Welsh National Opera launches The Cradle Choir in Milford Haven, for people living with dementia in Pembrokeshire

Welsh National Opera are looking to recruit members of a new Choir based in Pembrokeshire as part of an intergenerational project bringing together 96 primary school children from Milford Haven Community Primary School and local people living with dementia.  


The Cradle Choir is being created by WNO to encourage those living with dementia and their families and carers to attend free weekly sessions to sing a range of popular songs with the aim of enjoying a positive experience together through music. The Choir Leader for the sessions will be singer David Fortey (of Only Men Aloud.)  The new choir will rehearse on Monday mornings at the Torch Theatre, Milford Haven from Monday 28 October and will perform with local schoolchildren at a final concert in early July 2020.


As well as benefitting people living with dementia and their families, a further aim of the project is to increase young children’s understanding of dementia. Sessions are already underway with the Year 5 school children, aged 9-10, from Milford Haven. During the project the children will have creative writing sessions with poet, Claire Williamson, considering dementia related themes which will form the basis of a range of new songs which they will later put to music with the composer, Helen Woods. They will also have an age-appropriate Dementia Awareness workshop delivered by PAVS (Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services).  Throughout the project the children will meet people with dementia and get to know members of the new Cradle Choir through visits to local care homes, and will engage in games, arts and crafts together.


The inspiration for the Cradle project came from WNO Youth and Community Producer Jennifer Hill’s own experience of her mother’s illness. Jennifer’s mother died of dementia in October 2017. She was struck by the fact that often an individual’s first encounter with dementia is when someone close to them becomes ill. She said: “I wish I had had a dress rehearsal to better recognise the symptoms and behaviour traits of someone with dementia and have greater knowledge about the kindest and best ways to support someone with the disease, helping them stay engaged with society and feeling of value.  Just small nuggets of knowledge and understanding can bring about huge behavioral change making our communities more dementia-friendly and the lives of those with dementia that little bit easier.”


WNO is delighted to be working closely with a range of partners in Pembrokeshire helping to get the project off the ground including the Torch Theatre, Pembrokeshire County Council, Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services and The Alzheimer’s society.  WNO are also grateful for the financial support of Garfield Weston and the Gwendoline and Margaret Davies Charity.

Peter Doran, Artistic Director at the Torch Theatre said "In 2016/17 the Torch Theatre co-produced Belonging, a show about dementia which toured the country.  The production had a profound effect on not only audiences but with all of us who were involved. Since then dementia has been the focus of a lot of what we do here. Cradle Choir is another new and exciting project which we are delighted to be involved with."


Cherry Evans, Connector for Dementia Supportive Communities at PAVS said: “PAVS are very pleased to support this intergenerational project in Pembrokeshire.  As we connect with our communities and ask them to consider their well-being, we need to ensure we have preventative services to reduce isolation and improve social connectedness.  To enable us to do this, it is important that we look to work in partnership with a range of organisations.  This is a great project to come to Milford Haven, and will help families to have a greater understanding of dementia, through activities that will bring generations together.”


The new Cradle Choir is open to anyone living with the disease and their supporters.  There are no auditions and no costs to take part and singers of absolutely any standard can come along and join in.  There are also opportunities for anyone who may have previous experience of the disease to volunteer to sing along and generally help support those attending.


To find out more and sign up please contact Jennifer Hill, WNO Youth and Community Producer on 02920 635063 or at jennifer.hill@wno.org.uk  

` Welsh National Opera launches The Cradle Choir in Milford Haven, for people living with dementia in Pembrokeshire