The COVID-19 situation and subsequent lockdowns were a difficult time for all of us, the separation from friends, family, and loved ones affected everyone in different ways. For those living, and working, in care homes, the lockdown was a particularly turbulent and challenging time, as well as for loved ones who were unable to see individuals isolating in care homes and were constantly worrying about their family and friends.  As such we wanted to support and offer a respite to those isolated in care homes, and provide a way to connect individuals in care homes and beyond. The solution…Jukebox Uke! A music and memory project that aimed to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation in care home residents and their family members.

We were honoured to once again commission Mad Alice Theatre Company to support us with this project. Mad Alice Theatre Company, as you may or may not be aware, had previously worked with East Durham Creates during our If These Walls Could Talk project, performing at various bus stops in 2019.

In May 2021, Langley House Care Home,  a retirement and assisted living facility in Horden, was invited to work in partnership with Mad Alice Theatre Company, which had also previously worked with us on If These Walls Could Talk. The JukeBox Uke project had previously been successfully delivered during the pandemic in another care home setting, the outcome of which had been very positive, so it seemed a perfect fit for our community too!

JukeBox Uke provided an individual virtual music and reminiscing session with residents over a period of four sessions over a four-week period. The performances were informed by the residents’ families, who prior to the sessions were involved in sharing key life events of their family members and sharing knowledge about important family recollections, memories and information to be used in each session.

The Mad Alice Theatre Company led 10 sessions, engaging and performing to 36 care home residents.  Members of the Jukebox Uke rehearsed songs chosen by the residents and played them live over Zoom, often it had been years since the residents had least heard the music played.  The music ranged from Deadwood Stage from The Calamity Jane musical to Elvis!

During the reminiscing sessions, residents were invited to share any messages they wanted to send to their families. The sessions were recorded and with consent, shared with key family members, so the care home and family could share the residents experience post-session, as well as residents being able to relive the experience too if they wanted to.  Often family members need reassurance about how the family member manages in the care home, especially during the challenging effects of lockdown residents can appear agitated or hard to engage with.  The sessions demonstrated to families that the residents do have times when they are more settled and able to engage creatively and bring back good memories.

“The whole experience from start to finish was just brilliant.The shift in the residents mood after our sessions was second to none.  Following our sessions, the residents where happy to chat about memories our sessions had brought to the fore front of their minds. I’ve seen it now first hand, through this project, how the power of music can really help people suffering with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Fantastic group of people to work with and the way you all worked with our residents at Langley House was outstanding. Thankyou for everything. “

Valerie Cuthbert -Activities Coordinator Langley House Care Home

The Jukebox Uke commission was chosen by our incredible community panel, a group of East Durham locals including teachers, community centre managers, councillors, artists, facilitators who help make decisions on the running of East Durham Creates. It was only made possible thanks to additional funding via Arts Council England from Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to address social isolation and loneliness as we moved out of the pandemic.

Residents Feedback:

“Memories have been brought back to me of lovely times, well done “

“It has been a pleasure to meet you “

“I would like one day to meet you in person, this has meant so much to me “

“Well done my friends”

If you are feeling lonely, isolated or would like to have someone to talk to, East Durham Trust have a FREE befriending service called CHIT CHAT and you can sign up to receive a call from one of our volunteers who are trained to listen and support. ​For more information contact Colin Jackson on: 0191 5693511 or email: colin.jackson@eastdurhamtrust.org.uk