Thursday, 21 September 2017

I've Got Soul

Every now and again on our blog we showcase good practice from other parts of Wales. This week we found out more about a dementia initiative in Pembrokeshire. As part of the Gwanwyn Festival in July 2017, Live Music Now Wales was funded by Age Cymru to deliver a week of performance and loop pedal workshops with elderly residents living in care homes across Pembrokeshire.

Claire Cressey, Director of Live Music Now Wales, told us more:

Care home residents aren’t the usual chart topping performers you’d associate with a potential hit single, but with the rapid rise of older people in society and a continual increase in those living with dementia, our national charity has made the most of their musical talents and done just that.

Residents in six Pembrokeshire care homes have demonstrated their songwriting and vocal talents, with the help of Bridgend based musician John Nicholas (performing as John Llewelyn) through the work of musicians' development and outreach charity, Live Music Now in Wales, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year.

Funded by Age Cymru, as part of the Gwanwyn Festival - a celebration of arts, creativity and old age across Wales - this summer John took his loop pedal, percussion and acoustic guitar to rural residents in Haverfordwest, Goodwick and Fishguard for two week long sessions of workshops and performance. Crafting the lyrics through the input and commentary of residents, John used his experience of working with isolated older people across Wales through his role with Live Music Now, to remind us of the challenges old age can bring, whilst celebrating the heart and passion that remains even when bodies may fail us.

In short the song speaks of the value of all life, regardless of age and ability, and with a movingly emotional video that shows some of the residents involved in the project, it is an important reminder of the many members of our local community who though unseen to us, still have much to contribute from within the walls of what have been termed “islands of the old”.

Lynne Jones, Manager of The Graylyns in Haverforwest commented, “The sessions were absolutely fantastic. John was a brilliant performer, and he definitely picked up a fan or two from our ladies! The whole Home responded so well to his choice of songs and his relaxed manner. The enjoyment on their faces was evident throughout. We are delighted they’re included on this single.”

With a heart reminiscent of Nina Simone’s 1968 “Ain’t Got No../I Got Life” this track is a real celebration of old age. Residents involved help to sing the chorus, and play percussion, and all funds raised through downloads of the single will go towards continuing Live Music Now’s work with older people in care homes, day centres, hospices and hospitals across Wales.

Older people are expected to make up one fifth of the world's population by 2050, with 1,735,087 - an increase of 154% from now - living with dementia by 2051. A recent Age UK report showed that creative and cultural participation was the number one contributor to wellbeing in later life from a list of 40 different areas, so why shouldn’t they be releasing new music?

As John commented, “This was probably the most fun I've had working in care homes in Wales with LMN. We can be too quick to write people off in old age, yet even for those with dementia the connection to music is one of their last remaining abilities, helping people recall memories and emotions, shifting mood, bringing emotional and physical closeness. It is truly humbling work to be involved with, and as a gigging musician, really reminds me of how powerful live music can be.”

Whilst they may not all become the next Ed Sheeran, the inclusive nature of the loop pedal and percussion elements allowed everyone to take part regardless of ability, and residents' mental and emotional health improved as a result. Now even their grandchildren will be able to download their hard work from iTunes.

The song “I’ve Got Soul” is released as a charity single via all good online music stores (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Deezer, CD Baby) from Tuesday 19th September 2017. The video can be seen via Live Music Now UK’s Vimeo and YouTube channels. 

For more information on the work of LMN in Wales and the UK visit the Live Music Now website.

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