• Nathaniel Keen

Return to St Pancras

Musicians: Nat Keen & Barney Keen (both guitar & vocals)


Today we continued our recently-formed relationship with St Pancras Hospital. In the summer we'd provided musicians to play for and meet the residents/staff whilst enjoying a barbecue in the courtyard. The day had been a big success and we'd agreed with Occupational Therapist Alex to organise a return visit with a view to establishing more regular music there.


Myself and my brother Barnaby, who joined me for the summer visit arrived at the hospital on a chilly, late October afternoon but we we soon warmed up (apparently the radiators blast out continuous heat without an option for lowering the level).

We chatted with Alex and the team about a suitable space for us to play in and I was curious to see how our music would be received in a communal living room. At Bridgeside Lodge our experience is very much tailored to the relationships that we form over time with the residents and this is made easier by our room visits. Due to the residents of St Pancras suffering from psychotic and mood disorders, room visits weren't appropriate and we were invited to play in a large communal area where residents could come and go at will.

Barnaby and I played through our shared repertoire of folk songs, reggae, Brazilian tropicalia and Beatles songs as residents came and and went. What became clear is that for some residents music has an incredibly powerful effect on their emotions. We asked if there were any songs that anybody might like to hear and one lady (who we met on our visit in July) requested 'Earth Song' (a reflective ballad) which in turn seemed to draw her towards a deeply melancholic, sad feeling. This intense sensitivity in one resident was evident to see when we began to play some uplifting Brazilian songs. Instantly she stood up and danced in the most incredible, free manner, creating a physical embodiment of her powerful imagination, coming up with imaginary scenarios and acting them out to the music, we were impressed!


The same lady who appeared to deeply enjoy the music also came forward and, to our surprise had quickly learnt the melody to 'Asa Branca' (a north-eastern Brazilian tune) which we were playing. She walked over to Barnaby and beautifully sang the melody with him whilst phonetically approximating the Portuguese lyrics.


As with Bridgeside Lodge we see that music acts as a fantastic common experience for residents and staff, singing and dancing seems to disarm tension and foster open communication. As the session progressed we noticed everybody relax. Towards the end of the day we began to play more popular songs which helped some of the more reclusive residents to engage and the staff to get involved. There was plenty of dancing and smiling!

After the session had finished we reflected on the day and the music we had shared together, we also wondered if next time we could perhaps find a way to also play for people in smaller groups or individually as a way to direct our music more personally. Either way, through our growing familiarity with the residents and staff we look forward to more musical happenings next month.


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