You can’t stop the music!

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Radio rWest Moors is a village of 7,500 residents, seven miles from Bournemouth, with a higher than average percentage of retired folk. It enjoys a vibrant community spirit with many clubs and organisations, but St Martin’s URC recognised that more support was needed for those struggling with memory loss and associated conditions. Christopher Legrand, an elder of St Martin’s, explains how ‘Community Sing-a-long’ helped to fill that gap:

The Sing-a-long is a church service organised by St Martin’s for the community, especially those who are dealing with memory loss. It all started with a monthly event in the church hall for people to sing together. As it grew in popularity, this expanded to twice a month. Between 50 and 60 local residents attend each session, and now, during lockdown, even more are joining in via radio!

Knowing how important Sing-a-long has become to those who attend regularly we wondered how we could best keep in touch during the lockdown, so approached the Bournemouth Christian radio station Hope FM and the local station Forest FM, both of which are now including our sing-a-long items in their programming so people can hear a voice from St Martin’s up to 4 times a week, as well as some of their favourite pieces.

In addition, members of the St Martin’s Community Gospel Choir, another fairly new church initiative, recently piled (before social distancing) into the small studio at Hope FM to sing live on their breakfast programme.

The service is recommended by the local GP surgery to those who suffer a range of conditions, including loneliness and stress and for whom singing can be therapeutic. However, the event is also attended by many who have no underlying health conditions who join in too, offering their support.

The morning starts around 10am with coffee/tea and biscuits for all attending followed at 10.30 with an hour and a half of songs from the 1940’s through to the current day, many of which bring back memories for those attending as they sing together, or simply listen. Word sheets in large and easy to read fonts are provided. Interspersed with these, are a few humorous stories to get people laughing, and a prayer.

The atmosphere is warm, welcoming, vibrant but relaxed. It is hugely encouraging to see how people remember all the words of the ‘old’ songs, which appeal to everyone, whether they are part of the church or not.

With the high numbers now attending, the exercise involves a team of at least six dedicated church and community volunteer helpers for each session.

Our fulfilment comes from the smiles on the faces of people as they leave Community Sing-a-long at midday, particularly those for whom a memory has been rekindled and for their carers who have enjoyed a change of routine.

Is a community sing-a-long something your church could offer? Might local radio stations be willing to broadcast something from your church to reach a wider audience? Contact us to find out more.

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