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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Scaling heights for Cumbrian music therapy centre

A small band of hardy volunteers are scaling 21 Lake District peaks in less than 24 hours to help make a visionary project become a reality.

Annie Mawson photo
Annie Mawson

The Sunbeams Music Trust has already made its mark in Cumbria, proving the power of music to heal.

But now this inspirational charity has its sights set on creating a £2 million music therapy centre on a site at Redhills near Penrith.

The latest phase of fundraising aims to raise £50,000 to pay for one of four or five therapy rooms at the centre.

This one is being dedicated to a young Cumbrian man called Tom who was left with Alzheimer like symptoms after contracting a brain infection as a young man.

Now aged 26, Tom has already benefited from music therapy at Sunbeams, which was founded by Annie Mawson 21 years ago. Funds for his room will be raised by volunteers who plan to complete the Cumbrian Traverse, which involves climbing more than 12,000 feet across 21 Lakeland peaks on June 20.

The 35-mile odyssey will begin at Broughton Mills in Dunnerdale, and finish at the base of Catbells, a short distance from Keswick.

Sally Wilson, 27, a musician who coordinates community projects for the charity, said: “It will be open all the time and accessible to disabled people.

“With many of the people we are working with, speech and other physical abilities have gone but often people can still respond to music.

“The centre will probably work with 1,600 people a year, with sessions working with children right through to the elderly. We will still be working with people in the community but we hope to start building later this year and be open by May next year.”

Sally described how her interest in music therapy was sparked when she found it an ideal way to communicate with her grandmother, Ellen Wilson, a former professional singer, who was stricken down by Alzheimer’s before her death from cancer aged 86.

“I’d go to see her in the care home and we’d sit and sing through her old songs.”

Music has also proved to be a powerful tool with which staff have been able to connect with Tom.

Sally added: “He’s been a huge Oasis fan and we found out that I Shot The Sheriff is was one of his favourite songs, and he’d join in with it, singing the last line. One of the reasons music works is that it’s a global process, and uses both sides of the brain.”

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