Thank you for the music!

Music therapy charity The Spitz Charitable Trust celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. General manager Thom Rowlands shares how the charity uses the joy of live music to transform peoples’ lives

The Spitz, which was born at an iconic music venue of the same name in East London, became a charity on 12 December 2013.

Over the last 10 years their musicians, including some of those who performed at the original venue, have been providing intimate, participatory sessions for those who need them most, from babies in intensive care to people who’ve suffered brain injuries and those receiving end-of-life care.

The Spitz has been based at Bridgeside Lodge Care Home in Islington since 2018, where it has brought countless moments of joy and connection to residents. The charity also serves other care homes, as well as day centres and hospitals.

“There’s rarely that much of a plan,” general manager Thom Rowlands, told us. “The musicians will go and see who is around and spend time with them. It’s very organic.

“We work with small groups of five or six residents or can go to residents’ rooms if they are bed bound. It could be just a few songs or we can also have a bit of a chat if they need to have a bit of a whine because they are in a bad mood that day. That’s what we are there for.”

Bridgeside carer Asma Sharif said: “I know the residents like the music and are always asking when the next session is happening. Some of them love to sing. It makes them really happy. We see their mood change when they listen to the music. They calm down if they are in a bad mood.”

As well as providing joy to residents, Rowlands said the interactive sessions also benefit families.  

“Family members find seeing their nan dance and having a great time brings them a lot of comfort,” Rowlands said. “It can help with some of the guilt families can feel when putting their mum in a care home.

Benefits from the sessions are also felt by carers.

“If someone has had a music session in the morning they are in a better mood and more receptive to care,” Rowlands explained. “There’s not that friction when you are trying to help them wash or eat. They are more co-operative.

“Also, if residents are more receptive to eating and drinking, they tend to have fewer falls as their balance is better when they are hydrated.”

The Spitz has received NHS funding for the past two years in recognition of the preventative care and therapeutic benefits it provides.

“That felt like a real validation of the work we are doing,” Rowlands noted.

Looking back on the major milestones and highlights of its first decade, Rowlands picked out a recent BBC Breakfast feature on the charity. The Spitz was also honoured with an award from the Mayor of London in 2019.

The charity will continue to mark its 10th anniversary over the coming months with an album of original songs by residents planned, as well as a concert to celebrate its work featuring many of its past and present musicians.

“We are not limiting it to one day, we are making it a six-month celebration,” Rowlands said.

To further mark turning 10, The Spitz is launching a new website and PR campaign to raise awareness of its pioneering work and running a new crowdfunding campaign this year. 

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