The Music Room

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Loxley House in Dukinfield is used by many Tameside groups and organisations. I went to volunteer for The Stroke Association who has an afternoon there. When I arrived the hall was already buzzing with activity, with lots of volunteers in purple T-shirts and many people sat clustered around tables in the room. There was one section where men sat round chatting, another table where ladies were making crafts and cards, one where people were painting and another where a mixture of men and women were taking part in a quiz. A little way down the corridor there was another room where there was a music group. I put into action what I’ve been learning throughout these past few months of volunteering and made sure that everyone got a drink by manning the tea trolley. I met volunteers Helen and Rhona who were mother and daughter. They had first attended with their father and after he had died they continued to volunteer together. It seemed that people had different reasons for attending in the first place but many stayed on even though their original purpose had changed. Donald who had volunteered for many years attended originally with his wife and then continued to volunteer. Other volunteers were training to work in caring professions such as in speech and language therapy. It was a well oiled machine of tea and coffee making and fetching biscuits for everyone who was attending. After everyone’s cups were filled I then went to help in the music room. Ann was volunteering to run the music group and she was leading the singing while playing her guitar. It was the groups first session and I helped Ann to make sure that everyone had the song lyrics. It was one of my hardest jobs so far to make sure everyone had the right song at the right time over a two hour period. Luckily, I also had a wonderful time playing musical instruments and singing along with the catchy songs. There is something about music and singing really feel fills your heart with joy. Everyone in the group seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves. I couldn’t work out why Ann had seemed nervous at the beginning as it was such a successful two hours. As we packed the percussion instruments away Ann told me that she had had a stroke last year and it had knocked her confidence. She may have appeared okay from the outside but she still struggles with her memory and her coordination. Ann, with daughter, had been a successful folk musician and loved singing but unfortunately when she had a stroke at a festival, which luckily a friend of hers had spotted, she didn’t think that she would ever sing or play again. Even in the hospital when the nurses asked for the guitar to be brought in for her she didn’t want to have anything further to do with it. Eventually she started to play and now her confidence is slowly returning. It must be a great feeling to be able to support others when you too have had a stroke and reassuring for others to have someone in the same position. I had really no idea and it just goes to show how people can sometimes be struggling without anyone knowing.

At the end of the session I spent time in the hall helping with the quiz by offering clues and helping with the questions. They didn’t really need my help as they were quite brilliant at it. The quiz was a very serious business; a trophy was at stake. There was a real spirit of banter and laughter. Some people were married; others just knew each other from coming to the Stoke Association. I posed for a photo with the two winners of the quiz Michael and John before we cleared up and everyone went home. With all happiness and life in the room it was hard not to fall in love with the group and they now have a special place in my heart. I have since met with Ann and her music group is going from strength to strength with its very own choir.