Last Night's TV: The Choir That Rocks/ITV1
Breaking into Britain/BBC1
The Shadow Line/BBC2

"Have you heard of Rock Choir?" This was the question I spent much of yesterday asking. I asked colleagues. I asked friends. None of them had. "Is it something to do with Gareth Malone?" said the assistant features editor. "Noooo," I chanted, rolling my eyes. "It's a phen-om-en-on." The truth is, until The Choir That Rocks, I'd not heard of it either.

The problem's clearly us. Because Rock Choir is, by all accounts, a phenomenon. It has seven-and-a-half-thousand members, making it the largest contemporary amateur choir in Britain. In May, those members filled out Wembley Arena to give a special performance of their repertoire (which, based on last night's renditions, seems to bear a striking resemblance to the Magic playlist).

It's all the brain child of Caroline Redman Lusher, herself a former would-be pop star. She came up with the idea, devised the training programme, and oversaw its expansion. Closely. She's incredibly shrewd; that was made clear in her every move, from the contact she maintains with every teacher, to her ideas for recruiting new members (on which more later). Both choristers and instructors talk of her with an almost religious reverence. There might be such a thing as a half-hearted Rock Choir member, but we didn't get a glimpse of them last night.

Instead, we got Angie, who joined while in remission from cancer and sees it as a kind of "vocal physiotherapy". And Brian who is, he said, "a little bit put out that they don't do any of Cliff's." And of course there's Chris and Izzy who joined in their retirement and now spend much of the day, headphones plugged in, pottering around their home singing aloud to no one in particular. It's like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, only rather sweet, especially when they invite the local town crier round to practise his dance moves with them. Much of the credit for this enthusiasm lies with the choir's teachers. The model is a curious one: few appeared to be doing it out of ardent love for the concept, most out of economic necessity. But almost all seem to want a long-term career in it.

It's both rather fascinating and rather sweet – English eccentricity and its most eccentric. There's a bit of dramatic narrative, thanks to Caroline's Wembley stunt. Most of the filming was done in the run-up, so the event is given the can they/can't they treatment. The cliff on which the operation hangs is Yorkshire. The Northern contingent isn't quite as enthusiastic as Caroline's original Surrey crowd and it's down to two new teachers, Stef and Nick, to work up a frenzy, a prospect that looked unfeasibly remote as Nick faced his village hall half-dozen or so. To aid the pair, Caroline planned a singing flashmob in a local shopping mall, transporting her Farnham crew up to bolster the ranks. Whether the stunt delivered any new members remains to be seen – that's for episode two – but there's no doubt they pulled it off with aplomb. More than that, it looked jolly good fun. I wouldn't mind signing up myself.

There wasn't much new about Evan Davis's Breaking into Britain, but that didn't detract from its merit. Despite the tone of the title, it was, in fact, a largely sympathetic look at the lengths illegal migrants will go to in order to set up home in Britain.

It costs £8,000 to make the journey from Afghanistan. They do it because they want jobs, education and homes. The average national life expectancy is 44 and incomes are low; raising that sort of money means selling one's home. People-smuggling is a growing industry – professional smugglers dot the markets – but those looking for a cheaper route attempt it alone. Their journey takes in Iran, Turkey, Greece and Italy. Many get halfway, run out of money, and wind up stuck. By the time they arrive in Greece, expecting Europe and its great riches, they're forced to live on the streets, bemused by their poverty and longing for home.

The trip from Africa isn't much easier. People flock from across the continent to collect their false documents in Nigeria (a snip at £72), and then attempt to make their way through Morocco, into Spain, then to Calais or Ostend. Many don't make it, winding up stranded on Britain's doorstep. For women, the journey is particularly treacherous: the most harrowing account was given by a women raped in front of her four-year-old daughter. When her attackers were done, they attempted the same with the child.

So why do they keep coming? Throughout, there was a constant theme: the migrants' surprise that this was what their journey had come to. I wish this had been explored a little more: who propagates the idea of Britain as an easy land of opportunity? Not enough light was shed on the question, though a shaft of illumination came during a conversation with an Afghan attempting to leave Greece by clambering on to lorries. "What do you tell everyone back home when you speak?" asked Afghan reporter Shoaib Sharifi. "We tell them that everything's fine, that we have a nice room," came the reply.

And a final word on the final episode of The Shadow Line (if you're iPlayering it, look away now). Surely much of the enjoyment of these gritty gang-and-crime dramas comes from trying to figure out whodunit? Perhaps we should have known that in this case, that would be impossible. Following each episode required enough guesswork as it was. But, really, Lia?

a.jarvis@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/aliceazania

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence