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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Performance at the European Economic Social Committee – 06/03/24

I was invited to perform at the European Economic Social Committee (EESC – which is one of the EU institutions) as part of the Civil Society week by the Centre for European Volunteering (CEV). I have worked with CEV in the past, performing and leading a workshop at one of their events for young volunteers in Brussels. They contacted me last year to invite me to collaborate on a musical campaign project for the upcoming EU elections

 One of their staff members, and singer, Joseph Redsure came to Sheffield to co-write and record a song with me, titled ‘Volunteering We Grow’. It was a really interesting learning experience to co-write a song for the first time, and I enjoyed the commission, which closely aligns with my values and experience in voluntary work.


We performed the song live for the first time at the EESC on Wednesday 6th March, during the ‘networking drinks’ session as part of the Civil Society week. The trip to Brussels was complicated by another job I have undertaken, hosting a podcast on the topic of AI for a Brussels-based media company. Having edited the scripts, I was due to record the podcast series at a studio in Brussels, the day before and the day after the performance.


I arrived on Monday 4th March, with very sore shoulders after having somehow miraculously managing to lug my huge suitcase, guitar, rucksack and a 12-litre bucket of hard plaster (which was incredibly heavy) from Sheffield to London. Fortunately the bucket was deposited at my university, Central Saint Martins, before I took the Eurostar to Brussels. Immediately upon checking into my hotel, I had to head out again for a rehearsal with Joseph at his flat in Brussels. We hadn’t had the opportunity to practice together since recording the song, so it was really important that we got familiar with performing as a team. I also taught Joseph the chorus to two of my songs (We Won’t Go Down Without A Fight!’ and ‘It’s Time To Vote’, so that he could encourage the audience to sing along during performance.


On Tuesday, I spent 6 hours recording the scripts for the podcast before heading back to my hotel to rehearse for the performance at the EESC (as well as a performance at the CSM “interim” MA show on Thursday evening). Needless to say I was very tired by this point!


On Wednesday I headed to the EESC in the morning since the event was running all day and I wanted to catch up with the CEV team as well as having a sneaky plan to secure a video interview with a staff member from the European Parliament (for the YEUF project documentary I will be editing). I found the event slightly-overwhelming, a lot of people recognised me from other events I have spoken at the EESC or from media coverage and started conversations with me even though I didn’t know them. A lot of people were asking for selfies with me, and I had to do multiple interviews for the comms teams at the event. This always unnerves me, partly because of my social anxiety which makes it difficult to talk to people I don’t know, but also because it’s a constant reminder that to other people I represent something bigger than myself… It feels like a lot of pressure, as though I have to live up to their expectations of who they think I am or what they believe I stand for and should achieve. I was much more comfortable with other people who didn’t recognise me, but responded to my blue hair and royal-blue outfit, emblazoned with gold stars, by breaking out into a smile – this is what I aim to achieve! However, I also noticed a few sly glances from people who clearly weren’t impressed by my presence or outfit – one person making the remark that “it’s turning into Eurovision in here” – I’m not sure if I was supposed to take that as an insult? Additionally, I had some hideous troll on my Facebook page commenting on nearly every photo I posted from the event accusing me of being a Jew whilst also claiming I support the “Nazi EU”… Make it make sense?!


On top of this, I also received a message from the vocal consultant who joined me in the studio on Tuesday – to say that the SD card had corrupted and they had lost all the audio files we had recorded the day before. The only solution was to re-record everything before I left Brussels on Thursday. Just what I needed!


We had the sound check an hour before the performance, which seemed to get well, but during the performance I thought my mic was way too low and this was obvious when I watched the recordings back afterwards. I had given my phone to some of the staff members from CEV to film the performance, but they somehow managed to record the first three songs without any audio – I don’t even know how you do that?! (Today was turning out to be the day for technical malfunctions!) Fortunately, the last 4 songs, which we performed after an interlude were recorded WITH the sound, so we could at least use those for social media promotion of the event.


I performed in my ridiculous blue ball grown dress, which takes me about 15 minutes to get into and another 15 minutes to get out. It is also extremely hot, and by the end of the performance I was soaked in sweat – which was delightful! It’s also not the easiest dress to perform in because the off-the-shoulder design restricts my arm movements and makes it difficult to get my right arm around my guitar – but I managed. I also, hilariously, kept getting attached to Velcro which was around the edge of the stage.


We performed the main song ‘Volunteering We Grow’ twice – at the beginning and very end of the event – in the hope that by the end, people would join in with us. The lyrics were also up on the screen next to the stage to prompt them… and by the second time through they did!

 Overall, I think the performance went well – the room was packed for the networking drinks and many people at the front were singing and dancing along to the music by the end of the event. Which was really what we aimed to achieve – uniting people through music and creatively motivating them to participate in collection action for shared, European values.

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