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In March this year, Welsh National Opera launched ‘Cradle’, an intergenerational project based in Swansea with a dementia-focus. The ‘Cradle’ project was devised primarily with a mission to gently introduce dementia awareness to primary school children and increase their understanding of what it means to live with the disease and how society can better support those living with it. Secondly, the creation of the Cradle Choir provides a place for those affected by dementia to get together and have fun with friends and family through community singing.
It all began in the classrooms of St Helen’s Primary and Parkland Primary Schools in Swansea where Claire Williamson and Richard Barnard delivered writing and composition workshops to seven to ten year olds. We wanted the children to not only learn about dementia, but also to be able to express what they have learnt and let them show their support and understanding for those that live with the disease. Over 100 local primary school children have taken part in the project.
To help those taking part in the project to understand dementia, we asked a Dementia Friends Coordinator to put on some dementia awareness workshops for the school children, parents and teaching staff of the participating schools.
Alongside our work in the schools, The Cradle Choir began their rehearsals every Tuesday evening in the Taliesin Centre at Swansea University. The group is made up of people who live with dementia, and their friends and families. It was created to be a light-hearted choir of people with all singing abilities – we wanted it to be a joyful experience that the participants could look forward to each week.
Every Tuesday evening Choir Leaders Ros Evans and David Fortey, and pianist, Sian Davies, led the choir through a great range of popular music that everyone knew and could have fun with. David Fortey told us about his experience:
Being one of the choir leaders has been an extremely fun and rewarding experience. I have had the opportunity to meet some lovely people over the last few months. A highlight for me has been seeing and hearing the response from the singers towards some of the music that we have chosen. There are special moments when certain songs really strike a chord and you can see that the sentiment of a song really can have a meaningful connection to somebody. I think the most important thing I’ve learnt from the project is that no matter how many people you bring together from all different walks of life; music is a powerful tool that helps to enrich lives.
The Cradle Choir and the children from the primary schools will come together on 4 July to celebrate their achievements and share the songs they’ve written and learnt since March. They will also be joined with an ensemble of instrumentalists from WNO and two singers from the WNO Chorus. WNO look forward to growing the Cradle project in Swansea and taking it to more areas in the future.
The Cradle project in Swansea is supported by
WNO's Youth, Community and Digital activity is supported by a generous gift from the Garfield Weston Foundation.