

“Now, of course, there’s research that backs up the benefits of singing together; there’s lots of different types of medically related choirs, from Dementia choirs to mental health choirs, breathlessness choirs, Covid choirs, Parkinsons choirs – there’s lots of progress been made.

“At the time, it wasn’t really felt to be the greatest idea I’ve ever had, either from the choral world or the cancer world. People didn’t think it was going to work, but I’ve always sung and choirs were embedded in me. I knew from a personal perspective the joy you got from singing and the camaraderie.

“For me, there was just no doubt it would work, and it has. It works beautifully.”

The choir remains free, Karen says, in part because of cancer’s cost implications – with increased costs on heating, travel, and more compounded by the inability to work.

“If somebody’s not got a pound and it means they don’t come to choir when they might benefit from choir, then we’ve failed,” Karen said.

Those interested in joining Bolton Cancer Voices can contact Karen on 01204 595562 or email boltoncancervoices@yahoo.com.

If you have a story, I cover the whole borough of Bolton. Please get in touch at jack.fifield@newsquest.co.uk or text or WhatsApp on 07517566383.