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Live "Smiling Sessions" Before Covid-19 Restrictions

This group's unusual name is a reference to the many changing roles that people have to play in day to day life. They got together in 2007 as a not-for-profit performing arts organisation based in Waltham Forest. Their first project was to develop and produce a large-scale outdoor arts show called WILDFIRE!

Initially funded for two years by the Arts Council England, the show was then commissioned by Homecoming Scotland and Creative Scotland. The group gained charitable status in 2011, since when it has gone from strength to strength, creating new projects and reaching new audiences across London and beyond.

The group's vision is to reach out and touch the hearts of children and adults of all ages and cultures through delivering original and dynamic combined arts productions and projects. They seek to inspire communities not only to support performances, but to roll their sleeves up and get involved, no matter what their age. Through the participatory music and story-telling experiences the group provides it aims to engage communities in activities that enhance confidence and self-esteem.

Their current focus is on interactive singing sessions for the elderly, aimed at improving wellbeing, confidence and mental health while reducing isolation. Before Covid these were live performances that reached thousands of isolated senior citizens living in sheltered or care accommodation, but with the present visiting retrictions the group's activities have had to go online, a move which has allowed their shows to reach not just older people, but people of all ages cut off by the need to self-isolate or shield. The group has embraced the new technology and become keener than ever to harness the power of music and singing to support wellbeing and mental health.

Online "Smiling Sessions" During Covid-19 Restrictions

After running for 10 years, the "Smiling Sessions" for older people in care homes and social housing in deprived areas of London which had done so much to help residents to become more integrated, stay healthy and keep active had to be moved to online to comply with Covid social distancing regulations. While this put limitations on the very personal atmosphere of the sessions it also opened up new opportunities in that the sessions could now extend beyond just older people and reach out to people of all ages who felt cut off or isolated for whatever reason. The group report that they are now keener than ever to harness the power of music and singing to support wellbeing and mental health in people of all ages.

In order to make their sessions as accessible as possible, the group has created an easy to use app – the video jukebox (with on screen lyrics) at – where professional singers and musicians like Pete Baikie, Neil Herd, Alison Jones and many other celebrity guests give freely of their time and talents to create the sessions.

Above is a single very short example of one of these weekly "video jukebox" entries, which was created to mark the passing of Dame vera Lynn. If you visit the site you can watch and listen to many others.

The hope of the group is that the weekly ‘celebrity’ sing-a-long "Smiling Sessions" will raise awareness of the power of song and the impact that singing has on health, well-being and mindfulness, no matter what your age may be, and also that they may help to build an awareness with the public of the terrible isolation that so many people are still experiencing.

Running from 11th-21st December 2020, the Winter Sessions is a virtual culture programme encouraging connection, collaboration and shared experiences within the local community during the pandemic.

The programme will feature a festive edition of Shapeshifter Productions’ well-known ‘Smiling Sessions’ – a free participatory singing experience of the kind described above that they have hosted in care homes in London and the South East for the past 10 years.

As an opportunity to bring people together and spark human connection, even when we are physically distant, local socially-isolated care home residents will lead participants through the sing-a-long sessions, featuring their favourite winter soundtracks.

While there are many activities that are off-limits this winter, singing is something that can be done anywhere, at any time, and is one of the proven activities that promote mental & physical health, particularly within elderly communities.

Event date/time: Friday 11th December - Monday 21st December

Event Type: Online sing-a-long series

Event Organiser: Shapeshifter Productions in partnership with Waltham Forest Council

Location: Online:

Email contact:

The YouTube link for the Winter Sessions is:

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