Hello there, you interesting soul, you! Good job! You've found my new blog for the Musical Walkabout. Thanks for clicking this, and checking it out.
So, you might have read the About page and the bit about me (Nina, hi!), but you're still not sure where this came from. Let me fill you in, dear reader.
I started playing lounge gigs in Care Homes about four or five years ago. I actually can't recall how this originally began, but certainly I have always enjoyed the company of the elder generation, and my jazz background means, musically, I am steeped in at least some of the kinds of songs my audiences there might like to hear. It was a nice fit, and I found each chance to play at a Care Home an interesting and fun challenge.
The set-up might vary, but usually I'd be sat amongst Residents in the lounge area, sometimes a circle, sometimes more like a performance space, and taking requests from the audience, I'd play and hope to be entertaining, engaging and for the whole thing to be generally enjoyable.
Around two years ago, during one such gig, I noticed that audience numbers were down. Like, significantly. Rather than playing to twenty people, I was playing to four. This wasn't the first time it had turned out this way, though it was the most noticeable drop in attendance. I asked the lovely Activities Organiser about it, and she made a suggestion that would change my musical practice with the elder generation permanently.
She let me know that several people who might usually attend group activities were not up to it presently, but also asked if would I mind turning minstrel for the second half of the hour to have a wander room to room with her and see if people would like to hear some songs from the comfort of their own rooms. I had a big book of tunes, my guitar and my voice. People could suggest songs or ask me to pick one. We talked about their histories and preferences and I got to know Residents in a way I never had before. There was connection.
That first impromptu session was about the most rewarding experience I had ever been blessed to enjoy in such a setting, and it seemed Residents and Staff were similarly charmed by the concept. The power of music to be restorative to those in distress or pain, relaxing to those who need it, and a conduit to memories and emotions for everyone engaged with it is was never more apparent to me than on that day. I don't suppose it was the first, nor shall it be the last time that wandering musicians have felt such an impact. And thus, the Musical Walkabout was born.
Since then I have branched out across Shepway and parts of Kent, exploring, developing and honing my practice. Each session is distinct, a new revelation at every turn. The kindness and humanity I come into contact with every week, from Residents, Staff, Management, Family and Friends is difficult to describe. But I will try in the coming weeks...
In February 2016 I was fortunate enough to be successful in a bid for supplementary funding I made to Arts Council England. This support is a total game-changer for the project and for me, in as much as this project which I cherish is now sustainable for me to deliver, at least for the time being. These blogs are going to tell the story of my experience expanding the Musical Walkabout into smaller homes, reaching more people, hearing about their lives and learning and singing more fabulous songs with and to those people.
Your curiosity and enthusiasm, dear reader, is what will make the difference for this project in the end though, and hopefully what you discover here will inspire you to tell a friend about it. Please do spread the word! The Musical Walkabout evolves through the support of the communities it is welcomed into. Be a part of one of those communities, share your story and your thoughts here and help make a difference in the lives of our participants.
Thanks for your interest! I shall post another blog very soon, so check in again - it's always great to hear from you!
Professional Minstrel, Musical Walkabout