Our residents at Brentwood Care Centre, Essex, have formed a special relationship with the presenters of Basildon Hospital Radio, BHR 1287. On the last Wednesday of each month, residents pick their most-loved songs to hear them played in a live request show put on especially for them.
“The staff at Brentwood Care Centre asked us if we could broadcast a dedicated show for their residents, and we thought it was a brilliant idea” — Jacqui James, Chairman, Basildon Hospital Radio
The collaboration initially came about as part of Dementia Action Week in May 2018 and has been a monthly fixture for our residents ever since. Following the first show, which was marked by a 1950s party in the home, staff from our residential dementia and nursing care home visited the hospital’s patients to join in with their tea parties.
A lucky few also got the chance to present the patients’ song requests in a three-hour joint show between BHR 1287 and another local radio station, Gateway 97.8 FM.
As well as the monthly show being a hugely enjoyable event that our residents look forward to, our staff members have noticed many other benefits our residents gain from the personalised touch and from knowing their contributions are valued: a room full of musical memories encourages active minds and active bodies.
The Radio Request Show & Tea Party is also one of many events in our continued plan to tackle the blight of loneliness among the elderly in the wider community. As part of this campaign, we have an open invitation to anyone outside of the home who would like to join us, even if they only want to pop in for a few hours for some company accompanied by timeless classics and delicious refreshments.
On the 24th of October 2018, members of the radio team, who have been taking requests for the last six months, visited Brentwood Care Centre so they could put faces to names before the residents’ next show aired on Halloween. Continuing with the 1950s theme, the home threw another party.
We welcomed Chairman Jacqui James, Presenter Harry Doyle, and Presenter & Training Officer Angie McGlashon, who do a magnificent job in regularly entertaining and lifting the spirits of patients at Basildon Hospital. As the radio team arrived, our residents were already up and dancing, and singing along to songs playing over the wireless.
“We ask the residents why they picked a particular song so that the stories behind their choices can be told on air” — Alison Rankin, Activities Coordinator, Brentwood Care Centre
The memories behind our residents’ most-loved songs are fond ones, and the stories behind their choices have made for fascinating listening for both our staff and the Basildon Hospital Radio team.
“The residents were absolutely delightful. We had a good chat, and they told us all about themselves. We came back from the home full of energy; the staff at Brentwood Care Centre do a wonderful job" — Jacqui James, Chairman, Basildon Hospital Radio
Before television, there was radio
With each request show that takes to the airways, residents gather around the radio for a tea party, just as they used to many years ago before television was commonplace in homes across Great Britain. In a world of digital streaming at your fingertips, it's hard to imagine a world where the radio was the only source of entertainment. Yet, in the residents’ younger days, it was only the rich who could afford a TV set, and it was only the even richer who could afford a TV set in colour.
“We get a lot of joy out of it. We all get into it and sing along” — Eileen Williams, resident at Brentwood Care Centre, Essex
The show brings much joy to both our residential dementia and nursing residents. At RCH, our events are for everyone, and we never forget those who are bed-bound or less mobile, much to Eileen’s delight: “It’s lovely to see the big smiles on people’s faces, especially the more immobile residents who are brought into the lounge for the party”.
East End girl Eileen, 91, usually picks a song by another famous East End girl, Dame Vera Lynn. The Dame’s 1943 hit, You’ll Never Know, has been one of Eileen’s most cherished songs since WWII. With its heartfelt lyrics, the song is based on a poem written by a young Oklahoma war bride named Dorothy Fern Norris for her beau who was away on duty.
Eileen has even been known to pick up the mic and give it a bash herself; her impromptu karaoke sessions bring joy in abundance to both residents and staff.
John Wharton, 98, was 18 years old when he was called upon to work as a marine engineer at the Port of Southampton during WWII.
Eunice Cole, 87, plumps for Under the Apple Tree by The Andrew Sisters: “They were a great trio. When I was evacuated, there was a huge Bramley apple tree in the garden that we used to sit under and sing this song”.
Eunice's auntie must have had a premonition about the then-unknown dangers of the sun's UV rays: "Auntie wouldn't let us sit in the sun, so we had to sit under the tree. The blossom was beautiful".
Another East End wartime favourite, Knees Up Mother Brown, a staple fixture in any good old cockney knees up, brings back warm memories for Gwen Stennett, 88. “We used to dance to this! Whenever there was a party, this song would be played”, she proudly exclaims when her tune comes on the radio. Now, Gwen favours something that’s a little easier on her legs than tearing up the dancefloors of London’s East End: knitting.
Although, whenever there’s a party on in the home, Gwen is sure to put her needles and wool down momentarily in order to show us how it’s done: “I can’t dance like I used to, but I still give it a go!”.
“It’s nice for the residents as all their memories come back, and they reminisce with each other” — Judy Wick, Activities Coordinator, Brentwood Care Centre
Rock, pop, easy listening and folk
One mention of Elvis and Hazel Williams, 96, goes weak at the knees. Hazel delves deep into the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s back catalogue for her requests. She can often be found in the Cinema Room at the home, swooning over the man himself on the big screen.
As a big Beatles fan, John Hicks, 81, has a soft spot for John Lennon’s 1971 song Imagine, the title track from Lennon's second solo album since the break-up of the Fab Four in 1970. Ex-Beatle John’s plea for world peace sits nicely with our John, who describes the lyrics as “lovely words”.
Margaret Kavanagh, 80, fondly known as ‘Peggy’, was born and raised in Ireland. So what else better to request than the beloved Irish ballad, Danny Boy?
Peggy’s fondness for this song lies in her Irish roots and memories of her husband singing it to her. “Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling” – Peggy can always be heard singing along. John Hicks and the other Beatles fans at Brentwood Care Centre are no strangers to the sound of John Lennon, often bursting into a spur-of-the-moment version of Danny Boy from The Beatles’ 1970 album, Let It Be.
Beryl Welch, 90, goes for the smooth-as-velvet voice of Nat King Cole, and dedicates his 1956 recording of When I Fall in Love to someone very special to her: “It reminds me of how much I love my husband”.
“It’s lovely to you see their faces when their song comes on. An old song can bring back so many happy memories. The members of the Basildon Hospital Radio team are very dedicated to what they do” — Jacqui James, Chairman, Basildon Hospital Radio.
Whenever Beryl Beard, 89, is seen around the home, you can almost guarantee you will hear her imitating Judy Garland and singing a song from The Wizard of Oz. Her singing is so infectious that the Brentwood staff can't resist joining in.
Clive Gordon, 78, also goes for an American film star and singer of the same era who reached fame at an early age, Doris Day. He reminisces about the 96-year-old’s many talents: “She was a great actress and singer”.
To our delight, when the parties get started at our Brentwood Care Centre, we often discover that we have some great singers of our own.
If you’d like to hear the dulcet tones of our residents singing along to their favourite songs, the staff and residents of Brentwood Care Centre would love to see you between 11am-1pm on the last Wednesday of every month.
So, whether you’re a loved one of a resident, a fan of the show and old-time music, or would just like some company while you listen to great songs, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the home on 01277 375 316 or pop into the care home in Larchwood Gardens, Pilgrims Hatch. Our events are always free to attend.
You can also listen to both the songs requested by our residents and the stories behind them by tuning in online to BHR 1287.