Care Community Blog: Flourish@Smart – A Supportive and Inclusive Community Choir

Retired Care Pro Kay has visited Flourish@Smart - a community choir

I feel very fortunate to live near to the Burnholme Centre on Bad Bargain Lane, Burnholme. It really is a fabulous community resource, offering a library, a café, and a wide range of free or low cost activities for people of all ages. Parking is usually easy, and there are plenty of disabled parking spaces for anyone eligible. The building itself is fully accessible, with wide doorways and a lift to the first floor.

Last week, on the recommendation of my neighbour Douglas, I visited ‘Flourish@Smart’, an inclusive community choir held at the Centre on Monday mornings, from 11.00 to 12.00. Sessions cost £3.00, payable in cash on arrival. Douglas has a passion for music, and when his wife died a few years ago, he made an effort to meet like-minded people through the Flourish choir.

I arrived a little early and saw that several of the choir members, including Douglas, were sitting in the café, having a cuppa and a chat. Douglas was with his carer, who can attend the group free of charge when accompanying him. He told me that having a regular morning out was very important to him, and that the choirmaster chose great songs that he enjoys singing.

Just before 11.00am people started to move from the café to the main hall where the choir meets. I had a chat with Jane Rhodes, who manages the community provision. Jane explained that today’s session was a little different from usual as it was the last meeting before Christmas and they were planning to have a Christmas singalong. She told me that the choir was not specifically a dementia choir, but aimed to be dementia friendly, as well as being accessible for those with mobility needs and hidden disabilities.

Rows of chairs were set out and the choir master, Joe, took to the stage and sat down at his keyboard. I sat behind Douglas, next to Kerry who supports one of the regular participants. Song sheets were handed out and Joe took us through a vocal warm-up that included simple songs, tongue twisters and rounds.

During a break, Kerry explained that the members of the group included adults with learning disabilities involved in the centre’s social provision, some young people who were part of Tang Hall Smart, a further education programme for young people with learning disabilities, and members of the local community who could benefit from supportive and inclusive social provision. Some members came on recommendation of healthcare workers, while others simply came along simply for the joy of singing in a group. Carers would be very welcome to bring clients along to a session to see if it was something they would like to do regularly. There are no auditions and no previous experience is necessary.

I thoroughly enjoyed singing Christmas songs. The group sang with enthusiasm. The atmosphere was friendly and the emphasis was on enjoyment. At the end of the session I quizzed Joe about his plans for the next year. He told me that the group would be preparing for a Summer concert, singing songs that included ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ by Bob Dylan and ‘I’ll be there’ by the Jackson Five. I have seen the group perform at previous concerts, and they are impressive. I’m sure Joe will have devised some interesting arrangements for the group to learn. The Summer concert is entirely optional, however, and people are welcome to come along and sing whether or not they want to be part of a performance.

Spring Term starts on Monday 15th  January. The group break for Easter on 25th March and resume on 15th April.

Anyone who wants to come along to Flourish can simply turn up at the Burnholme Centre on a Monday morning, at 10.45 for an 11.00 start. They can also contact Jane via email at [email protected] or by text/phone on 07713 429264.

You can find out more about Tang Hall Smart and Flourish @ Smart on their website