IIBN member, Singer and co-owner of homewares brand White & Green, Rebecca Winckworth found herself stuck last March in the strictest and longest quarantine in the world, in Medellín, Colombia, South America. “I was receiving messages from the Embassy saying that the last humanitarian flights were filling up and that they strongly advised all citizens to return to Ireland and I found myself in an awful predicament” she says. However, rather than getting on the plane and going back to Ireland, she decided to seize the opportunity to stay in Colombia and start a new venture during the height of the pandemic. Every night at 8pm, for two months, Rebecca sang a song for her neighbours from her balcony and this story made international news. See Irish headline news with RTÉ here, Virgin Media NEWS here, and Colombian national news here. During these extremely challenging and stressful times, Rebecca realised how powerful music is in uniting people and spreading hope no matter our perceived differences, fears or challenges. She decided to recreate this effect from her balcony to a world stage and an audience quite literally, across the globe. Thus, her musical organisation and a series of online concerts called Citizens of Song was born.
Rebecca, having just recently learnt to speak Spanish fluently, pooled resources from the local Colombian TV and film industry to create a full professional production company which travels the world virtually to a new destination with a new musical line-up of over 20 acts in each show. The idea is to unite the world through song and to support the arts industry during this difficult time. “Covid19 has been devastating to the livelihoods of our artists. Though our theatres are closed, the show simply must go on, we must keep our music and arts alive” says Rebecca.
And given Rebecca’s track record having toured the world and performed as soloist with shows such as Anúna and Celtic Woman, alongside her business acumen through her successful retail brand run alongside her Mum, Sari and her sister, Danielle, Citizens of Song was bound to be a success too. The first show reached over 30,000 people live on the night and was even sponsored by a prominent Colombian University. This concert took the international audience on a journey to Ireland in May 2020 featuring major Irish stars. From there, Rebecca and her team went on to produce shows from London’s West End, to New York’s Broadway, and a major Christmas concert which featured over 400 performers including symphony orchestras, dance troupes, ballet academies, choirs and even super stars such as Chris De Burgh. The shows’ audiences have now topped 100,000 people on all continents around the world.
“Looking back now, I cannot believe what we have achieved during this pandemic. I owe so much of this success to the kindness and support received from a new community of people that I have met online throughout the past year. People on LinkedIn or other virtual forums who have made introductions or given valuable recommendations and support regarding this industry which was brand new for me just a few months ago. And this is one advantage of Covid – it has actually broken down certain barriers and allowed us to network in a new, yet very valuable way.”
“From an idea at my kitchen table to producing a full professional quality broadcast in such a short space of time, I feel so proud and grateful for the opportunity to create something new and inspiring during these challenging times” notes Rebecca.
Citizens of Song next travels virtually to Ireland for a major St. Patrick’s Day concert on March 20th. “We have a line-up of world class entertainment and all of the technical team in place. All we need now is the PR and financial sponsorship to ensure we can pay our artists fairly and reach as many Irish diaspora around the world as possible” says Rebecca. “This is our chance to proudly show Ireland and our culture to the world. And in fact, Covid has given us the opportunity to reach a much larger audience than would ever be possible with physical parades and celebrations as normal. Our viewers come in from all corners of the globe and I present the show in English and Spanish with full subtitles and marketing material in Spanish too, so it’s truly a universal platform for a sponsor brand to get involved with” she mentions.
“I had always read that in times of crisis, the best new ventures are created, and that is certainly what has happened with Citizens of Song. In the normal world, you would never find Chris de Burgh singing in a line up with the star of Les Misérables Alfie Boe, a NYC Metropolitan Opera star singing beside an American Idol pop star, or the Colombian Peace Choir made up of ex-FARC guerrilla members singing beside the stars of Britain’s Got Talent, and yet that is what we have done with Citizens of Song, we are literally crossing the divides of religion, country, politics and so much more. What we are creating is very special….!”
To get in touch with Rebecca, please contact email@example.com or on IIBN: https://iibn.com/UniverseOfMembers/RebeccaWinckworth
Citizens of Song website: https://www.citizensofsong.org/