Helen and Swell Music

Helen Hayes had been working as a freelance music-for-wellbeing facilitator for two years when the Covid 19 pandemic hit.

The positive impact of music on people living with conditions such as Dementia or Parkinson’s and other groups such as children with SEND, seemed even more magnified, now that many people were shielding.  It would have been easy to give up during the first lockdown but instead, Helen began to think creatively about how she could reach out and help people during this difficult time.  She started to offer online activities via her YouTube channel, Sing with Helen. The word soon spread and Helen found herself producing digital resources for a variety of organisations.  In August 2020, with the support of Community Catalysts and Lloyds Bank SSE, she decided to set up Swell Music CIC with the aim of providing music-for-health-and-wellbeing interventions to vulnerable members of the community.

“I have worked for many years as a musician, teacher and also manager and facilitator in the music world.  When I went freelance as a music-for-wellbeing practitioner in 2018, I was already well-connected and could use all the skills I had gained over the years to get myself established.  I had some experience of working with people affected by dementia and autistic children and I just knew that I could make a positive difference to people’s lives by doing this work.  In the space of two years, I had undertaken dementia awareness training courses, become an Associate Member of Sing to Beat Parkinson’s and a qualified Singing for Lung Health Practitioner accredited by British Lung Foundation.  I was leading singing groups for local dementia projects, offering bespoke music workshops for groups with specific needs, working with a local mental health project and had established a community singing group and ukulele group in my village hall! 

The most rewarding aspect of this work is seeing how people come to life when they engage with music-making in a safe, social setting- with additional benefits for carers too.  It is great to see social connections coming out of the music groups and I am very happy to see people gain in confidence and friendships develop between people who are local to each other.”

Helen’s future vision for Swell Music

“I believe that one of the positives coming out of the pandemic has been a greater appreciation of the benefits of the arts and creativity on our health and wellbeing. Since Swell Music began, we have been offering online and pre-recorded sessions; the online sessions that I have been offering have had a really good take up and it is so rewarding to know that I have offered a lifeline to many people throughout this pandemic.  Sometimes, people log onto Zoom feeling anxious and low and after ten minutes, I can see such an improvement in their functioning.  Providing a safe and supportive space to engage in musical activity has shown me how much people can benefit from this service. I am so looking forward to a time when we can start meeting our participants in person and see people connecting and enjoy making music together with our support.”