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An Interview with: Caroline Pheasey, Rochdale Borough Council

Music in Mind
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Caroline has been an ardent support of Music in Mind since she first heard about our programme. As a Care Market Training Coordinator for Adult Care and Support on behalf of Rochdale Borough Council, Caroline felt our programme would be hugely beneficial for the local community. As well as helping to implement Music in Mind in Rochdale, Caroline also trained to be a Music Champion herself, and continues to deliver music sessions in her local area.

We were delighted that she was able to take the time out of her busy schedule to speak with us and give us more insight into her own experiences with Music in Mind and the Music Champions programme, along with the impacts it has had on her personally and in Rochdale.

How did you first hear about and get involved in Music in Mind?

It was fairly early on in my new job role. I attended a local health and Social Care learning event about Dementia in Rochdale about dementia care offers in the borough. Part of my role is working on the integrated health and social agenda, as well as supporting care providers to deliver their care and support to a high quality. The pilot project for Music Champions was announced at the meeting and we really wanted to be a part of it, so I connected with Jill Taylor (Partnerships Manager at Music in Mind) to understand more about the project and what, if anything, I could do to help support it.

I’ve lived and worked in Rochdale all my life, with a few little sabbatical jobs out into Manchester, so this meant I had great connections in the borough. After some perseverance we were able to get right combination of care homes on board, and with some creative thinking we were also able to engage the community to provide a weekly Music Café too.

Once you’d decided to become a Music Champion yourself, how did you find the training? Was it what you expected?

It didn’t really feel like training at all – it was just a lot of fun! I was also hugely admiring of what was happening in front of me, the talent of the music therapist and the Camarata musician. Just amazing people to take us through the training.

As well as understanding what being a Music Champion was about, we were also trying to integrate into a group that Rochdale Mind already had, which was very multicultural and had language barriers as well, so that added a whole new dimension to our learning. By about week five though we’d found our flow, and we were building our confidence. We’d come to understand as a group where each of our strengths and weaknesses lay and we were almost able to pass an invisible baton to each other as we progressed through the sessions. While we still defaulted a lot to the practitioners guiding our training, it was really special when these intuitive moments happened.

What key learnings have you taken away from the training?

I always come back to the phrase ‘the power of music’. It’s been a method of communication shared between the different cultures that make up our group. We’ve had fun and we’ve had jokes just through the music, irrespective of language barriers, and that has been quite special for me.

Each different cultural background has their own unique insight and connection to music, and we’ve been able to bring that into the mix and experience the joy each person has in sharing their heritage with us. It was beautiful to see. Another one of our Music Champions also had previously done some dance and movement and she was able to bring elements of that into the group and was so animated by how she was able to do this.

The primary driver is to create together, not just to perform to. I remind myself of this at every session. Although I might have my own talent, playing the flute, the sessions aren’t about people having to listen to me, to any of us; they’re about us working together and picking up and developing our own rhythm.

It sounds like the structure of the programme has been quite flexible, to allow you to adapt it to your specific group – did you feel that?

I was pleasantly surprised with the flexibility that the programme and training did allow and with the creative space that was able to appear. I've delivered several other evidence-based Community programmes before and because they've been evidence based, they've had to be delivered in a very deliberate, exacting way. So, it was quite liberating not to have so many limitations and restrictions put on it, and instead allowing more of yourself into it.

I would like more of the multicultural aspects to be able to come through for other Champions though, giving them the confidence to adapt their sessions for this and feeling empowered to do so, because we appreciate that contribution and I’m sure the group members do as well. We recognised that some of the original supplied music didn’t work for our group – there were rhythms and tunes that they didn’t recognise – but we’ve been able to start to expand this.

After the Camarata musicians and therapists have concluded their training, do you and other Music Champions in Rochdale feel like you will be able to continue?

Absolutely. We’ve already run several sessions on our own! The first week I think was quite daunting, but we did it and we were determined that we were going to do it. Then I had to miss the next one and I missed a really good one, apparently! It’s really encouraging because that early fear hasn't got to us. We’ve reached the point where we all recognise the different strengths and skills we bring, and that’s the power of the training.

If Music in Mind continues in Rochdale, what sort of impacts do you think it might have on the borough as a whole?

I think it needs to extend across Rochdale. It feels almost uncomfortable that only a select group have been able to be involved so far. I was really heartened to hear the other day, though a separate conversation, someone singing the praises of Music in Mind being in the care home of one of their relatives.

Carrying on is the ambition and I’m open to conversations and suggestions on how we can build capacity and get more people involved so it can be rolled our further and in lots of different settings. I’d just love to see more music support for dementia, allowing people to interact with music in different ways to just listening to a CD, really being involved in an individual way.

I feel very, very privileged to have been able to be part of Music in Mind. I'm very keen to keep it going both as a Music Champion and in my professional day job, to do what I can to influence us being able to expand it further. I do feel that the enrichment is very good, especially for people who are in residential settings. I think if you're already accessing some community groups and you're travelling to that, then you've got the capacity to find that variability for yourself and test out what group setting kind of works for you, but when you're in a residential care setting that variety has to be brought into the setting. I think we need as much variety and versatility of enrichment as we can offer. I know this is certainly something that's coming up in more and more for me in, in my professional role. I now look forward to seeing Music in Mind continue to grow!