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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Keen

I love to really listen properly

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Musician: Nat Keen (guitar & vocals)

In recent months the Spitz team have been supporting and discovering 're-emerging artists' at Bridgeside Lodge as part of a project part-funded by The Arts Council. The idea is to work closely with certain individuals (residents and staff) developing and nurturing their talents and creativity.

There is no shortage of talented people living and working at Bridgeside Lodge, some are more forthcoming, some more private and it's been an enjoyable and rewarding process to establish musical connections and watch confidence grow. Whether we're working with 're-emerging artists' or not, we always try to encourage staff and residents alike to interact with each other creatively as we feel that vibrant, artistic interaction carries so many benefits to people's wellbeing.

As well as alleviating tension and simply feeling great to sing and dance, we've noticed how important the arts can be as a powerful tool of communication in a setting where conventional conversation may be challenging. We aim to help residents and staff members engage with music for the benefit and enjoyment of themselves and for those around them.

'Where words fail, music speaks'

– Hans Christian Anderson

With the 're-emerging artist' theme on my mind I had decided to be on the look out for staff members who might benefit from our support and a serendipitous moment occurred as soon as I started my day. My first visit was to resident JBL on the ground floor and she greeted me with an unparalleled beaming smile. As I began to play for her, a carer entering the room and listening to the music, when I'd finished we began to chat and he told me about his former life back in the Philippines where he had played lots of music in bands and with his friends. He went on to inform me that in fact there were several Filipino staff members working at Bridgeside Lodge who play music and often they meet up together with their guitars to play songs. I asked him whether he'd like to play a song with me for JBL and without any hesitation he took my guitar and we sang together through some old classic songs. Like me, JBL seemed impressed by her carer's talent and we finished with a nice Bob Dylan song. I mentioned that we should feature him and his colleagues at the next outdoor performance (unless our fingers freeze off in the winter cold). As I moved on to my next visit I felt like a fantastic artist had just emerged right in front of me.

After seeing many familiar faces and playing many country songs with JC, I visited DW who is relatively new to Bridgeside lodge and is a big fan of music. In previous sessions we've heard about his many adventures around the world when he was working for an international company. He'd seen Fela Kuti in Lagos, explored the Jazz clubs of New York and listened to Tchaikovsky symphonies in St Petersburg to name but a few. We talked about how he used to live in the Barbican and went to concerts twice weekly and how his son ended being a theatre director of repute. I asked him about our sessions together;

I'm all for it, this is the one chance I get to talk deeply about

music, I could talk about John Coltrane or Charlie Parker and

you guys understand what I'm talking about. Some people enjoy

having music in the background but I love to really listen properly'

Derek had come from humble beginnings and worked hard in order to retire early and enjoy his life listening to music, travelling and studying. He mentioned that his struggles with Parkinson's are frustrating as he isn't easily able to pursue the things he loves to do anymore. When we share live music and related conversation with him, I feel that it provides a link to those special moments from his life and creates new ones which is of course very important.

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