» Atherton Gardens Housing Estate » The voices of Atherton Gardens

Atherton Gardens Housing Estate, Fitzroy

The Voices are a choir or chorus of people who speak as well as sing. Predominantly Mandarin-speaking Chinese, the group also contains Cambodians, Malaysians, Egyptians, an Afghani, a Pakistani and a Filipina. Many are older people. All have limited English language skills: some of them, originally, had almost no English at all.

Their formation in 2002 was unplanned. It occurred because the residents of the Atherton Gardens housing estate in inner-city Fitzroy needed on-site English-as-a-Second-Language classes; and because Graham Pitts, a playwright with ESL teaching qualifications, was a member of a group of artsworkers seeking performers for a play based on the lives of the residents.

The obvious solution was for Graham to teach English, and for the residents to perform in the play. Graham Pitts remains the co-writer and Artistic Director of The Voices of Atherton Gardens.

As a result, more than one hundred tenants participated in the play Such Lives, and The Voices of Atherton Gardens became a permanent part of the community on the estate.

In August 2004 The Voices performed as the English class in the play Inside Out, and in October 2004 in the companion piece Outside In for the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts.