Reciting poetry aloud as part of a speech choir has helped improve the wellbeing of a group of over-55s in the Cotswolds village of Milton-under-Wychwood. And to celebrate their achievements, the speech choir have created a book featuring a collection of over 70 poems written by themselves and also some of their grandchildren.
The speech choir has been running for over three years at The Paddocks, an extra care housing development, run by GreenSquare.
Meeting once a week, the group are like a music choir but instead of singing together they perform spoken-word pieces of poetry, and also write their own poems.
Elizabeth-Rae Large, activities co-ordinator for extra care housing at GreenSquare, said: "The group are so pleased with the book, they’ve worked hard on it and it’s something really special for them.
"Our extra care developments, like The Paddocks, provide residents with on-site care if required while enabling them to remain independent. What is key for us though is ensuring independence without isolation, so providing residents with opportunities to get involved in groups and activities like the speech choir is really important. It helps residents form friendships and increase confidence.”
The group are selling copies of their poetry book, and all funds will be invested back into The Paddocks for residents.
John Drew, a former accountant, moved with his wife Gill into The Paddocks just over two years ago. They are both in the choir. He said: "I always wanted to write. I was a bit antisocial and having come to The Paddocks I wasn’t really keen on joining any classes, but my wife persuaded me to join the speech choir. I have never regretted it, it’s good fun, it gets the brain working.
"One of the things I’ve really enjoyed doing in the last few months is having to write something in the space of 20 minutes which really forces you to concentrate. While it’s difficult sometimes to get the words into a poem, it’s good fun and I like the results at the end of it. I think being in the speech choir has made me more cheerful. Though my wife would probably disagree with that!"
Mary Blackburn, has been a resident for two years. She is the oldest member of the group at 98, but age hasn’t stopped her taking part. "I can’t imagine why I would have taken to poetry but I have. I can’t seem to do it too well, but I think as I go along I’ll improve. But really it’s a treat," she said.
"I’m always saying to people why don’t you come along to this speech choir. When I was a child I wasn’t a bit confident, but with this, I’ve got more confidence, even being as old as I am!"
Some residents from Fernleigh, another of GreenSquare’s Oxfordshire-based extra care housing developments, also contributed to the poetry book.
The poetry book is available to buy from The Paddocks for £5.00 plus postage. Drop-in or email Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org