Student joins UK refugee choir for performance with Elbow at Glastonbury

An Afghan student at City and Islington College (CANDI) was among the singers in a UK refugee choir who joined Elbow on stage at Glastonbury.

Kazim Husseini, 19, performed with the Citizens of the World Choir when they joined the Manchester band on the Pyramid Stage, at the end of Refugee Week on Sunday.

The choir sang backing vocals to Elbow’s uplifting anthem One Day Like This, which they also performed during the band’s set at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Party at the Palace.

During their Glastonbury appearance, they were joined by Little Amal, a 3.5m puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee, who has become a symbol of human rights after touring the UK and Europe.

Earlier the same day they choir opened the Avalon Stage and performed their own set of songs from around the world including a Ukrainian song Shchedryck and Turkish folk song Çayır Çimen.

Kazim, who came to the UK via Greece in January 2020 and now lives in Hackney, is studying an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course at CANDI.

“Wow, it was amazing on the Pyramid Stage with Elbow and seeing thousands and thousands of people watching and singing along with us. I felt very lucky going up on the stage and singing.

“It was very exciting. I wasn’t just happy, I was super happy! I felt very lucky to be singing on stage. It was a very special moment and something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Kazim and the choir had the chance to meet Elbow and have their photo taken with them ahead of their performances at Glastonbury and the Platinum Jubilee.

On performing at the jubilee party, Kazim said: “When I took it all in, it was like a shock but just wow. There were so many people from the Queen’s family and the government, and everybody watching me with all their flags. It was an amazing experience.”

The Citizens of the World Choir, based in Greenwich, comprises 50 members representing nearly 30 countries worldwide and was formed following the closure of the Calais Jungle in 2009.

Kazim joined the choir after hearing about it through another Afghan refugee he met in Greece, which he said had helped him settle into the UK.

“When I arrived in the UK for the first time, I lived in a hostel and was thinking ‘what can I do?’ because I have a lot of time and don’t have many friends here. I love singing and talking to people and so I joined the choir,” he said.

“It has really helped me. I’ve made lot of friends in the choir I can share any problem or stress with them, which is helping me because I do not have any family here. Some in the choir are now like family to me.”

Kazim admitted he had found it hard at first to adjust to living in the UK but was now happy here and enjoying learning English at CANDI.

I like college. The course is very good for me and my education. I didn’t speak any English when I started here. My teacher is very good at helping me and I’m not missing a day,” he said.

Our ESOL courses are perfect for anyone who does not speak English as their first language. Find out more and apply here.

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