Inclusive music charity breaking down communication barriers

A charity is harnessing the power of music to help people with severe disabilities and impairments break down communications barriers – thanks to new funding.

Joy of Sound runs music sessions open to all including older people and people living with learning disabilities, autism, dementia, mental health challenges and long-term physical conditions.

The charity is running weekly sessions in Hackney, Lambeth and Kensington & Chelsea, thanks to a £48,620 grant from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

Joy of Sound avoids the confines of songs with lyrics or sheet music in favour of improvised sessions where participants build their own compositions using rhythm, melody and even silence.

City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson said:

“These sessions have a profound effect, as people who can sometimes find it very hard to communicate can suddenly make a connection with others through music.

“Joy of Sound has over 20 years’ experience and we’re delighted our funding is helping it bring its innovative, inclusive approach to music-making to even more people.”

Sessions are held at St Barnabas Church, in Hackney, on Tuesdays, Portobello Road Salvation Army Hall, in Notting Hill, on Thursdays and St Peter’s Heritage Centre, in Vauxhall, on Fridays.

Participants in the sessions use instruments ranging from the cello, double bass and guitar to wheelchair-accessible marimbas, xylophones and zithers.

Previous City Bridge Trust funding also supported an inter-cultural project where Joy Of Sound commissioned bespoke krars – string instruments traditionally used in Ethiopia and Eritrea, which are especially suited to the group’s work as they can be held and played in a variety of ways.

Joy of Sound Director and Trustee Chris Leeds said:

“Our ethos is to create a non-judgmental space where individual creativity can come out and people can participate independently as equals, building confidence and self-esteem.

“There’s an incredible feeling of exhilaration from making music with others and taking part in a process that doesn't have to use words – it can move you to tears.

“People often come in with their heads down and walk out with their chest out and their head held high, showing an elevated mood.”

More information about Joy of Sound is at www.joyofsound.org

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, awarding grants of over £28 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

Case study: ‘It’s not about what participants can’t do, but what they can do’

Lisa Contucci, from Lambeth, attends Joy of Sound sessions and enjoys playing instruments including a zither with a bespoke assistive strumming device.

Her support worker, Pam, said: “The participants bring their own creative contribution to the table. Lisa is always feeling happy by the end of the session. It’s not about what participants can’t do but what they can do. The session gives everyone a sense of importance and value”

Ricky Clarke, from Kensington, has been attending Joy Of Sound for 14 years. Previously only able to play instruments with support from someone else, he worked with technicians from the Queen Elizabeth Foundation’s Medical Engineering Resource Unit, who produced a specially-designed wheelchair-mounted presentation device.

He is now able to play instruments independently and has seen benefits to his posture, breathing and levels of alertness and physical activity. One of the devices provided also helped him to produce his first artwork.

Joy of Sound participant Sandy from Lambeth said: “I was so moved by the energy in the room. Everyone, including the carers and volunteers, had the opportunity to contribute musically. This went beyond the notion of sound – it was freedom to be acknowledged, recognized, inspired and be fully expressive in a safe environment.”

Picture captions

- Lisa Contucci, from Lambeth plays a zither with a bespoke assistive strumming device

- Ricky Clarke, from Kensington, with the instrument holder that enables him to play independently

- Michael Shore, from Lambeth, playing the xylophone with support worker Moji Babatunde

- Sam and Shaun playing in the circle on mandolin and percussive frame

- City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK –  www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

The City Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge Houses Estates, a charity founded in 1097 to maintain London Bridge, and Members of its Court of Common Council form the Bridge House Estates Board.

Bridge House Estates is now responsible for maintaining Tower, London, Southwark, Millennium and Blackfriars Bridges, and its grants team, City Bridge Trust – founded in 1995 – awards over £28 million a year to good causes across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk


Tim Fletcher | Media officer – public services

City of London Corporation

07738 862229 | tim.fletcher@cityoflondon.gov.uk