Older people have been by far the hardest hit by the covid pandemic. Almost eight out of nine deaths involving Covid in England and Wales have been among the over-65s, and that’s before you even consider the mental health effects of months and months of fear, shielding and isolation.
A CIC called Movingsounds has set out to tackle isolation and loneliness through music. Throughout lockdown members of Movingsounds have gathered outside community centres, homes and in gardens’ to perform to older people who have had no social contact for months. Participants have described it as ‘truly joyous and emotional’.
Movingsounds is grounded in the belief that ‘Creativity has the power to benefit all’. Facilitators organise and run arts-based workshops that bring multiple well-being benefits…‘They energise everyone and open up new possibilities for a better world’.
Now that some restrictions have been lifted we were finally able to visit a Movingsounds workshop at the Chapel Royal in Brighton, which is home to The Hop 50+ café and centre with over 1,000 regular customers. Participants have described it as their ‘lifeline’.
The workshop was facilitated by one of the founding directors Keith Ellis and professional performer Mike Potter. From the moment we arrived Mike and Keith radiated warmth and energy. Mike with his welcoming eyes and Keith with his gold shoes and a metallic gold shirt, they welcomed us all in with huge smiles.
Many members of the group had problems with memory and mobility making it a seemingly possible task to get everyone up on their feet, however by the end of the hour session everyone was up, singing along and playing music with the energy of children in a school playground. It was beautiful, moving and energising.
Keith and Mike intuitively understood when to get the audience participating and when to just let us enjoy their performance. One of Keith’s opening lines was ‘Let’s make the most of this experience of being alive’.
They guided the group through an ensemble of tunes from traditional english ballads, jazz classics and a rendition of Cab Calloway’s Hi-De-Ho. They gave everyone percussion instruments to perform with and even the shyest were gently encouraged to play. By the end of the session everyone was performing together with surprisingly impressive results.
It’s hard to put into words how this experience made me feel. I felt a twinge of sadness for those that had been so isolated in lockdown and a bit angry that there isn’t more being done to protect the arts and support the people who use their skills to do such life changing work. But mostly I felt honoured and grateful for the opportunity to be part of something so positive and to be able to connect with all of these people through music.
It’s rare for someone not to have felt the life enhancing benefits of music but to those who have been stuck in isolation over the last year or so it can be even more magical. Studies show that listening to music provides many health benefits besides mood elevation, including pain reduction, stress management, improved sleep quality, increased IQ & mental alertness and this is even more prevalent in the elderly and people living with dementia. The Movingsounds workshop was living proof of this.
We must continue to ensure the arts are funded so that groups like Movingsounds are able to continue their great work in communities benefiting audiences one song at a time.