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  • Writer's pictureKate Millett

A touching reunion

Musicians: Alice Zawadzki (violin & vocals) Nat Keen (guitar) Barney Keen (guitar & vocals)

The sun sat low in the sky and the trees on the water's edge cast a dappled sunlight over the garden of Bridgeside Lodge. Residents began making their way into the garden, finding a comfortable spot in the shade as amplifiers were set up and violins tuned.

After a particularly un-summery summer and with unspoken wonderings about the approaching winter hanging in the air, we wanted to squeeze every last drop out of this beautiful autumn afternoon.

Our outdoor sessions have a wonderful way of bringing the community together, taking the residents out of their clinical setting. We’ve noticed the carers are making a real effort to get as many residents out as possible. This includes residents in large wheeled armchairs who might otherwise have only seen the event live-streamed on our iPads.

One such resident is H.S, who lives with schizophrenia. When she arrived she was visibly and audibly very distressed, screaming and shouting from her wheelchair. Within minutes she became calm and sat quietly and peacefully absorbing the music.

The opportunity for social stimulation gives a vital taste of normality. Residents O.J and A.D, who live on different floors but are great friends, had a touching reunion. Neither had been well enough to socialise much so they hadn’t seen each other in months. O.J told us how she had missed her friend and her carer took a photograph for them in their matching sun hats!

Ice creams and ice lollies were soon handed out (much to everyone's delight) which Yvette, the Activities Manager, said were “important for good hydration!” Resident M.L was clearly taking this advice on board as she finished her third ice cream of the day!

The band did a wonderful job of adapting their set to match and compliment the mood of the audience. They played Abdullah Ibrahim's beautiful melody “The Mountain”, which accompanied the gentle lapping sound of the canal and created a soothing, calm atmosphere. Later on, Alice sang a Polish love song, which was interrupted by resident I.F with her usual “Scotland the Brave”. The band didn’t miss a beat, but responded to the moment and improvised by incorporating her poem, creating a middle 8 section with a Scottish jig! I.F was completely absorbed in the music, tapping her feet to each song. She became upset and didn’t want to leave as we drew to a finish. To stop her agitation from escalating, Nat suggested another Scottish song which did the trick!

Resident guitarist J.C. arrived and parked up on stage next to the band. His beaming smile was a permanent fixture throughout the whole session. His love of music and his excitement and joy is infectious and always has such a positive effect on everyone present.

We were particularly pleased to see resident D.B coming out and sitting calmly for nearly the whole session. Despite clearly being interested in our sessions, he usually stands on the periphery, wanders in the background and doesn't engage much. We learnt from his wife that he loves music but has a degree of social anxiety (a symptom of his Huntington's Disease.) D.B seems to be engaging more and more over the last few weeks. He makes more eye contact and seems more confident with us, very positive!

A truly beautiful moment occurred when Nat, Barney and Alice joined resident J.G on the grass to sing William Cornysh's "Ah Robin". You may remember Nat teaching this song to J.G back in July

This was a truly wonderful session, rich with a sense of fun, togetherness and community. The huge range of music, from folk to jazz, blues to medieval song made for an afternoon as varied as its participants.

Resident H.S, so distressed when she first arrived, was like a different person by the end of the session, smiling, thanking and saying goodbye to us all.

Fingers crossed for more sessions like this as we eke out the remainder of the summer.

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