"The music was so powerful it made me feel hopeful for the future."
With the growing number of older people across the UK there is an urgent need to tackle social isolation and ease challenges faced by the oldest members of our society.
Live Music Now's Songs and Scones programme brings together older people who live on their own in the community or in care homes for an afternoon of music, tea and conversation. Each session begins with an informal participatory concert led by professional LMN musicians, trained to work with older communities and those living with dementia, followed by time for refreshments and socialising. Presenting the music in the form of a regular social event and giving everyone an active choice of programme provides an excellent forum to make new friends, build optimism, confidence and self-esteem.
Although a simple idea, this project is changing lives.
Our standard approach to monitoring events and gathering feedback from participants has shown that taking part in Songs and Scones produces a range of benefits including improved social life, greater sense of community and belonging, enhanced mood and widened cultural horizons, all of which contribute to an overall sense of wellbeing. Through participation in social music programmes like Songs and Scones, we can help increase our resiliance and ability to face the challenges of living independently as we age.
''I don't get out very often. At Songs and Scones I see old friends and chat with new people. It's better than any medicine!'' Audience member, Ryedale, North Yorkshire Songs and Scones
Live Music Now works with a number of partner care organisations across the UK who provide transport for older people and their carers to attend regular Songs and Scones and the programmes are supported by volunteers and in kind partners.
'Songs and Scones works in rurally isolated areas as well as it does in central London. One of the best aspects of the project model is its flexibility to respond to the needs of different communities.' Douglas Noble, LMN's Strategic Director for Wellbeing
Five years ago, LMN Wales and Rhondda Cynon Taf Cultural Services partnered together to present a monthly series of participatory concerts entitled 'Songs and Scones' at the Coliseum in Aberdare, consistently filling the theatre's café bar and inspiring enthusiastic responses from older residents of the Cynon Valley.
The series is still going strong – with many attendees coming every month for the past five years.
"Thank you for inviting us to this afternoon's event. It was amazing and a privilege to hear the musicians play. Very uplifting and interactive." Resident at Great Croft Day Centre
Chloe Saywell, LMN Soprano, sings for a Ryedale, North Yorkshire Songs & Scones event
In London, Kings Place and The Forge have both hosted Songs and Scones in the past. A recent initiative led by LMN volunteers Sue Heiser and Trudy White, led to a pilot concert for over 100 attendees at Alexandra Palace, a place many older local people have fond memories of visiting as children. Sue liaised with local care partners and Trudy hit the pavement to drum up support from local businesses. The demand outstripped the places available, and many day centres and clubs had members draw lots to attend. The result was truly an occassion to remember.
Sue and Trudy are working closely with the South East LMN team and North London care partners to secure funding to continue the series and branch out across London.
Feedback from Alexandra Palace audience:
'Wonderful venue – easy to get to. We just can't get into the West End for music.'
'I'm not used to hearing these instruments, it's something different. Good to see young men playing -they are very natural.'
'I enjoyed everything. All the care taken to create a welcoming atmosphere, right down to the flowers on the table and how the tables were dressed to ultimately the music and songs. I think the word is luxurious. Thank you.'
A very pleasing venue, much nicer than the usual community room.'
'Music was fabulous – lively and engaging presentation from musicians Dan and Nick. I particularly enjoyed the songs. More at Ally Pally please! We can't get up to town'
Ballywalter, Northern Ireland
Our newest Songs and Scones series is taking place from October 2014 to May 2015 in Northern Ireland, with funding from Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, The Turkington Fund and Asda Community Champions.
Ryedale, North Yorkshire
Live Music Now North East and Ryedale Carers have been running monthly Songs and Scones concerts in Amotherby Village Hall since April 2013.
'Oh, Songs and Scones, now you're talking. Yes, this is one of the highlights of my life just now…'
You can see a short film on the impact of Songs & Scones on people living in North Yorkshire here
Nottinghamshire County Council brought in Songs and Scones on a monthly basis for their Worksop library initially in the Spring of 2014. The Whitaker Trust provided additional funding needed to keep the series going until early 2015. The programme's roaring success in Worksop has led to a pilot in Nottinghamshire's West Bridgford library as well.
'Songs and Scones concerts are in high demand – we are always booked up well in advance. People enjoy the chance to socialise and use the library in a different way. We have people singing along, asking for requests and really getting involved.' Mark Norman, Strategic Library Manager for Worksop Library, Nottinghamshire County Council
'Thank you so much for a lovely experience. The singer and pianist were delightful and fantastically professional. My husband is 80 and has Alzheimer's and vascular dementia and it was a delight to see him enjoying shaking the maracas along to the music from Carmen.' West Bridgford Library Songs and Scones attendee
For information on how to organise a Songs and Scones in your community, or for information on how to attend an existing Songs and Scones, contact your local Live Music Now branch, ring the UK number: 020 7014 2829 or email [email protected]
Photo credit: Alexandra Palace Songs & Scones, Ivan Gonzalez