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Demystifying dementia - reflections on BBC's Our Dementia Choir by Professor Grenville Hancox, MBE
It's a great help to a cause when a celebrity chips in and validates, supports, authenticates the work that countless other practitioners are engaged with on a weekly basis. It's great that the programme direction draws attention to the power of music, especially singing , identifies cutting edge research which confirms that we are 'hard wired ' to sing and promulgates the possibility of singing in a group as an intervention, a respite, a liberation from the trauma of dementia and other neurological disorder.
However I felt uncomfortable with the title and with some of the content. Choirs can be problematic! They can be tainted by selection, and feel or appear. exclusive. This surely can't apply to a choir for people with Dementia....? well yes. The second episode included auditions for solos for The Performance and subsequent rejection for some. Very uncomfortable and a long way from the myriad of organisations who on a weekly basis offer singing in a group as an intervention, a respite, a liberation from the conditions that blight their members lives.
A great need was identified by the programme, its leading personality and its direction highlighted the emotional engagement between us all. It confirmed that singing groups meeting without performance in mind but with hope in sight need to be prescribed...singing on prescription. Not concerned with televisual impact, just for life changing experiences. Some choirs choose to audition and select....singing groups for People with dementia have No need.
Organisations that offer such opportunities for people with conditions such as Dementia, Parkinson's, COPD can be found in The Sing to Beat network at www.singtobeat.co.uk......working for Singing on Prescription
There will be a joint lecture on Parkinson's by the School of Sport & Exercise Sciences of the University of Kent and researchers from the Neurodegeneration Imaging Group at Kings College London. For full details and booking visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/parkinsons-research-lecture-tickets-59096381869?ref=eios
Our founder and artistic director, Professor Grenville Hancox, writes:
I have written this with Amelia’s agreement as a response to the very many enquiries and stories she is receiving from across the world .
Thanks so much for contacting me after viewing Grenville’s ‘Yesterday’ video made when I was in hospital. My story is a long one centred around a desire to realise a world of love and caring for others, much of which was missing from my childhood.
Music, especially singing and playing the piano, offered me an escape route which was magnified when I was offered a place to study music at Canterbury Christ Church University. It was here that I met Professor Grenville Hancox, who encouraged me to try and rid some of the demons that had plagued my life of eighteen years by immersing myself in musical activities based on 'Caring through Singing'.
Singing with other students, and then with Grenville's community groups offered me some respite from my mental and physical torment further enhanced by the opportunity to sing and work alongside Canterbury Skylarks, the first singing group he established for people with Parkinson's.
Over the past six years I have gained mental strength from working with people whom I see as needing far more care and attention than I do and by singing and making music together able to share in an understanding which defines the very best of human conditions . The ability to love each other without condition encapsulated in the strap line of the charity established by Grenville, (Canterbury Cantata Trust) , 'Caring through Singing'.
As you will have seen from the video Grenville made when he came to visit me in hospital, this is exactly what happened! My ability to talk had disappeared through a hemiplegic migraine, and whilst the wonderful medics tried to find the correct medicine to ameliorate the neurological imbalance, it was the simple and wonderful act of singing together that allowed my voice to be heard.
- And now I want as many people as possible to consider the place of singing as an intervention for a whole host of conditions that blight our world. Let us have Singing on Prescription, Sing to Beat Parkinson's, Dementia, Cancer, COPD . Sing to Beat!
- The video of Grenville and Amelia can be viewed on our youtube channel at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgfEGuXnt_E&t=2s
Sing to Beat Parkinson's Research Seminar
A blog by Emily Bradfield, PhD Student, Health and Social Care, University of Derby
STBP are extremely grateful to the Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation, who have just donated a generous grant to support new STBP groups across the UK.