Project for singers with dementia celebrates 10th anniversary

Kelly Bray with performers Pic: Victoria Brush

Singers with dementia from the Turtle Song project performed with their companions and caretakers for their final show as part of their 10th anniversary celebration.

Turtle Song is a charity that brings residents of Hackney with dementia together to socialise and produce their own music about the local area and their memories.

It was created because the use of music has shown to benefit brain connections for a brief time for people diagnosed with dementia.

The charity receives funding from The Headley Trust, Leathersellers’ Company Charitable Fund and South Hackney Parochial Charity. 

While the event at Chat’s Palace in  Homerton in Hackney marked the final performance of 2018, Turtle Song plan to come back next year in Oxford, Gloucester and Bishop Auckland.

The show, titled ‘Radio Chats’, was produced by Turtle Key Arts and in collaboration with English Touring Opera and the Royal College of Music.

It featured original songs written by Turtle Song’s composer Jon Petter, as well as the performers themselves.

Performers and participants at the event Pic: Victoria Brush

The songs were inspired by St Augustine’s Tower, Sutton House and the Regents and Hertford Union Canals, all located in Hackney.

Prior to the performance, Turtle Song hosted creative tasks for nine weeks, such as writing lyrics and developing music as well as socialising with tea and biscuits. Musicians from the Royal College of Music accompanied the singers for the entire 10 week duration.

Kelly Bray, 24, production, participation & marketing assistant for Turtle Key Arts, said: “Turtle Song encourages artistic and social interaction, a positive outlook through an enjoyable and shared activity and gives the brain and body a bit of stimulating exercise. It also helps to enhance the professional development of the music students who take part in the project.”

There are 1,293 people registered with Alzheimer’s in the borough of Hackney.

Helen Green, spokeswoman for Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Hackney is a well-established borough in terms of supporting people with dementia. It’s working towards becoming ‘dementia-friendly.’”

Festivals like “Thank you for the Music” and the “Hackney Dementia Arts” have taken place throughout 2018.

Yvonne Maxwell, Councillor for Hoxton West ward and Dementia Champion, said: “To help us shape what a dementia-friendly Hackney looks like, we listened to local people affected by dementia. We wanted to identify what needs to happen to make Hackney a great place to live.”

Turtle Song promotion Pic:


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