Group for dementia sufferers excited to reopen after 'challenging' year

Lily Brewer with her daughter Cathy Pace

Lily Brewer with her daughter Cathy Pace enjoy Having Singing for the Brain musical sessions - Credit: Havering Singing for the Brain

A singing group for people with dementia and their carers is gearing up to reopen its doors this month. 

Havering Singing for the Brain hopes to hold its first session since December on June 23, following what organisers called a “challenging time” for their members. 

Ken Clarke & Pamela Marshall (volunteer) jiving in the middle of the circle (pre Covid-19)

Ken Clarke and volunteer Pamela Marshall jiving in the middle of the circle (pre Covid-19) - Credit: Havering Singing for the Brain

Founder Ben Hawley told this paper: “I’m concerned about people being diagnosed and their carers not knowing what to do.

“Isolation is the worst thing for people with dementia, you’ve really got to get them out.

"Our sessions give carers a break and provide an opportunity to meet like-minded people.” 


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Ben, who has helped run the group since 2019, lost his wife Janet to dementia two years ago, age 72. 

He explained meetings with Alzheimer's Society, which funded Havering Singing for the Brain before the group became independent in 2020, supported him following her diagnosis. 

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“Over the years I’ve built up a lot of support," he said.

“When she died, I was absolutely devastated - I was lost and would have crumbled without the groups’ support.” 

Margaret Newbon & her daughter Annie

Margaret Newbon and her daughter Annie enjoying the sessions at the end of last year - Credit: Havering Singing for the Brain

Group organiser Lisa Clifton agreed the group’s support offered a lifeline to people living with dementia and their families. 

She said: “People have been ringing me since January asking when we’re going to reopen. 

“We’re all chomping at the bit to get the sessions going again.” 

Lisa, who began volunteering following her father Fred’s death from Alzheimer's in 2012, took on a paid role with the group last year, calling members during lockdown and checking they had everything they needed. 

“I was just seeing if anyone needed anything, and letting people know that I could help them with stuff,” she explained. 

Dee Watts standing with volunteers Steve Williams and Lisa Clifton (pre-Covid-19)

Dee Watts standing with volunteers Steve Williams and Lisa Clifton (pre-Covid-19) - Credit: Havering Singing for the Brain

When clients sadly passed away, Lisa helped to pass on details of their funeral and video links to other members. 

“It really helped with closure,” she added. 

Before lockdown, Havering Singing for the Brain ran three sessions per week in different parts of the borough, but at present only one will resume. 

Lisa stressed the group needed funding for the other two locations, to run the musical groups and provide refreshments from dementia sufferers and their carers. 

Donations can be made here: https://gogetfunding.com/socialmusic-groups-for-people-with-dementia-and-their-carers/

People interested in joining Havering Singing for the Brain can find the group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/haveringsingingforthebrain2020/

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