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My heart was exploding...

Hello, Rachel here. I want to tell you all about a collaborative project we've just completed with Life Rooms Bootle. We were funded by Sport England to pilot a 6 week Intergenerational Music & Movement Programme. We were so delighted with the outcome that we're immediately on the search for more funding so we can deliver more of this vital work. During every session I looked around and spotted an interaction that made my heart burst and put a huge grin on my face... my endorphins were going through the roof!

Here are some of the things that surprised me about the programme:

- Friendships were formed between older people and families, who are now visiting each other after the programme has finished.

- People who have dementia were singing the NEW songs that we'd created long after the sessions had finished.

- Some of the families travelled from as far as St Helens and Southport to Bootle because they saw the value of intergenerational connections and wanted to get involved.

- All of the facilitators and volunteers got so much out of it too; it's a wonderful feeling knowing that you've brought a group people together and that so much joy is flowing from all corners!

We worked with South Central Community Transport to collect those who couldn't travel themselves, which made a huge difference in reaching people who would not be able to attend the group otherwise. The bus driver even joined in with us!

As well as the singing and dancing, snacks and socialising are an absolute MUST in taking the time to forge new relationships. At the last session we had a party to celebrate; it felt too quick and too sad to have finished our programme.... everyone was asking for more.

Here are some of the comments we received when we ran a focus group at the last session:

"The music and movement group was expertly run. Engaging and enjoyable. All clientele are included and quickly become an integral member of the session. Looking at fellow attendees, the happy music and dance session definitely benefitted all. Rachel and Kathy provide a well-balanced, professional, and importantly a session that quickly infects with smiling and happiness. More please!" - John

I loved:

"The way it develops into a family"

"Singing songs I wouldn’t usually sing"

"The enthusiasm of Rachel and Kathy was infectious!"

"I enjoyed seeing people of different ages enjoying the song and movement together"

"Watching people grow in confidence with each session"

"Overall kindness and acceptance"

"Feeling safe"

"The age diversity"

"Each individual is made to feel truly valued within the group and all comments taken onboard"

"Routines adapted to ensure all people are included in such a proactive group"

"As a BSL/English interpreter it has been my pleasure to observe and take part in this group and watch" "how positive and inclusive they are - well done! 10/10"

I will take with me:

"Making friends and getting to socialise"

"Feel like I’m wanted here"

"We now have a daily family dance at home"

"Everyone dancing together + kids"

"Love mixing with older and younger people"

"Learning a new song"

"Scarves promoted a memory"

"Joy, happiness, love"

"The joy it gives you and getting to meet new people, lots of happy memories"

"All the nice people"

"A very well put together programme and enjoyed by all"

"Joy on peoples’ faces"

"A feeling of happiness"

I learned:

"Alba remembered people and songs even after one session"

"Learning how to sign (BSL) to a lovely song"

"Faith in humanity"

"To be more open minded and not to have preconceived ideas about the session"

"Broke down some generation barriers regarding the diverse world we live in"

"Learnt new dances/actions/routines"

"The babies learnt from the older ones"

"Exercise is important and so is using different parts of your body"

"It doesn’t matter on ability you can still enjoy it"

Sometimes I wonder why I have to do this work? Shouldn't it be completely natural and normal for people of all ages to socialise together? To sing and dance together? Why do we have to create a space for it to happen, and why does it have to be so prescriptive?

Why is it that older people are put in a separate building to be looked after by paid staff and they become disconnected from the world happening just outside of the walls they're held in?

Sadly, we've lost it in our Western society... we've become so segregated and separated that even a 2 year old is put into a different nursery room to a 4 year old, when they could learn so much from each other by being together. People are having children a lot later in life now, and so a lot of children are growing up with out any Grandparents alive... or, maybe their Grandparents live so far away that they only get to see them a few times a year.

We used to sing a lot when we went to church, and now that people aren't attending church as much, we've lost that sense of community; of being in the same building as lots of different people, all sharing time with the same purpose and intention.

When I was younger, it was a regular occurance that we'd get together after church, at someones birthday, at a funeral wake (my Grandad's funeral was one of the most raucus singalongs we've had!) or at Christmas time and someone would get the guitar out and we'd sing together. We'd sing Beatles songs, Irish folk songs, comedy songs, campfire songs and people of all ages would know them and join in.

We NEED these moments as humans; these experiences of shared expression. A chance to get all of our joy and sorrow out of our hearts and minds and into the space around us where it can be freed. It's cathartic, it's connecting, it's humbling, it's joyous to feel part of a collective letting go. Since these moments are more rare these days, I'm making it my mission to create these happenings - especially in places and with people who are isolated and lonely.

Maybe, if someone comes to one of our Music & Movement sessions, they might just feel a spark of inspiration to start singing and dancing more at home, or with their extended family, or with their colleagues... or even visit their own local care home and have a little sing along or a disco with some of the residents. I really do believe, as trivial as it sounds, that singing and dancing on our own and with a group, will solve a lot of the social and medical issues that people are experiencing these days. It's not rocket science.... it's human nature!

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