Barnsley Youth Choir granted funding for the NAVE

The Northern Academy for Vocal Excellence (NAVE) has gained significant boost through an award from central government funding announced on 19 th January 2023.

Barnsley Youth Choir granted funding for the NAVE

Plans unveiled in 2021 for the Northern Academy for Vocal Excellence (NAVE) have gained significant boost through an award from central government funding announced on 19th January 2023, following an application made by Barnsley Council. The Levelling Up Fund Application Round 2 features a number of projects within Barnsley, and this capital funding will provide the finances to refurbish an existing building.

Barnsley Council’s Cabinet has agreed to lease its former Computer Centre building on the corner of St Mary’s Place and Westgate behind the Town Hall, for the development of The NAVE. Built in 1879, it was previously the courthouse for the town until the new court was built in 1970.

This funding will enable the choir’s ambitious and exciting vision to be realised, and provide enhanced opportunities first and foremost to young people within the community, but will extend to provide exceptional opportunities throughout the region.

BYC Artistic Director Mat Wright MBE said:
“We are thrilled to receive this significant funding which will not only provide a base for Barnsley Youth Choir, but will become a regional and national centre of excellence, supporting the very highest levels of singing. We will be working with some of the greatest international experts, and it is going to be a space for people of all ages to learn and train with the very best in the world.

We are grateful to colleagues at Barnsley Council who have worked tirelessly to develop a compelling case and a high - quality application which has secured this funding. This will be a landmark building that will have a huge impact on the community that we serve, driving ambition and opportunity. We are excited to get started and work towards an opening date in 2025.”

Ann Wroe, Chair of Trustees and recipient of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Award for Outstanding Service:
“It is so exciting to be realising this wonderful vision for the young people of Barnsley. We’d like to pay tribute to the team at Barnsley Council who have offered us wonderful support, and look forward to working with them closely in the coming months as the project is delivered.”

Notes to Editors

Barnsley Youth Choir

BYC was established in 2009 by conductor Mat Wright and Keith Norton. It is a registered charity run by volunteers that seeks to provide outstanding opportunities for young people who live in Barnsley and has developed a reputation for excellence. The choir is ranked 5th in the Interkultur World Rankings (the highest ranked choir from GB) and has won 8 first prizes in some of the most important international competitions in the world. BYC is first and foremost a community choir serving an area of deprivation where over 1 in 4 children live in poverty. The choir is highly inclusive and has 7 sections, from BYC Little Singers (0-4 years old) to BYC Senior Choir (14 – 24 years old) and in total now has over 500 young people involved.

Barnsley Youth Choir was presented with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service (MBE) in January 2018 in recognition of the outstanding support and dedication shown by the volunteer team that helps to run it. Its Chairperson, Ann Wroe, was one of 70 people nationally awarded the Queens Jubilee Award for her outstanding contribution to the community. It has won numerous awards locally and internationally for the work that it does.

BYC has also released 2 albums, performed on national TV and Radio and has raised significant amounts of money for local charities. In 2022, the choir also gave a sterling performance on ITV’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ where the young members and the team received a standing ovation and four Yes’s from the judges.

The choir has worked with some of the world’s finest conductors and choirs in this country and abroad on a number of international tours, and has appeared in some of the most important international venues. BYC is unusual in that it maintains a wide and diverse repertoire including Popular, Gospel, Spiritual, Folk and more Classical genres, and audiences appreciate the variety of music performed in concerts. At its heart the choir seeks to educate young people and works hard to provide support to other organisations throughout the world. The choir has formed exciting partnerships with international composers, choral organisations and educational establishments and seeks to widen its impact within and beyond the borough.

Further information about Barnsley Youth Choir can be found at
Barnsley Youth Choir members talk about what The NAVE would mean to them:

The Choir on Britain’s Got Talent:
The Choir:

Mat Wright

Mat has worked in the education sector for over 20 years working in schools in a variety of roles, most recently as a Regional Director of Education for a trust overseeing 27 schools across England. He has worked as an Advisory Teacher and as an Advanced Skilled Teacher, delivering support and training nationally at Primary, Secondary, FE and HE levels, and has provided resources for government publications. He is the founder and Artistic Director of Barnsley Youth Choir, and founder of Barnsley Singers (an adult community choir) and has developed the choir into an internationally award-winning and recognised organisation.

As a member of the international jury, Mat has worked in some of the most important competitions in the world including the World Choir Games in Sochi, Russia (2016) and Pretoria, South Africa (2018) and the Virtual World Choir Games in Indonesia (2021). He works closely with exceptional organisations including the Kodaly School (Hungary), The Adolf Fredriks Music School (Sweden) and the University of Pretoria (South Africa), all of whom have travelled to Barnsley to work with BYC and perform in the town and is in demand as a choral clinician and workshop leader throughout the UK and abroad.

He is a founding member of the International Choral Conductors Federation as well as a leader for the International Choralspace Academy. In 2019 Mat was appointed as a representative for Great Britain on the World Choir Council and in January 2020 was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to young people and music in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. In 2022 he was also made a Freeman of Barnsley in recognition for his work in the community.

Mat has experience of working with many different types of choirs and is committed to supporting choirs of all ages and abilities. He is passionate about the use of singing as a mechanism to engage, connect and transform communities and harnessing the power of collective singing to develop cultural identity and a profound and meaningful connection, impacting on physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Further Enquiries

All further enquiries can be made by contacting Jude Wright, BYC Development Officer at