The journey towards Sing to Beat Parkinson’s began back in 2010, when two former colleagues and friends, our President, Roger Clayton and our Artistic Director, Professor Grenville Hancox MBE, founded Canterbury Skylarks, to enable People with Parkinson’s (PWP) to come together regularly to sing, to express themselves, to reduce the stigma associated with the illness and to relieve some of the symptoms they experience. Grenville adopted and further developed an approach to facilitation based on many years of experience and research into the positive impact of singing on the wellbeing of individuals and communities. His energetic, positive and inclusive methods have enabled participants to maintain or improve their psychological and physical wellbeing through taking part in regular singing activity. Many PWP also have vocal strength issues, and regular singing can help to strengthen the voice.
Following in the footsteps of Canterbury Skylarks, new groups have been established, including Pimlico Skylarks, Medway Skylarks, and more recently, Cromer, Camberwell, Ipswich and Snape; all of whom have become part of the ‘Sing to Beat Parkinson’s’ family.
Sing to Beat Parkinson’s (STBP) was officially launched in January 2018 as a network of singing groups for People with Parkinson’s (PWP). STBP operates under the umbrella of the parent charity, Canterbury Cantata Trust (CCT), an organisation that has been running a wide range of inclusive community singing groups, including singing for PWP (and other neurological conditions) since 2012. CCT promulgates a ‘caring through singing’ ethos and is now directly associated and influencing a growing number of Parkinson’s singing groups across the UK, and in Australia, New Zealand, China and South Korea. In 2017, an international six month long research project involving groups who have adopted the ‘Sing to Beat’ model found significant statistical improvements in a wide range of quality of life measures. Emotional wellbeing scores were enhanced whilst reductions in anxiety and stress levels were identified, also contributing to a substantial reduction in stigma associated with the condition.
The charity has developed a programme of facilitator training, in partnership with Snape Maltings (Aldeburgh Music) and the adult education institution, Morley College in London. The training is now in its third year, and this has enabled the charity to broaden its network and provide tangible support to Parkinson’s singing groups and their facilitators across the UK.