In February 2010 Vital Arts and Spitalfields Music worked together to bring live music to families and new born babies on the maternity ward at the Royal London Hospital. The musicians performed and taught a selection of lullabies from around the world. With the help of willing families they also wrote simple songs in Arabic, Bengali, Somali and English.
The following are excerpts from the diary that was kept during our visits:
The artists are in their stride! Christine was very keen on us going into Transitional Care again as she can see that this is the room with the most need for an escape from the hospital routines. The atmosphere was calm and very quiet but there was lots of interaction and engagement. The artists responded well to what was happening in the room, noticing restless babies and when dads picked them up, encouraged the group to keep the song going longer so they would have chance to bond. One member of staff said, “You are going to have to keep coming. They love it. The parents are so worried in this room and so good for them to have a break”
Our third and last room for the project was a bright and happy room. Everyone was very engaged and all the curtains were already open. One father picked up his baby to join in with the singing and his family asked lots of questions about what the instrument was, where the songs were from and joined in (with harmony) to most songs. They recognised one of songs as Congolese and were happy to join in. After saying, “He’s smiling and sleeping now” another mother sang a Russian lullaby to the room (it was very difficult so we didn’t get very far) which was so lovely to hear! It was as though acknowledging both families language and backgrounds created a level playing field for the singing to take place. One of the fathers said, “It’s empowering to have recognition of your homeland”.
With the project now finished we all feel incredibly privileged and moved to have been allowed to meet these families at such a wonderful time.
Below are some thoughts from the artists about their work on this project:
Zoe Singing and composing lullabies on the Neonatal Ward at The Royal London Hospital has been a fun, life affirming and moving experience for me. I felt privileged to meet so many babies taking their first breaths in the world, and testing out their powerful lungs! The input from so many families really made the music come alive and I hope you’ll use the CD as a celebration and reminder of all the songs, stories and interactions we shared during that special time.
John In the days after a baby is born everything is heightened and magical – the world suddenly seems different. It was a privilege to be playing music for, and writing songs with, families at this special time. As someone who hasn’t spent much time in post-natal wards (!), I was pretty nervous about this project and how it would be received. I shouldn’t have worried – in fact music has never seemed so appropriate. I particularly enjoyed singing with the new dads and creating the hilarious somali/bengali/russian bathtime song in on a busy, happy Friday afternoon…
Sonia Being part of this project was an incredible experience of bringing music through Global lullabies to a space of nurturing and future bonding between mothers and their newborn babies. It highlighted the importance of how sound can change a space and provide a tool for mother/families, as well as giving space to medical practitioners to reap the benefits of music as something to add to their everyday practice on the wards. As a music practitioner, the experience was especially wonderful, as it added another dimension to the work we create, making it a rewardingly meaningful experience.
Programme Manager: Learning & Participation