• Thom Rowlands

A rich imagination

Musicians: Ben Hazleton (double bass) and Alice Zawadzki (violin & voice)


We learnt a little more about resident SI’s family today, between Scottish jigs and reels from Alice and Ben. We discovered that her brave father had fought in the Second World War and was among the first to face the enemy in battle. He had been a good (and lucky) soldier and came back alive. Her proud scotttish nature and love of traditional folk music came from him, she told us. She wasn’t up and dancing, as is often the case, but was more conversational than usual. It’s wonderful to learn more and more about the lives of the residents - especially as we’re getting to know them later in life, when memories might be fading but there is so much experience and so many stories to share.


Alice and Ben visited G. in his room. He was tucked up in bed, but awake and in a reflective and contemplative mood. They played a gentle tango with violin melody after which G told them that he’d really enjoyed the music and wished a particular friend could have been there to share it. He went on to say how the music had conjured images of flowing water in a stream near some beautiful flower beds. The music was adding feeling to the stream and making it more than it could be alone. He spoke about the vibrations and about light. He said we had become great friends of his.

It’s amazing to hear an older gentleman with dementia talk in this way, it speaks to a much richer inner life than what we often see on the outside. The level of imagination that is still functioning, the creation and poetic description of an imagined scene inspired by music. It’s something we hope we can help to build on. We feel that G’s “mood painting” could be the basis for a poetry or song collaboration. He'd be adding to his back-catalogue, having already written two songs with Spitz musicians!

We often speak about the “depth” of our work at Bridgeside Lodge. What does that mean?

  • It means visiting sufficiently frequently that the residents recognise us, greet us and are (on the whole!) pleased to see us. This leads to a level of trust which allows scenarios like the one described above to happen.

  • It allows us to get to know the residents on a more personal level than that of the vast majority of external activity visitors. We learn about their past careers, their family members - those we have actually met and those we haven’t. We learn about their musical likes (and dislikes!) and we incorporate these into our visits.

  • The staff and carers know us and trust us and we consider the benefit of our work on them to be as important as its impact on the residents. This has become even more important over the past 12 months as staff deal with unimaginable grief and trauma after the loss of so many residents to the pandemic.

It is the “depth” of our working relationship with the entire BSL community that feeds into its success.

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