During this unprecedented time, we have all experienced increased isolation, unable to see our friends and family for what may be the first time in our lives. But for many of the children and young people at Birmingham Children’s Hospital this is a familiar reality every day.

For the last 15 years Ex Cathedra’s Singing Medicine team has helped combat isolation and improve wellbeing for these children. Until lockdown, they visited every ward at the hospital, every Friday.

Once this stopped in March – further increasing isolation for the patients – we quickly developed a new way to support the children. Our Singing Medicine team began making interactive singing-films for the children, recording from their own homes. There are now over 100 interactive films available, free to access, for the patients, and for all young children and families at home.

Rebecca Ledgard, our Director of Education explains:
“Singing is a very special activity that has been shown to reduce feelings of stress and isolation. Research has shown that it releases the body’s natural opioids and hormones associated with wellbeing such as oxytocin, and reduces cortisol (stress), and the nurses report seeing heart-rates normalise during our sessions.

“The project has been described to us as like taking the children into a meadow and letting them run, getting them air and allowing them to be free. As soon as we knew the restrictions were coming we knew we had to find a way to continue to support the patients, and realised our work could be helpful to all young children and their families at this time.”

Responding to the online interactive films, Karl Emms, Lead Nurse for Patient Safety at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital, said:
“Thank you for finding a fabulous way to continue bringing the benefits of music to everyone during the lockdown”.

In an extraordinary piece of timing, Ex Cathedra was working with Singing Medicine patients and Birmingham Children’s Hospital Chaplaincy Team before anyone had heard of coronavirus to create what is thought to be the world’s first hospital-wide children and young people’s virtual patient choir, called the Lifting Spirits Choir. Their first film, the incredibly-moving Music Inside was released last week.

Speaking about this unique film, Rebecca adds:
“We hope that as you see the happiness on the faces of the original choir members, you too will have your spirits lifted. The skills of our recording and video editing teams, we think, has produced something inspiring and hopeful for our time. We look forward to sharing it with future patients for them to join in with and feel they belong as a part of this unique choir”.

Singing Medicine is possible thanks to support from Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charities, and from many trusts including major donations from the Oak Foundation, Froebel Trust, and Masonic Charitable Foundation. We are keen to explore partnerships with the business community. For more information contact Rebecca Ledgard: rebecca@excathedra.co.uk

You can make a personal donation to the project here.