Concert strikes a chord with elderly in Sunderland and South Tyneside

The Home is Where the Heart is concert
The Home is Where the Heart is concert

An arts project aimed at giving a voice to elderly and isolated people living in Sunderland and South Tyneside hit the high note with a finale concert.

The Home Is Where the Heart Is project was delivered by music therapist Clare Hunt on behalf of the Cultural Spring, an Arts Council funded project working to increase participation in the arts and culture in both areas.

Clare, also a local singer and songwriter, worked in collaboration with Community Arts Project NE (CAPNE) on the initiative and shared the songwriting duties with Ben Hudson from CAPNE.

She explained how the project worked: “It stemmed from the idea that people’s life stories are valuable and that by these stories being heard, people are given a voice. We wanted to hear the stories of older folk which might otherwise go unnoticed and develop the stories into songs.

“We spent time with 11 participants, whose ages ranged from 57 to 94, listening and then recording their stories. They then helped us write the songs.

“The participants came together as two groups, one in South Shields and then one in Sunderland to listen to each other’s songs, share their own and play music along with the songs.

“The final stage of the project was a concert at the Quaker Meeting House in Roker, where both groups came together to perform. The atmosphere at the concert was fantastic – everybody took a full part. Some people sang their own songs, while others played music for them. The feedback from the audience was amazing.

“Some of the audience was moved to tears due to the poignancy and heartfelt sharing reflected through the songs. They really did give people a voice. The songs were very different in style – there was rock, blues, folk styles, even some Neapolitan Italian folk singing – some lines had the audience laughing out loud.”

Each person who worked on the Home Is Where the Heart Is project will receive a DVD and CD of the concert, and a professional-quality CD of the songs. In the New Year a documentary about the project will be aired on Hive Community Radio.

Since the concert, those involved have met again to sing carols and Christmas songs in Albany House in Southwick.

Earlier this year it was announced that The Cultural Spring had been given a further £1m to extend the project for three more years. The project has announced it will be working in five new wards in both Sunderland and South Tyneside.