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TV's Vicky McClure: everyone diagnosed with dementia should have music therapy

Line of Duty and Trigger Point star Vicky McClure has called for all those diagnosed with dementia to have access to music therapy.

In 2019, Vicky starred in a two-part BBC documentary Our Dementia Choir, which explored the vital link between music and dementia.

Around 850,000 people in the UK are living with some form of dementia, and many more are affected indirectly. Although progress is being made, any cure is unlikely to come quick enough to help these people – and so it’s essential is to find the best way of living with dementia.

The choir took part in a ground-breaking scientific study to measure their emotional and physical responses to singing over three months of regular sessions, culminating with a live performance at a packed Royal Concert Hall.

Vicky had been inspired to join the BBC documentary after the death of her Nanna Iris from vascular dementia, just four years earlier. She had helped care for her and saw firsthand how music helped calm her.

“It was a real shock to me, when we got the death certificate, to see that she had died of vascular dementia. That was the first that I realised you could die from dementia, sounds like a silly thing to say but it is such a confusing disease. When it comes into your world, you start to learn more about it.”

“When we came to the end of filming Our Dementia Choir, it became very apparent that I was never going to turn round and say, well, thanks for exposing your lives and being so honest and then leave them to go away and carry on. It felt like the right thing to do, and with lots of support from the media, lots of people, and Karen who now runs the charity, it’s allowed us to carry on.”

“I will never stop being amazed by and proud of this brilliant group of people,” said choir leader Angela. “They grab every challenge with both hands and they never disappoint.”

At a special performance in Beeston Ward Garden at Nottingham’s City Hospital, organised and funded by Nottingham Hospitals Charity, Vicky joined choir members, old and new, for a fun-filled concert in the sunshine.

“We’ve got lots of incredible new members, we’ve sadly lost members which is heart-breaking and yet inevitable,” said Vicky. “There’s lots of ambition for Our Dementia Choir, and there are lots of people who don’t live in the city who would like to be part of it and I would love nothing more than for this to be available for everyone - music therapy should be available to absolutely everyone who receives a diagnosis.”

“We need more than ever, more research, more people, more finance, more everything, we are so behind and we have so much to do. Events like this, bringing two charities together, is really important to me, because you don’t know what will come from it.

“There’s a stigma there, and a pride, it is very difficult for people to go the doctors and ask for help knowing that they might get that diagnosis.

“We need to break down that stigma; there is so much research and help that we need from the government. It’s desperate now, because we are living longer and people are getting diagnosed much younger.

"Our Dementia Choir is a brilliant example of how we can live well with dementia, how long people live with it. We can’t give people a diagnosis and then say, there you go, just struggle your way through for however long.

“The choir is an inspirational group of people that show there are ways of living well. It’s not just music, this is a community now and they rely very heavily on each other, and I’m very proud that we’ve been going so long.”

It’s been a busy few years, but Our Dementia Choir isn’t slowing down; it registered as a charity almost a year ago and is now in the capable hands of Karen Bonser, whose husband Mick was in the very first show, having been diagnosed with dementia at 51, and continues to sing in the choir.

“A charity is a very complicated thing to do but because of people like Karen, and the support we have around us, we’ve moved mountains,” said Vicky. “I’d hope that in the next 12 months we remain in a very stable condition and we keep our funding as best we can – that’s the most important thing.

“I want everyone to have access to singing therapy. Sadly, I can’t see it being achieved in the next 12 months. But I can see it being achieved.”

So what would Iris have made of Our Dementia Choir?

“My Nanna loved lots of music, Gene Pitney was one of her favourites. She was a very lively, bright, bubbly woman and she’d have loved this.

“They’re all dripping in red and that was her favourite colour – that’s the reason we have red. She has left a real legacy and I am really proud of her.”

 

For a snapshot of the afternoon, please watch here: Vicky McClure and Our Dementia Choir perform at Nottingham City Hospital for Dementia Action Week - YouTube

To find out more about the choir, to join, or to make a donation, please visit: Home | Our Dementia Choir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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