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Music is helping to lift the spirits of patients and staff alike at our mental health hospital in Hereford.

A series of weekly music events has been held on Cantilupe Ward, which is part of the ²gether NHS Foundation Trust’s Stonebow Unit, for the last few months.

The concerts – performed by local musician Alex Gordon – have now proved so popular that staff on other wards have decided to follow suit.

It’s led to another local musician – Kevin Michaels – running similar events each week on Mortimer Ward.

Jackie Morris, Occupational Therapist for Cantilupe Ward, explained: “We started the weekly concerts on Cantilupe a few months ago and Alex has performed regularly since then.

“He’s a very versatile performer, and the patients and staff really look forward to his visits.

“He’s always willing to perform requests, so he takes away suggestions and comes back the following week to play people’s favourite songs.

“Everyone is encouraged to join in and it’s proving a very popular initiative. We’ve just organised a Christmas concert for December 19, which will be a great event for us to enjoy.”

Alex, who plays the guitar and trumpet, said: “I try and play music from the 40s through to the 70s and try to get people singing along and reminiscing about their experiences informed by the music we are singing.

“I love working with the folk on Cantilupe. It is amazing how the music can lift people and bring strong emotions flooding back. Some weeks we have had patients dancing around the ward to Mack the Knife or Bring me Sunshine.”

Kevin’s sessions on Mortimer Ward also encourage audience participation.

Kevin, who is a Community Music Tutor, said: “I would say I am more of a ‘facilitator’ than ‘entertainer’ as the sessions are more about participants having an equal input into the music, sharing ideas, encouraging them to communicate and interact with each other both verbally and non verbally.

“I would say that underlying that, it is also about empowerment, creativity, raising confidence and self esteem whilst engaging transferable skills such as listening, communication and team work.”

Kevin also runs Real Impact Music – supplying music workshops for specialist schools, charities, care homes, pupil referral units, and people with special needs and disabilities.

As well as performing himself on the guitar and percussion, Kevin also takes instruments in for patients and staff to play.

“Some of our patients are accomplished musicians and singers themselves,” Ward Manager Ian Bloore explained.

“Kevin performs for us but also organises an open session so that people can join in. It’s very popular with those who already play music, but also those who’ve never tried it, as it’s something different to get involved in.”

The regular sessions have been paid for through the ²gether Trust’s Charitable Funds committee, which is a committee that administers charitable donations and distributes funds to worthwhile causes.

The Stonebow Unit is based in the grounds of Hereford County Hospital. It is comprised of three wards– Cantilupe, Mortimer, Jenny Lind – and Day Care.

Cantilupe Ward caters for people with dementia and other organic illnesses, Mortimer Ward is an acute admission ward for working age adults, Jenny Lind is a ward for older people with acute functional illness, and Day Care provides short intensive therapies and activities to help prevent admission and help facilitate early discharge from wards.