Read about how a weekly singalong from the ALLIANCE's Carer Voices team brought joy and friendship to many during lockdown.

Under current Government guidelines, it has become necessary for the ALLIANCE Carer Voices project to explore creative ways to carry on engaging with people, to maintain its existing outreach and foster new connections. The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of life in the UK and abroad – how we work, how we live and how we interact with each other. As cases rose in March, and social distancing became lockdown, it became clear that the pandemic was going to have a significant mental health impact on the most vulnerable – people living with long term conditions, older people, disabled people and unpaid carers.

It was at this point that the project took the initiative to create a programme of work centred around keeping well and managing wellbeing. Just as lockdown in Scotland had been announced, the viral videos of Italians singing together from their balconies surfaced across social media. Since Italy went into lockdown to curb the spread of the outbreak, whole neighbourhoods of people had begun coming together to fill the silence of the homes and streets with music. From Bologna to Rome, people found encouragement to pick up whatever they had lying around the house – from a pot and wooden spoon to a traditional instrument – and came together to create music and sing.

It was because of this inspiration that the Carer Voices project decided to join their efforts in hosting a weekly 1SongSingalong for ALLIANCE members, care homes, professionals and students alike. Within two weeks, from Edinburgh to Ayrshire, people had committed to gathering online each Friday, using the power of a singsong to connect in this time of isolation. The project had already successfully used technology like Zoom video conferencing and MS Teams to support people to meaningfully connect with family and friends in delivering the ‘Check in and Chat’ with NHS Lothian. A similar approach was taken to host the virtual singalongs.

The challenge here, however, was an urgent need to increase the uptake of technology and ensure digital inclusion. By working in partnership with Scottish Care colleagues and wider networks, Carer Voices Project Lead Tommy Whitelaw was able to amass engagement of over 100 people each week including participation from older people with over five care homes attending from across Scotland. Project Lead Tommy shared that: “One of the first songs we first sang was Lean on Me which captured the emotions during this time. We saw it as an opportunity to support, encourage, celebrate and thank one another when we have been so isolated. The community spirit bringing people together each Friday to not only hear but also see one another was really a joyful experience.”

It is no surprise that, in a time of uncertainty, people have appreciated and benefited greatly from the routine of turning to singing at the end of each week. After all, studies have repeatedly shown that singing has the power to boost our mood (this link will take you away from our website) and even has the power to raise our pain thresholds. Val Allen, Independent Sector Lead at North Ayrshire HSCP & East Ayrshire HSCP, said: “I was able to see first-hand the joy on everyone’s faces every week as they sang and danced. From a personal point of view, I absolutely loved being able to close off a very difficult working week with singing and laughter. I would make a conscious effort to find a hat, be a bit silly (actually be myself) and just enjoy singing along. At one point, in among all the demands for information, changes in guidance and so much negativity aimed at the sector, it felt like this was one of the very few positive things that were taking place in my week and I commend the ALLIANCE for making it available.”