• Jane Glitre

Ditch The Plan

Musicians: Alice Zawadzki (vocals and violin) Ben Hazleton - double bass

Videographer/Photographer - Hannah Lovell

Recently we have been creating some longer-form films. These concentrate on one resident’s response to music for a full fifteen minutes or more. We have all found it fascinating to slow down and watch closely the unfolding of people’s responses. With this in mind we were hoping to make more of these intimate films with residents who have not featured in them yet. As always, when there is a plan, we are totally ready to ditch it and respond to the unpredictable present moment of the care home.

Having done our Lateral Flow tests and caught up with each other over a sandwich, we entered the building via the garden room. There was a small gathering of people in there and so we stopped in our tracks immediately. Ben and Alice conversed with residents, visitors and carers and began to play.

I had to nip off to ask Fatma [Makalo, manager of Bridgeside Lodge] a few questions. As I was returning there was something extraordinary about walking along the corridor of a care home, with all the hustle, bustle and bleeps of every day activities taking place, whilst in the distance I could hear Alice in full, soaring, operatic mode beckoning.

The atmosphere in the room was one of deep appreciation and faces were lit up. There was a new resident who was very smartly dressed and said how much she appreciated the music. She had an air of expectation which made me think she was waiting for a visitor. But no, she was just bored and depressed and therefore, she said, the music had meant even more to her and she was fascinated by the quality of the musicians.

Before going upstairs Alice was keen to see Resident L. She had had a powerful response from L the last time she had been in. The song ‘Over the Rainbow’ made L interact and weep ‘happy tears’ that reminded her how well she is being looked after. L is usually sitting on her own, in the corridor, with her head held low and today was no exception. Alice and Ben began to play. L looked up immediately and her eyes filled with tears. She looked bewildered yet very present. Fatma came and held her and asked her what memories the song evoked. “It’s my children” she replied. Alice was sitting on the floor and she and L maintained unbroken eye contact. The depth of communication brought tears to Alice’s eyes and then, on seeing that, to Fatma’s and possibly all of us.

“The emotional depth and quality of Alice's singing

reaches out……Sharing real life moments around song.

The music provides a crucible for real human connection.”

Rebecca Swift - Creative Director Entelechy Arts

This went on for quite a while as more songs were sung and more communication created. Somehow, when the time was right, it became clear to move on. Saying our farewells to L she waived us on with a warm smile and a realisation that we must visit more people.

Later, when we were leaving BSL, Fatma told us again how incredibly unusual this response is.

In the past when Fatma has put her arms around L she shrugs her off in an irritated way, but with the music she is soft and accepting of the hug, whilst at the same time looking out to others, remarking that Fatma’s hands are cold and asking if she is OK, looking closely at Alice.

We are all intrigued by everything and constantly wish we could do more.

When we moved on from L we went to wander about the first floor and found ourselves with R. Alice asked respectfully if we could come in and explained everything to him carefully. He was pleased to have some visitors and happy to be filmed. His smile was so wide I didn’t think it could get wider. Then they began to play and it did.

A wonderful mixture of Brazilian choro, boogaloo and tango ensued and R communicated verbally more than any of us could remember. He sat on his bed engaging with each of us separately - nodding, smiling and gesticulating. Alice gently teasing out his speech - they discussed how he had never danced the tango because it is so hard and you have to take lessons. He warmly said goodbye and we promised to visit again soon.

Next stop was a communal room on the second floor. A small group of residents and staff were watching television in a disengaged way. The staff were very keen for us to interrupt and resident T, who likes to be in charge of the remote, kindly turned the TV off and then left the room with a cheeky look. No music for her today.

A lovely mixture of music followed and was accompanied by sounds of laughter from the garden. The day had warmed up and residents were making the most of it. So it was obvious that we should spend the last half hour in the garden. The sun was shining, visitors were arriving and there was a calm cafe-like feeling.

The next day I read an interview with actor David Oyelowo in Square Mile Magazine in which he talked about working with “the complexity, the depth, the plethora of humanity.” After the experience of the previous day, his words seemed to fit perfectly with the work of The Spitz.

all photos (c) Hannah Lovell 2021

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