Shot of a group of senior women singing together and playing the piano at a retirement home
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Songs For Europe shares excitement of Eurovision with care home residents
A Eurovision-themed theatre performance created by care home residents will premiere at Unity Theatre before touring care homes across Liverpool City Region
Songs for Europe, presented by Nwoko Arts, has been commissioned by Culture Liverpool as part of the host city’s EuroStreet programme.
The new theatre piece has been created by and for care home residents, particularly those living with Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases, and their loved ones.
This 60-minute participatory experience, including a 40-minute performance blending movement, music, comedy and the sounds of Eurovision will tour to 20 care homes, beginning at Stonedale Lodge in Norris Green on Monday 1 May.
The piece was created through verbatim interviews with care home residents. Recordings of residents’ thoughts about the themes of Eurovision (love, peace, unity, hope), and their memories of the fashions, hairstyles and music of the 1950s-80s have been used to create the show and are heard during the performance.
Resident Barbara Close, from St. Bartholomew’s Court Nursing Home in Huyton, said: “I really enjoyed taking part in the workshops. I have always loved music and the Eurovision is legendary to lots of people so very excited to see the show in May and the fact I have been part of it all is lovely.”
The project was conceived and produced by Peter Ward, former Director & CEO at Hope Street Limited, and follows last year’s hugely successful tour of Spring into Summer to 30 care homes.
He says: “Having seen the isolation and loneliness experienced by my loved one during the
pandemic, I decided to use my 40 years’ experience of producing theatre to create projects that provide joyful and meaningful therapeutic engagement for people living in care, and remind them that they have not been forgotten. This is a very special project for me, inspired by love, hope and my first crush: Lulu, whose “Boom Bang A Bang” was the first record I bought, aged seven!”
Supported with funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Spirit of 2012 and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, EuroStreet provides a unique opportunity for communities across the region to get involved, take part, deliver events, and celebrate all things Eurovision.
Alicia Smith, Interim Divisional Manager Arts, Heritage, Libraries & Participation at Culture Liverpool, said: “EuroStreet is part of our commitment as a host city to ensure everybody across Liverpool City Region has a chance to be part of the magic of Eurovision. We know not everybody will be able to make it into the city centre for the celebrations so we’re breaking down barriers and taking Eurovision right out to people’s doorsteps.
“Songs for Europe perfectly embodies the Eurovision Song Contest strapline ‘United by Music’ as music can unlock memories and evoke emotions for people with dementia, allowing them to be part of this global event which brings people together.”
Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, added:
“Eurovision has a long history of bringing communities together and we’re delighted to be supporting this exciting part of the EuroStreets programme from Nwoko Arts, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.
“Care home residents across Liverpool will have the chance to play a huge role in celebrating and sharing the rich heritage the city region is home to and seeing their dazzling ideas come to life to make Eurovision 2023 a party that won’t be forgotten!”
The show includes a brand new song, “Hope Love Music” inspired by memories of 150 older people, which includes their voices, during a two-week programme of workshops in 15 care homes led by Luke Thomas and Dora Colquhoun (ADHD, the Musical). The song promises a highly contagious sing-a-long chorus. There are plans to submit the song to the BBC to represent the UK in 2024!
Directed by Elinor Randle (Tmesis Theatre), Songs for Europe is performed by Leila Chebbi, Cameron McKendrick and Nwoko’s Creative Director, Maria Paul. Designed by Stephanie O’Hara, Sound Design by Stephen Hull (All Things Considered), the show will certainly score Douze Points with residents and loved ones. The project’s Critical Friend is Graeme Phillips MBE, former Artistic Director at Unity Theatre, living with Parkinson’s & Lewy body Dementia and residing in a nursing home.