Time is rushing past on the skill-sharing project, and we have successfully navigated a few rocky outcrops in the form of illness. Clients and staff have suffered with a virus, but the sessions went on in a flexible and reduced format. How stalwart and enthusiastic!

When the fog enveloped Worthing for a day we felt like a little musical outpost at the top of the world. The intrepid explorers come from the suites and up from the day centre, and we look over at the (artificial) bird of prey flying over the car manufacturing unit next door, and feel almost airborne. And the music is inspired! Solos round the room, people listening, taking turns, sharing a big drum. Laughter as we cross over the conversational lines, and invite each other to sing along, interrupt, copy and lead. Waiting for responses, because there is all the time in the world. Encouraging each other with looks and gestures and smiles. We play some games, passing instruments and exploring their sounds.

In the second group, we have more structure, and are experimenting with different activities each week. Paula leads a round of ‘Conductor’ with great enthusiasm, and then offers the conductor’s stick to P. We change our instruments around, and Paula encourages P. to lead the music. “With that stick,” she says, “you have the Power!”

“I’ve always wanted the Power” says P., and the room erupts.

Paula has identified what her clients need to focus on, and she gets an ever clearer idea from watching them in the group. “It’s a real eye opener”, she says, “Downstairs, people are able to hide more behind social conversation, but up here I can really see how they are.”

People are all in different places on their dementia journey, and it is sometimes hard to keep up with how they are progressing. The music sessions highlight very effectively how people are managing, responding, initiating and understanding. The sessions are useful for allowing a voice, encouraging listening, holding focus and boosting confidence.

The Goodbye Song is accompanied by everyone with a beater on the big drum, and it is strong and powerful; a purposeful re-entry to the day.

As we walk back down to the day centre, a lady, S., tells me “It releases so much, the music. At home I get so…” and she hunched up her shoulders, “.. tight and stressed but doing the music session lets it out.”

As I drive home I notice how much I have become part of the community, this world within a world on the edge of my town.

In two more weeks these groups will be on their own, and I hope we are covering enough ground. If the laughter is anything to go by, we are doing all right.

Hazel Child, Music Therapist