THOUGHTISM: THE WELLBEING BENEFITS OF MUSIC
Supporting people with disabilities and mental health ensures that everyone has a space to express their creativity. We think the arts are a great way to reduce social isolation, to gain confidence and to learn new skills! Nigel Lyons is an independent arts practitioner and a highly experienced Health and Care Professions Council registered professional, who has spent over 10 years managing and developing community residential settings for people with complex needs or significant behavioural support needs. For the past five years, Nigel has been making and recording music recording with people with Autism, learning disabilities and mental health here at The Old Courts. So, why is this important? For members of Nigel’s group, working this way has been transformational. “Since I’ve met Nigel, everything’s turned around. He’s encouraged me to get into drumming again, which was always my passion before being ill and he’s introduced me to a new way of looking at life in general. Music’s helped me a lot expressing myself, I didn’t have an outlet, obviously with suffering with depression and anxiety and getting my head round my illness, yeah, I had no outlet so just on the creative side, being allowed to do what I love doing in a safe environment and feeling like I’m part of something again, it’s just enriched my life completely.” – Participant. It is difficult for people with complex needs to access professional music making experiences in recording studios. Here, we welcome everybody’s personal experiences and develop skills, so when the group writes music together, it’s about the real-life experiences that are relevant to all of us. “The main benefit for the members of the group is social. The sessions are always motivational and very rewarding. These are the kind of benefits that ultimately help to improve people’s health and because we focus on what they want to do in the sessions, it gives them control and agency, which is also important for their wellbeing. When people have barriers to cross, creativity gives them a voice.” – Nigel Lyons, session leader. Nigel produces at least one song per session with his clients, so the achievements are quick and tangible. In the past, the group have produced and distributed their own Christmas album and would be looking to share their work more widely in the future. “We have no judgementalism in our sessions, there’s methods and means of working with people’s challenges that can be incorporated into the music. We’re not there to produce something perfect, everything’s quick and fast and fun!” The group has utilised a studio at The Old Courts for five years and we support Nigel and the group with subsidised rent so that they have a space that they can call their own. Working alongside Nigel and his group each week reminds us of the power of arts and culture to create, engage and inspire and to do this inclusively, to enrich lives and to provide hope.