Songbirds Music UK

Vulnerable children in Salford are benefitting from new music lessons to boost their confidence from Songbirds Music UK.

Inspired by their award-winning scheme at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Songbirds Music UK’s latest project invites local children with complex needs and disabilities to attend multi-sensory storytelling and music sessions via their computers.

Dr Rosalind Hawley, specialist music for health musician and co-director of Songbirds Music UK, said: “We’ve got about 20 odd years of experience working with children with quite complex needs.

“This programme was originally a short breaks project designed for a holiday period, but because of lockdown we piloted a new way of working which was with families offering five bespoke sessions over a period of time.”

The aim of Ros and her colleagues’ work, which is funded by Salford CVS, is to aid wellbeing, enhance communication and support families to develop the skills and confidence to make music in the home.

She explained: “Our sessions are an hour-long for each child, and we’ve deliberately kept that quite long so that we have time to build relationships.

“Myself and Mark are there live as musicians and we’re very child-led, so each session that we’re doing is coming out quite differently.

“One of the children has written a story and we’ve been working with him to compose music to go with it, then another young person has quite profound needs so it’s been very much about exploring sounds using movement.

“I think music is very special because there are all these different ways that you can engage with it.”

Despite their initial plans for the programme involving in-person workshops, the team at Songbirds Music UK have all adapted to virtual music-making.

In fact, the online approach has actually been ‘quite positive’ for the musicians and their audience.

Ros said: “It wasn’t how we imagined it, but it’s made us very conscious of children who are even more isolated.

“We had to think ‘how do we reach those children?’ and ‘how do we make sure that they’re getting the same opportunities as other children?’

“Being able to connect remotely straight to someone’s home is quite an instant way of a family and a child with additional needs being able to access something, rather than in the real world where you might have to get transport to go somewhere, find a venue that’s got the right facilities etc.”

Songbirds Music UK’s music-making equipment (permission to use from Songbirds Music UK)

Parents of the five young people currently taking part in the remote sessions have also been singing their praises.

One mum commented: “We both really enjoyed the session.

“It was really amazing to see how he was able to focus on the activity for an extended period of time.

“I have not seen him concentrate and be drawn into anything like that.

“He really worked hard and got tired but loved every minute of it, made me a bit emotional…”

For more information, visit the Songbirds Music UK website or follow the company on Twitter and Instagram.

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