The Spitz at Northwick Park Hospital
Musicians: Ben Hazleton (double bass) Marcus Bonfanti (guitar)
In May of this year we were contacted by Matron for Older People and Dementia Services at Northwick Park Hospital, Alex Lukjaniec. She was hoping The Spitz could provide some music for older patients on her wards. Visiting hospitals has been part or our plans for expansion for a while, so this felt like a very timely request.
We learned that the patients were, on the whole, spending approximately 2 weeks in hospital, perhaps recovering from a fall at home, or rehabilitating after surgery. A slightly different set of circumstances then to the long-term residents of Bridgeside Lodge. Nevertheless, we would still be combating isolation and loneliness. Anyone who has spent more than a day or two in hospital knows that it can be really boring. A visit from The Spitz would, it was hoped, brighten the day for the patients.
Alex told us that she wanted to "change the culture" of in-patient care and would love to have music on a regular basis. We offered to visit for a taster session with a view to a more permanent arrangement if it went well. Tuesday's visit then, was to be our audition...
When we arrived, Alex explained that we'd be playing for patients on one ward of approximately 40 patients, spread over 5 bays. A mini tour then, of 5 intimate gigs in which Ben and Marcus would show what The Spitz is all about. They did not disappoint.
Immediately launching to some rocking blues numbers, for which Marcus is best known, there was an immediate party atmosphere. Patients were dancing and singing in their beds and many of the staff were picking their jaws up off the floor. "How come you guys aren't super-famous!?" asked Alex. "They're so good, they're sooo good" she kept saying.
The double bass, perhaps more than any other instrument, always elicits strong responses. The size and physicality of the instrument itself, as well as Ben's sonorous playing, sometimes plucked, sometimes bowed always creates a settling yet exciting atmosphere.
During our time in residence at Bridgeside Lodge, we have come to notice the smallest details as a sign that our work is cutting through and impacting on the recipients. Today we saw a gentleman who (we were told) rarely speaks or engages with staff or other patients, tapping his fingers on the side of his bed, smiling and waving to the musicians.
We saw staff popping their heads out of office doors, and craning their necks as they walked past the bays, eager to see and hear what was going on. We met an Occupational Therapist who fired requests at Marcus as she danced with patients and colleagues "Play some B. B King!" (a sure-fire way to Marcus' affections.)
Aside from the joy the music brought to the patients, it was a real privilege to do the same for the staff. Doctors, nurses, caterers, cleaners, administrators and porters allowing themselves a boogie during their working day. During a short break, Marcus, Ben and Thom chatted about their experiences of the NHS, all agreed that it is the most magnificent thing and how important it is to protect it. Giving something back to the incredible staff filled us with pride.
During the final couple of songs "Don't Worry Be Happy" and "You Are My Sunshine", staff sat at adjacent computers spontaneously held hands and sang together. It was a really beautiful and quite overwhelming moment.
As we prepared to leave, The Spitz GM Thom, spoke to some of the patients about the session. We'd met a lady called Mary, who beamed at Ben and Marcus as they played, thanking them and apologising that she didn't have any money with her to pay them. She told Thom that her brother was a musician and that they used to sing in a theatre group together.
"Thank you for the wonderful entertainment. This hardly ever
happens, maybe that's why we appreciate it so much.
It really cheers the day. - we'd have you back in a trice!"
We hope that we'll be heading back to Northwick Park Hospital soon. Inevitably it will depend on budget approval but as John Lennon one said:
“thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves
and I hope we've passed the audition.”
Alex Lukjaniec (far left) and colleagues, with Ben Hazleton and Marcus Bonfanti (centre) and Spitz GM Thom Rowlands (2nd right)