Birth of an idea

26 Mar 2015

BIRTH OF AN IDEA - A Blog that talks of watching a BBC Programme to bringing about changeSinging for fun and Health at All Saints Church WhitstableIn October 2014 my husband Aubrey and I watched a BBC programme called Inside Out which was looking at Dementia. It featured a local Sing for your Life song club which happens once a month at the Methodist church in Whitstable to improve health and wellbeing of local people through singing. One of our local GPs Dr Kanagasooriam was also interviewed and gave a moving account of the benefits of music and singing particularly for those living with Dementia, Parkinson’s disease and respiratory disorders. I found myself thinking once a month isn’t very much we could start something like this to make it twice a month. My husband agreed. The thought didn’t go away!At about the same time a regular monthly group in our church hall had decided to close at Christmas after many successful years. I mentioned my thoughts to the Hall Bookings Manager and one of the church wardens thinking this could be a slot as it was 2 weeks away from the group in the town. I was very surprised to get a speedy response saying “Go for it, it would be an excellent thing” and the church warden told me I had her full support.On November 6th Aubrey and I visited the Song Club in the Methodist Church to see what happened and to speak to the leader Adrian Bawtree. I found myself telling him that we wanted to start another group in Whitstable in memory of my dad who had been a drummer and regularly played for Age Concern in Canterbury and at the Northgate Centre and retirement homes as well as at his favourite jazz haunts.Adrian was very helpful and put me in touch with Paula at Sing for your Life. She sent me lots of useful information including the information about the Silver Song Music Box which cost £1440. Aubrey and I are both musicians and love singing and regularly play in the church band but realised that the Music Box would really be an essential tool in order to maintain the group on a long-term basis. I mentioned it at Church breakfast one morning and somebody said they’d like to help with funding in memory of their father so I took note. Towards the end of November I attended a Dementia Awareness course at Ospringe to give me a better understanding of people living with Dementia and have become a Dementia Friend. I still have much to learn. In early December I had to ask the church council whether they would allow me the free use of the hall once a month to run a Song Club and they agreed.During December I got cold feet and asked myself what on earth I thought I was doing, this wasn’t something I could do it was all too complicated. I spoke to the church warden and explained my fears and she said well sit on it for a few months and see how you feel later.In January Paula rang me and asked how I was getting on. You can try the Lions and the Rotary she said they might help you. I decided I better carry on and so booked the hall from March 18th and started to put out some feelers for helpers. I asked the church organist whether he would help until we managed to get the music box and then sent my emails to the Rotary club and the Lions who have helped in this way many times, my vicar suggested I try the local councillor too. I got no response.I carried on with other preparations making a poster and fliers and thinking about music we could use. Our other church warden was a great support with the poster and helped me with some of the technical bits so it printed properly.Halfway through February I spotted an article in the local Whitstable Times about Canterbury City Council’s Small Community Grants inviting applications. The closing date was 27th February. This was a community project and so I contacted Andrew Smith at Canterbury City Council explaining what we wanted to do and he sent me all the information and forms toapply for a Small Grant of up to £500. I read the information and forms and thought O my goodness how am I going to do this? I sat on it for a couple of days and then at coffee on Sunday after church was talking to a couple about the form dilemma and found myself suddenly invited round that afternoon to go through the form with them and another friend. Our committee was born. They sent me home with lots of ideas and confidence to complete the form. I had to ring the small grants help team and speak to Linda Gatusch who was really helpful and encouraging. The Constitution for our group was quite a daunting task to write but with helpful on line templates I managed to do it and the Grant application was posted in good time for the 27th February. Meanwhile I happened to be talking to another friend who is involved with the Whitstable Carnival and she told me that they had invited local community groups to apply for funding from the proceeds of last years Carnival collection. I’d obviously missed that article but there was still time so I got a letter off that evening. I had also received another financial promise from a church member.I rang Paula to update her and she offered £200 of match funding from Sing for Your Life charity. I was so excited.On Sunday 1st March I was invited to Whitstable Castle to receive a cheque from the Whitstable Carnival Committee. They gave us another wonderful £200.It was full steam ahead for 18th March we had lots of offers to help at the club, serving refreshments, encouraging singing, a new musician who was well rehearsed in Community songs. There were DBS checks to be done for those helping, what a blessing our church warden Linda Young has been. We had to make a PowerPoint programme and yet again Linda came up trumps. I think she’s gone off the song Waltzing Matilda for life! My cut and pasting wasn’t all that it should have been. I was in Tesco putting a poster on their board and realised that they offered support for community groups like ours. Would they help us with refreshments I wondered? I wrote to the manager and the answer came back. Yes! They are providing us with tea, coffee, sugar, milk and biscuits on alternate months for which we’re very grateful. On Tuesday 17th March I got an email from Andrew Smith at Canterbury City Council to tell me that our application for a small Grant had been successful and that we had been awarded £400. The icing on the cake! I was so thrilled, it made my day.We could buy the Silver Song Music Box.There were thoughts like, supposing nobody comes after all this, but on March 18th we had a hall full of volunteer helpers and folks wanting to come and Sing for Fun and Health, Age UK brought a bus load and there was an overall headcount of 60. I think everybody had a good time. It wasn’t perfect, there’s much to learn but we will through experience and guidance.Paula has brought us our Silver Song Music Box and we have begun to learn to use it and hopefully it will be fully operational for our next session on 15th April. From a thought inspired by Inside Out together with a lot of church community support, local council and local organisation and business support, Singing for Fun and Health has been born. If you feel inspired to begin a group where you are, then you can. There is so much help out there so why not have a go. It could make all the difference to someone else’s life and it has certainly made a difference to me.Pat Holland