Based in London Borough Waltham Forest, the charity currently has two main areas of work: presentation of original, world class, theatrical arts productions and community programmes. Our vision is to reach out and touch the hearts of children and adults of all ages and cultures through delivering spectacular combined arts productions; participatory quality music & story-telling experiences for the elderly (The Smiling Sessions) and to actively engage communities in group activities that enhance confidence and self-esteem through learning or re-visiting new musical skills (Strung Out).
Our main community programme called The Smiling Sessions brings engaging music sessions to elderly people in care homes and sheltered housing schemes in East London. The sessions revive and warm the hearts of an isolated part of society that badly needs support, acknowledgement and inclusion, by offering participants to sing their favourite songs.
We have currently 3 projects running:
The Smiling Sessions is a participatory singing project devised by Shapeshifter Productions whereby three talented musicians, Pete Baikie, Alison Jones and Neil Herd visit residential sheltered housing schemes and care homes for the elderly. Originally funded by The Big Lottery – and being voted into the finals of The National Lottery competition-the sessions include developing large-print songbooks and recording CDs for the residents to use after the project has finished. The Smiling team encourage song, laughter, friendship and story-telling that revive and warm the hearts of an isolated part of society that badly needs support, acknowledgement and inclusion.
The Smiling Weekly Remotely Singalong Sessions is our response to COVID-19 creating immediate, safe, access to participatory music in the homes of isolated older people, ensuring they all have the opportunity to take part. Connecting to more people than previously possible through audio & visual, we are creating an App to store the song videos, which will encourage staff, carers and residents to sing regularly. Apart from generally lifting spirits, singing is good for the brain, respiratory and immune system and well-being.
Strung Out was founded in March 2010 after the groups’ director, Alison Jones, identified a need and a desire for a communal violin group within Waltham Forest. Strung Out was formed to provide a fun and supportive environment to new and old violinists of all ages, to offer a safe place for those who have had violins in the the back of their cupboards, to dust them down and refresh old skills. The ethos of the group is it is never too late to learn new skills and develop new talent!