Lisa Newberry, Universities Wales’ Assistant Director, talks about her afternoon volunteering on hospital radio
‘And that was your Rookwood Sound weather!’ And with those immortal words, the Elaine Paige of Unis Wales was off and running with 2 hours of top musical theatre tunes and chat!
I had been given the chance doing a few hours of volunteering made possible by the UUK volunteering scheme, by indulging my Westend Wendy credentials and doing a musical theatre special on the 8-10pm slot on a Friday evening at the local hospital radio station, Rookwood Sound. I was tasked with coming up with a play list of (banging!) show tunes that I could chat about – some new, some old – based on the first show that I saw (Chess), the most recent (Jersey Boys), the next (Hamilton), my favourite (Les Mis), and those where I had some sort of connection. In between the songs there was a lot of chat about all things musical theatre, not just about the shows themselves but the ‘easiest’ entry level musical (Blood Brothers) for those who had never fancied watching something where the actors burst into song every few minutes and jazz hand their way across the stage! We discussed the accessibility of musical theatre and the difficulty securing tickets for the top shows, my top tips on getting discounted tickets on the day and those shows that are crossing the pond from Broadway to the Westend in 2019. The second hour was a mix of songs that related to me personally and included the song that was number 1 on the day that I was born and the first single that I bought – the classic tune by Joe Dolce ‘Shut Uppa You Face’!
So what was the point? Was it all about indulging my passion for the show tune? Well yes and no. My cousin Gareth had been host of the show for a while after hooking up with the station through his work in the Vale Mental Health team. Gareth came up with the idea of using music to build up his service users’ confidence by engaging them in hosting a radio show– some read the weather, some work the desk and for some, it is a personal success just to be out of the house and interacting with other people. Slowly but surely, there has been a demonstrable and positive impact on those who work on the shows, so much so that one person has just started a full time job with Bro Radio! Being asked to volunteer to be a part of this was something that I jumped at as not only do I absolutely love music but I have had personal experience of the healing power of music – research shows that listening to music not only improves our mental well-being and physical health but it also increases happiness, decreases stress and lifts your mood. I truly believe Oliver Sacks, best-selling author and professor of neurology at NYU School of Medicine when he said that ‘Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.’
So, will I be volunteering with Rockwood Sound again? You bet! Having the time and space away from the office for a few hours to plan my session, collate my music, script my ‘off the cuff’ anecdotes as well as learn how the station worked and discuss the positive impact that it had already had on many people who were under the care of the Vale Mental Health team, was invaluable. Without the volunteering scheme, life may well have got in the way and I may not have had the time to do the prep necessary take up this opportunity so I would urge you to find your ‘thing’, take the time on offer and make a difference to others because in doing so, you will find that volunteering brings benefits to your own mental well being and a sense of fulfilment.
And that, was your Rockwood Sound update!