This year’s Learning Disabilities Week (17-24 June, 2018) is all about health, with a big focus on the Treat Me Well Campaign. This aims to transform the way the NHS treats people with a learning disability in hospital.

There is much evidence that singing is good for EVERYONE’S health and wellbeing – physically, psychologically and socially.

Music for Everyone determined to offer aDf9GpFbXcAAbdL5 vocal programme – Open Voices – particularly suited to adults with learning disabilities. When the first group started in Sherwood, led by Cliff McArdle and Victoria Barlow, it wasn’t known how many people would come along or whether it would work, but they did and it does! Cliff and Vic engage the choir members in singing an enjoyable range of popular songs. Many singers know the words already, some read them from the projection and others hum along, tap their toes or sway to the music. The group has a mid-session break for a cuppa and chat.

With the success of the programme’s format in Sherwood, a second group opened in West Bridgford, and now there is a third in Beeston. Angela Kay’s younger daughter, Sarah Trevers, has joined the Open Voices music leaders’ team. Singers, volunteer helpers, carers and staff head home feeling that the world is a better place for music and friendship, and with spirits uplifted.

Here’s what Open Wings has noticed about their friends who come to sing at Sherwood Open Voices:

An individual who would never smile now carefully spreads her mouth wide shows her teeth and let’s out a little giggle. An individual who uses a wheelchair, has no verbal communication, but sits next to the piano taking in every single note the wonderful pianist plays, her eyes alight with joy. A unique individual that communicates only through verbal noises volunteering to sing a solo and being so clear when singing Hallelujah! An older man with Aspergers, joining in and singing Let’s go fly a kite, arms up in the air, and clapping his heart out to Lilly the Pink the pink the pink, and a Spoonful of sugar, as he remembered days gone by. A solo of Don’t you want me baby and another of Joseph! Absolutely wonderful to watch the joy on every single participants face.

Such is the power of music! This wonderful project has been made possible through our partnership with Open Wings and Reach and by generous donations from groups and individuals. We are delighted that Mapperley Open Gardens 2018 has made Open Voices one of its three charities this year. The East of England Singers will be singing at one of the participating gardens – 31 Richmond Drive, Sunday 8 July – to assist with the fund-raising.

This week sees the first session of a NEW Open Voices group. These singing groups are particularly suited to adults with learning disabilities – those who come along have a fun time singing, making friends and acquiring new skills and confidence. The first choir started in Sherwood last year, the second in West Bridgford earlier this year, and now – fanfare please – a third begins in Beeston on Tuesday 19 April. Open Voices’ sessions brim with joy and everyone goes away from them feeling uplifted – singers, staff, volunteers and care workers.

The picture above says it all!

I’m getting more and more confident and singing is really helping with my speech. When we perform it’s scary, but I love it and when you’ve done it for a while you get better at it.”
Toni, an adult with learning disabilities, writing in the Guardian.

Below is a link to the full article, which we feel sure will leave everyone eager to spread the word about these groups and to support Open Voices – sometimes volunteers are needed and donations to sustain the project are always welcome.

Guardian article: Music can transform the lives of people with learning disabilities

For information about the times and locations of the Open Voices choirs, click here.

This will be very short because we’d love you to hop over to the blog of Open Wings and discover what Open Voices means to their amazing community. Take a tissue with you.

But before you go… Have you voted to enable us to form more Open Voices groups in other locations, to take music into the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at Nottingham Children’s Hospital, QMC, and for other music for wellbeing projects? Thank you if you have, but if you haven’t you have ONE DAY left! Voting for the Aviva Community Fund closes first thing Tuesday. So vote, vote, vote.  CLICK HERE to do it now. Ask your family, your friends, your cat (who just needs an email address) etc to do it too.

Voting done? Fly off to Open Wings.