Last week Dr Shirley Evans and Jennifer Bray set out on a cold and frosty morning and headed to Bristol for a mini Meeting Centre tour. Here’s how they got on…
After meeting up with Louise Spencer, Dementia Meeting Centres Project Manager and Dementia Health Integration Team Co-ordinator with Alive, who coordinates Meeting Centres in the area, we had the pleasure of spending the morning at the South Gloucestershire Meeting Centre in Bradley Stoke. We got to meet the Meeting Centre manager Winsome Barratt-Muir for the first time which was lovely, and after a proper catch up with Louise were able to meet the members and carers who attend. As well as joining in some of their activities, we got the opportunity to tell them a bit about the wider research around Meeting Centres and how they came to the UK, hopefully helping them to see that they are part of the ever-expanding Meeting Centre family.
A lovely bit of music and gentle exercise got us up and moving, although the feathers did end up being used as tickling sticks and for a mock duel at one point! It was great to see the friendships and social connections that have formed within the group, and we felt very welcome. Sadly we had to leave just as a light lunch was being organised for everyone to share, but based on stories about how much the group enjoys a relaxing, leisurely lunch we might never have got away!!
A short distance away in North Bristol, Louise introduced us to the Bristol Meeting Centre. We joined towards the end of a discussion about the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where manager Sally O’Doherty and her colleague Michelle were getting everyone thinking about some of the musicians who used to perform there. It was in preparation for a special event in the afternoon, but more on that later!
This time we did have lunch, which was a lovely experience. Everyone brought their own sandwiches or soup, but we sat together around a table and lots of different conversations took place between various groups. After we had cleared everything away, the chairs were rearranged for a musical performance by a special guest, the wonderful Emily from Mini Concerts. Emily had been to the Meeting Centre before to sing songs from the 1940’s, but this time her set focused on Mersey Beats. It picked up on many of the earlier discussions about the Cavern Club and different musicians, and we were treated to an amazing concert featuring songs by The Beatles, Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers and others.
Toes were tapped, hands were clapped (and jived!), and there was even some twisting and dancing going on as everyone sang along. I have to admit, it really didn’t feel like we were at work, but we thoroughly enjoyed it and it was great to see the group having a wonderful time too.
We had a fabulous, uplifting and really inspiring day seeing the work that the Alive team is doing (sorry we weren’t able to come as see you as well in the North Somerset Meeting Centres Anne, hopefully next time!). Definitely the highlight of our week. Thanks to Louise, Winsome, Sally and the other staff and volunteers who made the day so great, and to all the members and carers for welcoming us in.
Find out more about Meeting Centres on twitter @MeetingCentres