Alison Jones, Artistic Director of Shapeshifter Productions reports on how her charity’s online sing-a-long sessions are reaching thousands of people who are isolated because of Covid-19.

Last month we were delighted to launch the second series of our remote Smiling Sessions; a participatory singing experience targeted at anyone who feels cut off because of Covid-19. Our project harnesses the power of music and singing to combat loneliness and isolation and support mental health during the pandemic. Previously, our team of professional musicians delivered 688 live singing sessions, reaching 2,150 care homes and sheltered housing residents across the UK. Since mid-March, with our housing partners and many other people isolated, our Smiling Sessions have gone virtual, reaching thousands of people of all ages.

Released every Monday, our Sessions feature celebrity guest performers and a range of popular songs that trigger memories and lift spirits. Each Session comes with on-screen lyrics and are accessible to everyone via our easy to use online app and also as downloadable links and mp3s. Series one reached approximately 750 residents across London and the South East and since the YouTube channel went live in March, we have had nearly 8000 views. Series Two will produce another 15 songs to add to our eclectic video jukebox, taking viewers up to Christmas.

Among the celebrities lined up to take part in our second series are KT Tunstall, Brian McFadden, Chris Difford, Alfie Boe, Hollyoaks actress Twinnie and Merrill Osmond.

With the effects of Covid-19 still very much with us, it's more important than ever to reach out to everyone who may still be isolated; to support their wellbeing and mental health. Music and singing have always been a great means of raising spirits and keeping people of all ages healthy. Now more and more research is showing the power of music to heal the brain, the imagination and the heart. Without regular human contact or stimulating, life-affirming events to enjoy, many people are still confined and feeling even more lonely and disconnected.

We want to raise awareness of the power of song and the impact singing has on health, wellbeing and mindfulness, no matter what your age may be. We also want to build an awareness with the public of the terrible isolation many people are still experiencing. With the link between music participation and improved emotional wellbeing well documented, we believe that regular participatory music programmes should be considered essential for all UK care homes.

Click on the links for more information on the Smiling Sessions  or to download the Smiling Sessions app.