A local charity is adapting to life under lockdown by bringing music and performance right into the homes of some of Cumbria’s most vulnerable people – thanks to a National Lottery cash boost of £21,000.
Before the spread of covid-19, ‘Sunbeams’ provided gigs and music therapy sessions, to 2,500 disabled children and adults with multiple and complex needs, through dozens of live music workshops, in over 50 different locations, each month.
Now, with restrictions causing the closure of care homes and community venues across the country, and with many of its regular attendees especially vulnerable to the virus, Sunbeams is using online services to stream songs directly into disabled people’s living spaces.
Eight specially-trained community musicians are recording videos of music workshops and performances – from their own homes, in self-isolation – and uploading these to the charity’s new ‘Sunbeams Recordings’ YouTube account, for the safe enjoyment of those who would normally attend their live sessions but are now shielding.
The project, designed to help alleviate feelings of loneliness among Cumbria’s disabled community, is supported by a £21,000 grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.
Harrison Holmes is a regular attendee at Sunbeams. Since the spread of Covid-19, a pre-existing lung condition means he must remain isolated. However, this has not stopped Harrison from enjoying and contributing to Sunbeams’ music sessions – recording his own performances. According to his mother, Jo, Harrison is “in his element” receiving “lovely messages” from newly acquired fans who have watched his videos online.
She added: “The Sunbeams YouTube account during lockdown has been my son’s saviour. He has found the whole lockdown very challenging. With his additional needs, his anxiety has been through the roof at times. The only thing that gets him through is his music. Sunbeams YouTube is his absolute favourite. Harrison’s all-time goal in life is to make people happy and put a smile on everyone’s face. We cannot express enough how grateful we are as a family for the continuous support we have received from Sunbeams. Thankyou.”
Set up by local harpist, Annie Mawson, in 2014 Sunbeams achieved national chart-topping status, after renowned choirmaster Gareth Malone chose them to feature in his charity single for Children in Need.
Commenting on how Sunbeams has adapted under lockdown, Annie said: “Sunbeams is so grateful to the National Lottery, and to all the players throughout the country, as their funding means we can still deliver music therapy through our virtual Sunbeams YouTube Channel for our vulnerable beneficiaries with disabilities, young and old alike.
As lockdown continues, recent research reveals that disabled adults are significantly more likely (35%) than non-disabled adults (20%) to feel they are spending too much time alone. Mawson described how some of Sunbeams’ regulars struggled to understand lockdown measures, feeling they were ‘being punished’.
Annie added: “They can access their favourite songs recorded by our dedicated Sunbeams musicians, themselves working in social isolation, so that they know we are still here for them. The impact will be to hopefully improve the emotional and mental health and well-being of our beneficiaries and reduce their feelings of isolation. They can access our online music workshops any time of the day, and still know and believe that Sunbeams really is their ‘lifeline’ – thanks to the National Lottery.”
Duncan Nicholson, Head of Funding for North East & Cumbria at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “Thanks to National Lottery players, we’re able to support organisations like Sunbeams to find innovative ways to keep Cumbria’s communities connected and reach those who need the most help. In these unsettling times, it’s heartening to see the new ways in which communities are bringing together people who, for health reasons, must stay physically apart.”
The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Almost £120 million of National Lottery funding has gone to over 4,500 community projects across the UK since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. Last year it awarded £1.4 million a day on average to projects that help people and communities thrive. 90% of the grants it makes are for under £10,000 – going to grassroots groups and charities across the UK that are bringing to life amazing ideas that matter to their communities.