Had a wonderful concert from Refuge yesterday. They came all the way down from Leicester, arriving at Wonford House Hospital at 10.30am. Unfortunately, I discovered that the Ballroom, where the concert was happening, was being used for a meeting - I was sure I'd booked it for 11am, but was told I'd have to wait until 12pm. So, I took the band to the Hospital cafe and we chatted about all sorts of things. They write amazing songs about the struggles of living with mental illness (Peter, the lead singer, has Bipolar Disorder). The lyrics are often written by people they know who have various conditions, and in the first album, Allowed a Voice, these conditions are named at the beginning of the songs about them. Their most recent project was a lyric writing competition - the winners had their lyrics put to music and put on an EP. Full details here where you can download the album for free, with the option of making a donation to several mental health charities.
Once we got access to the room, a technically minded colleague (thanks Alex!) plugged them in - electric bass, two acoustic guitars, vocals - and they were ready to go. The food had arrived, I'd set up circular tables and scattered chairs around them. The band tucked into some food while they had a chance and then people started drifting in. About 25 in total I think, and the great thing was that that a large number of people from one of our wards turned up - I'd popped into their morning planning meeting to remind them about the concert. They looked anxious on arrival, but the combination of free food, unlimited free hot drinks, and wonderful music, soon relaxed them. I spotted a client of mine, leaning back, eyes closed, just letting himself slip into the music. These were the people I really wanted to be there, so I was so pleased to see them enjoying it so much and clearly moved by the content of the songs. Peter and I were also interviewed for local radio show padded wireless - this will be broadcast between 7 and 8pm this Sunday. There was lots of food left over, but, as last time, the mother of one of my clients offered to take some to a local homeless shelter, Gabriel House (details here) The music ended far too soon, I could have listened all afternoon, but best to keep an audience wanting more than outstay your welcome. Peter and the band stayed around for a while to talk to people that had been moved by their music - doing this is, in some ways, as important as the music itself. Connections are made, experiences shared, common humanity acknowledged.
Thanks to Peter and his superb band for making the effort to come down to us and to give such a beautiful and moving performance. I hope I can get them back again soon!