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Belfast carers write song and enjoy a well-earned break through music project

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Paul Kane, music and older peoples manager at the
Oh yeah Music Centre; Margaret McCrudden, manager of Newington Day centre; and carer Marie Shearan

Paul Kane, music and older peoples manager at the Oh yeah Music Centre; Margaret McCrudden, manager of Newington Day centre; and carer Marie Shearan

Paul Kane, music and older peoples manager at the Oh yeah Music Centre; Margaret McCrudden, manager of Newington Day centre; and carer Marie Shearan

Careers from Belfast are using music as a way to enjoy some me-time and take a break from looking after their loved ones.

As part of the Carers' Music Fund project, the city's Oh Yeah Centre is working with a group of women connected to Newington Day Centre.

While the women's loved ones are cared for in one room, the carers gather in another room to work on music.

They have now formed a choir and written their own song called Hey Girl.

Among the choir's members is Marie Shearan from the Cliftonville area of north Belfast.

The 69-year-old worked for 51 years, including 17 at the Mater hospital as a receptionist, before being forced to give up to look after her husband Bernard (70).

"I worked in the Mater hospital and when I came out I needed a knee operation, but as you know you're put on the long finger for that," she said.

"I'm also my husband's carer. My husband attends Newington Day Centre Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

"When I came out of work, those were my wee respite days when I could get things done at home and sit and look out into the garden, which I used to be able to do, but I can't do it at the minute.

"I've got a spirit within me that wants to do things. That can be frustrating.

"Margaret McCrudden, who runs the centre, would take us down to wee carers' things, (like going) to garden centres or dances in the club. You start to feel better about yourself.

"My husband would be on a breathing machine at night and with that I couldn't really go away anywhere.

"I didn't want to anyway because there was nobody that could stay with him."

Marie and Bernard will celebrate their 24th wedding anniversary in August but, because they have no children and only a small extended family, Marie will have primary responsibility for looking after her husband.

"I would care for him and watch the way he's presented going out," she said.

"I have to help him get in and out. He can't cross the road and there's a lot of things going on health-wise.

"I take him to all hospital appointments and I'm always there for him.

"However, Margaret opened up something for him by letting him in to the club.

"He's getting lovely food down there and he's meeting other people. It's brought him out of himself more. It's a relaxed atmosphere."

Newington Day Centre manager Margaret McCrudden said: "Carers are the unpaid heart and soul of our health service. Newington Day Centre has a unique community who value carers.

"To continue this important work, we have been awarded £326,750 from the National Lottery Community Fund over the next four years."

Paul Kane from the Oh Yeah Centre added: "This project is one of the most innovative I have worked on in my 10 years with Oh Yeah.

"It is focused on female carers, people who rarely get the opportunity to participate in music-based or other arts projects because they have such commitments to their loved ones.

"The project also runs alongside a parallel aspect where the carers' loved ones avail of a music project in the same venue.

"This frees them up and reduces both stress and worry. They even named themselves the Strong Women Choir.

"We went on to de-construct several famous songs, which led directly to the ladies writing their own song, which will be recorded shortly inside a professional studio.

"I have had the privilege to witness the bonding of this group of carers.

"I've seen first-hand an increase in their confidence and a real enjoyment at their successes in both singing and writing.

"Their energy, engagement and smiles speak volumes. I think by having their song recorded we will all have a real and lasting legacy to this project."

Belfast Telegraph