Thanks to the power of technology and the passion of its members and organisers, a dementia-friendly choir is still bringing people together during the coronavirus outbreak.

East Durham Dementia Friendly Choir offers those living with dementia, as well as their family and friends, an opportunity to benefit from the joys of singing with others. 

Developed by Durham County Council’s community arts team, East Durham Area Action Partnership (AAP) and East Durham’s Dementia Friendly Communities Programme, the choir usually meets at Blackhall Community Centre and Eastlea Community Centre in Seaham, both Dementia Friendly Communities. 

The coronavirus pandemic put a stop to usual group sessions, but the choir has found new ways to sing together, despite not being able to meet in person, by moving their regular sessions online.

And a sister choir is set to join the virtual singing sessions next week. Durham County Council’s community arts team teamed up with Ushaw College to set up a second dementia friendly choir, ‘Forget Me Notes’, in January. The group will have its first virtual meet on Thursday 7 May.


Kylie Lloyd, community arts manager for Durham County Council, said: “We’ve seen the impact that the East Durham Dementia Friendly Choir sessions have had and we want to be able to offer more sessions for choirs across the county. 

“We are delighted to be working with Ushaw College to launch the ‘Forget Me Notes’ digital choir sessions next week.  We welcome new members to both choirs.”

Choir leader, Bethany Elen Coyle, said: “Our Dementia Friendly Choirs community is stronger than ever and although we may be isolated, we are not alone. We won’t let a global pandemic spoil our musical fun, and as you can see and hear we are exploring new ways to connect and support our singing community by adapting to the lockdown and moving our choir sessions online.”

Belinda Williams, Dementia Friendly Communities coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: In just a year, East Durham’s Dementia Friendly Choir has managed to inspire, transform and change the way we see, hear and talk about dementia.

“They are a fantastic example of how Dementia Friendly Communities across East Durham are empowering people living with dementia – and their families, friends and neighbours – to connect and collaborate with local volunteers, community, cultural projects and more, creating initiatives that are truly sustainable and inclusive, even in these challenging times. They are brilliant.”

Choir member Val Owens, from Blackhall Colliery, said: “I’m sure we all have our down days, missing family and friends during this lockdown. Meeting with the choir each week helps lift your spirits. Seeing everyone and sharing our music and songs is just magical.”

Fellow singer Jen Linford, from Blackhall Colliery, said: “The joy on everyone’s faces is the highlight of my day and being able to connect with our choir family is wonderful.”

For more information on the Durham network of Dementia Friendly Community Choirs email Bethany at dementiafriendlychoirs@gmail.com or find @dementiafriendlychoirs on Facebook. 

For the Dementia Connect support line call 0333 150 3456 or Alzheimer’s Society County Durham Dementia Adviser Service on 0191 398 0400. 

Wider support during the coronavirus pandemic can be found at Durham County Council’s support for residents page:www.durham.gov.uk/article/22971/Support-for-residents. Or visit Locate, the authority’s online support directory, at: www.durhamlocate.org.uk/

To find out more about Dementia Friendly Communities and how to support people affected by dementia, visit:

www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/dementia-friendly-communities/coronavirus-ways-to-support


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