A decision to disband the mixed choir St John’s Voices at St John’s College, Cambridge, has been condemned as “fundamentally regressive” by the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Simon Rattle, Sarah Connolly and Aled Jones.

The decision to cancel funding for St John’s Voices – which has male and female singers and has been running since 2013 – will “diminish” choral music at the college and has left its members “devastated”, according to an open letter.

The letter says the decision in 2022 to allow female singers in the separate St John’s College Choir has been “weaponised” to justify the disbanding of St John’s Voices, whose members have launched a petition to save it.

The threatened choir has 14 female singers who will be left without an outlet when the choir ends in June 2024.

Addressed to the college council, the letter states: “We are devastated by this decision, which we believe is a fundamentally regressive move for the college, the choral community in Cambridge, and the wider arts provision for women in the UK.”

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