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The Sunny Side Up choir singing in Blacklands Church.

New dementia singing clubs across East Sussex

Dementia Support East Sussex, which promotes communal singing as a tool for helping dementia sufferers break through their isolation, has extended its activities with the formation of several new clubs across the region. Nick Terdre reports.

Dementia Support East Sussex, a voluntary initiative, marked its arrival a year ago with the establishment of a weekly singing club in Bexhill from which the Sunny Side Up choir emerged. It was noticeable, according to the chair, Cliff Slack, that the singing sessions made the participants more sociable, communicative and happy. In fact it was not long before the choir was performing in public, at a Christmas extravaganza in Sidley and another in Blacklands Church in Hastings.

Now Cliff and his colleagues have extended their activities elsewhere in East Sussex, with sessions arranged for this month in care homes and public venues in Heathfield (two venues), Lewes, Ditchling, Sidley and at another care home in Bexhill. The June programme also includes a session in Horam, where a club has been going since last year, on Wednesday 8th. At the end of the month an inaugural session will be held at a third venue in Bexhill. Plans are afoot to organise a musical afternoon bringing several of the singing groups from Heathfield and Horam together.

suzanne 2The sessions are popular, usually with 10-15 people attending, but Cliff says he would like more to come. They are led by one of two professional singers, Suzanne Cheal and Fleur Sayers. The results can be remarkable, Cliff says. He remembers a session in Bexhill where, under Suzanne’s magic, an elderly care home resident with dementia, who was completely sedentary and displayed limited communicative abilities, came alive and suddenly broke into songs from her Irish childhood, with perfect recall of the words (see photo alongside). Barriers had fallen.

Cliff also recalls an elderly man with dementia whose only response when spoken to was to say, “Dah di dah.” When the singing began, he found his words again.

Dementia Support East Sussex is next looking at opening a club in St Leonards – venues have been scouted. So far the group is still living off its initial funding, but come November will have to find more.

Singing by candelight when the power failed.

Singing by candelight when the power failed.

Singing sessions are free and open to all dementia sufferers (and their carers). Unless otherwise stated, they take place from 10am to 12 noon. The June programme is as follows.

Wed 8th: Oaklands Court, Vines Cross Road, Horam
Mon 13th: Southlands Place, 33 Hastings Road, Bexhill
Tues 14: Holdenhurst*, Mill Road, Heathfield
Wed 15th: Heffle Court, Heathfield
Fri 17: Holdenhurst*, Mill Road, Heathfield
Mon 20: Claydon House, Wallands Crescent, Lewes
Wed 22: St Mary’s, St George’s Park, Ditchling
Mon 27: The Orangery, Buxton Drive, Sidley
Thurs 30: Bay House Care Home, Bexhill (12.30-2.30pm)

The Sunny Side Up choir meets every Saturday, from 10am to 12 noon,
at Centenary House, Church Community Centre, 21 Holliers Hill, Bexhill.

Sessions held in care homes are not restricted to residents. *But please note: to attend a session at Holdenhurst in Heathfield, please contact Cliff Slack on 01424 212 519 or at <whitegates@mail.com>. More information about Dementia Support East Sussex on the website.

Donations can be made by cheque payable to the Hastings and Rother Credit Union at 49 Cambridge Gardens, Hastings  TN34 1EN. Please write ‘Dementia Support East Sussex’ on the back.

See also Combating dementia with music-making

Posted 06:01 Wednesday, Jun 8, 2016 In: Health Matters


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