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  • Thom Rowlands

"You can feel the good vibrations"

The gloom of a miserable Thursday morning was soon blown away, as Alice Zawadzki’s jazzy tones filled the dining room of the second floor of Bridgeside Lodge with the songs of Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller. She then pulled out an energetic Irish jig on the violin at which point carer Gladys boogied her way into the room and began dancing with resident J. J is usually confined to a wheelchair but Gladys (who is part of our new Spitz/BSL activity team) helped her to stand, and to clap and dance to the music. We’re always so moved when carers make the extra effort for the residents, over and above their responsibilities. It gives residents a sense of joy, of normality and also makes our job easier and more fun.


We visited resident JC in his room. JC is usually a blues/rock ‘n’ roll man but on this occasion was in a more contemplative mood. An impromptu duet emerged, with JC gently strumming and picking his guitar and Alice responding on her violin. The ability of Spitz musicians to improvise in this way, to read the mood of a person or a room and respond accordingly and appropriately is what sets our work apart. It is unique, inimitable and heartwarming. When the duet came to an end, we asked JC to name the new composition he had just created with Alice: “Jazzy Tune” how about “Jazzy June!? - we’ll play it again in the summer!”

Resident J is bed-bound after a stroke. Alice played her a calming air on her violin, much J’s preferred style of music. Throughout the summer J loved hearing our outdoor concerts, as her room is on the garden side of the building. We met her husband outside later that day, he always expresses his gratitude for everything we do and it means so much to us. “Thank you. You can feel the good vibrations through all the floors. Thank you.” As a follow up to our studio day in October. Pianist Arthur Lea suggested a video link-up with resident A, co-songwriter of “The Shiner (with Laurence Corns.) Arthur had planned to track some piano on The Shiner at his home studio in South London and thought that A might like to give his input via Zoom from BSL. Thom proposed the idea to him in the morning “Na, thanks all the same, but no.” This rejection of our idea, while a little disappointing for us personally, is actually a really positive thing as it reflects A’s independence and agency. Perhaps he’ll be up for it next time!

As we had Arthur on the line, we visited S and he played her song Hawkwell Walk. It was very poignant - Arthur 9 miles away sat at his piano at home, playing to S in real-time, a song about her old flat, so close to where she now lives at BSL. We also hung out with W, a cleaner at BSL. She started writing a song with Arthur last year about her son who died. They discussed the form of the song and some new lyrics for a rap verse. Arthur then sprung on W that we plan to take her to a recording studio and for her voice to appear on the track. She was overwhelmed and very excited. It’s going to be fantastic.

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The Spitz Charitable Trust 

Charity Number 1155033