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Singing for the Brain comes to the Belgrade Theatre

Posted on 4 May 2018

This week, our B2 auditorium played host to a hugely successful Singing for the Brain session, with over 100 people living with dementia and their carers joining in a morning of song and laughter led by local star Dave Willetts.

Part of a UK-wide initiative by the Alzheimer’s Society, Singing for the Brain uses singing to bring people together in a friendly and stimulating social environment, allowing those with dementia to express themselves and socialise with others in a fun and supportive group.

Singing for the Brain

Started in a local church, the Coventry branch of the project has expanded massively over the last four years, steadily swelling its ranks to become the UK’s best-attended Singing for the Brain group and more recently relocating to the Belgrade’s B2 stage.

Throughout the country, the running of local groups depends on the dedication of volunteers and supporters, and the success of the Coventry group is largely thanks to the efforts of Dave Willetts – an acclaimed West End actor and singer with local roots.

Singing for the Brain

Following the session on Monday, we spoke to him to find out more about the project and how he got involved.

“I first heard about Singing for the Brain about four years ago from a programme I saw on TV, and then about a week later I read an article about it in a magazine,” he explains. “It sounded like something I’d like to volunteer for, so I rang up the Alzheimer’s Society, who told me that they didn’t have a group in Coventry.

“It didn’t seem quite right to me, considering that we’re one of the biggest cities in the country. There’s definitely a need for it here – dementia is something that we’ve all been touched by whether directly or indirectly. So I decided to set one up. It took about 12 months to get it going, but now four years on, we are the best-attended Singing for the Brain in the country.”

Singing for the Brain

“Every single Singing for the Brain session is done in a different way,” he continues. “People who do what I do, leading the Singing for the Brain groups, all put their own stamp on it. My approach to it is to treat everyone the same way, so we’re not acting like anyone has got anything wrong with them at all. It’s purely two hours of entertainment: we have a laugh, we sing songs, we tell a few jokes, we do some dancing, and for me, it’s as much for the carers and spouses as it is for the people with dementia.”

Singing for the Brain

So successful has the project been here, that Dave has even begin to look into other ways to bring a some calm and enjoyment into the lives of those living with the condition.

“I could see the enjoyment that everyone was getting out of the sessions, but the problem is that people with dementia would leave the building and pretty quickly they’d forgotten the enjoyment they had. So I thought about ways I could prolong that, and I decided to record a CD.

“The CD which I’ve just released is called Memories, and it features a lot of the songs that we do in the Singing for the Brain sessions. Hopefully that means that when things get a bit fraught at home or in the car or on holiday or whatever, they can put the CD on for an hour, and for a carer or a spouse of someone with dementia, that hour of calm can be like a week. So it benefits everybody.

Singing for the Brain

“I’ve also recently set up the Dave Willetts Foundation to help people at grassroots level. Every single penny from the sale of the CDs goes into this foundation – I don’t make any money from it, and the record company has already been paid. I think the Alzheimer’s Society are doing a fantastic job in trying to discover a cure for the illness, but until they’ve reached the point where they’ve found that Holy Grail, it’s all about quality of life, and that’s what the money from the foundation will go into improving.”

Singing for the Brain

Details of the Singing for the Brain project can be found online here. More information about the Dave Willetts Foundation and the Memories CD can be found here.

Singing for the Brain

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Nov 2, 2017, 9:22 am