THE pandemic has hit charities hard, and their beneficiaries even harder. But Good Vibrations, an award-winning national charity, using communal music-making to support people with complex needs, has throughout lockdown, developed creative ways to stay connected with the communities it supports.
The charity’s innovative work has become even more crucial during the lockdown as it works with vulnerable and marginalised people in prisons, mental health hospitals and community settings. Many within these groups are already isolated for much of the time, with prisoners in England often being confined alone in their cell for 23 hours a day.
Supported by its funders, Good Vibrations has not hibernated, as many charities have been forced to do. It has adapted, found a positive opportunity within the crisis, and unlocked a flood of creativity. Instead of large group face to face music projects, it has devised a range of alternative activities and content – largely online – that are all about stimulating connection, creativity, learning and reflection.
Good Vibrations has created programs, blogs, podcasts, new music, artistic challenges, films, and shared them on radio, online, and by post with participants and the public across the UK. Examples include an Introduction to Gamelan film, a poem inspired by gamelan written and performed by a former project participant, a song inspired by lockdown, a make-shift gamelan out of kitchen items to encourage those who don’t have access to the instruments to get involved at home, a relaxing radio program on gamelan and self-care to promote wellbeing, and even an orchestra of vegetables.
The charity has also run a series of online music workshops that people with no music experience can take part in alongside professionals. It is exploring the feasibility of building a new, more accessible digital gamelan orchestra, in partnership with The University of York, for people of all abilities to make music at home.
With philanthropic support, the charity set up a Hardship Fund for its specialist freelance facilitators, providing a safety net for them, which in turn helps safeguard the long-term sustainability of their unique, highly impactful work. The charity continues to work closely with its peers to share knowledge, resources and support in relation to the pandemic.
Good Vibrations is pleased to have started going back into settings to help people in person. Since July, it has been running socially distanced small group weekly music-making sessions with patients experiencing mental illness at Bethlem Royal Hospital and HMP Wormwood Scrubs, and with members of the community in Nottingham. It is hopeful that this type of work will be able to increase in a safe and gradual way to support people who are experiencing isolation and poor mental health.
Despite the UK’s challenging socio-economic situation, Good Vibrations’ Chair of Trustees, Jonathan Hollow, is optimistic about the charity’s future, he said:
“Good Vibrations has managed to turn a period that for some charities has been a disaster into a positive change of direction. It has released new skills and creativity, reached new audiences, and kept our workforce really positively engaged during the lockdown.”