TEN years after first appearing on the nation's TV screens Blackbird Leys Choir is still going strong - and ready to show it.

A free concert will be held on home turf next month to celebrate the 10th birthday of what was once The Singing Estate.

Rehearsals are gathering pace for the event on Saturday, July 9, which will be shared with a choir from Rochdale and feature a zany mixture of spiritual and pop songs.

Alto singer Lynn Hawkins, 63, said: "It has been a wonderful achievement to keep it going this long; very often these things fall apart as soon as the spotlight has gone.

"It's totally therapeutic singing with a very broad spectrum of songs, and apart from anything else we also get the social side of it."

About 25 people of a range of ages, many of whom travel in from elsewhere in Oxford, frequent the choir's Wednesday night rehearsals.

Back in 2006 a set of 40 would-be singers from Blackbird Leys appeared in Channel 5's The Singing Estate, in which a choir was formed in just three months.

The group has gone on to perform at the Royal Albert Hall, Dorchester Abbey, Magdalen College, the Pitt Rivers Museum and Oxford's twin city Leiden.

A decade later just one of the original members still comes to the group - Blay Close resident Maggie McHugh.

She said: "I find it very rewarding. I'm a widow so it was very good for me after my husband died. I have made quite a few friends over the years."

At the concert, which runs from 7.30pm in the Glow Hall in Blackbird Leys Community Centre, the Blackbird Leys cohort will be joined by Cantare Ladies Choir from Rochdale, whose director Michael Betteridge has written a new piece - entitled Sing sing - specially for the event.

It will be a particularly poignant for current director Sarah Lister, 43, who is stepping down to focus on her work as an organist and pianist.

Miss Lister, of Howard Street, Oxford, said: "It's a really friendly choir, very welcoming, and certainly very different to anything I had done before.

"We have been trying to teach some people to read music and quite a few have been absolutely amazing. "Some have been doing music theory and taking piano lessons; I have been really impressed by a lot of them. "But they need new members, particularly men.

"There are some good candidates for the new conductor and I'm sure they will have lots of ideas."