The Kwanak Hanullim Complaints Choir at the Festival of Complaints Choirs organised by the Hope Institute in Seoul, South Korea in 2008. Courtesy of the Hope Institute.
Complaints Choirs - where people come together, list their grievances, set them to music and then sing what they have prepared - provide a space for ordinary citizens to complain about the everyday occurrences which anger and upset them the most. Not only are complaints choirs an innovative form of public consultation, one which is unusually democratic, grassroots and participatory, they also help bring communities together, creating a sense of belonging and solidarity. Complaints choirs provide one possible means of identifying problems and creating a space for protest, both of which are critical to social innovation.
The original idea was developed by two Finnish artists, Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, as part of a community arts project in Birmingham in the UK. Since the first choir in 2006, the idea has spread across the globe and there have now been hundreds of complaints choirs. In Europe, there have been choirs in Milan, Budapest, Malmo, Seoul, Jerusalem, St Petersburg, Helsinki, Hamburg and Florence. Choirs have voiced their concerns on issues as diverse as the environment, sexism, inequality, public transport, the quality of social housing, debt, public corruption, incivility and the experiences of living with physical disabilities in cities.