Side by Side Project – Dance Hall Days – North West Concern Group Project – Part 1

Update by Christine Carlin

The original idea for this project was to run a 6 week dance and reminiscence session in the centre using a data pen and our laptop but this was affected by the rise of Omicron and the decision to suspend all activities in the centre until the end of January.

Thanks to inspiration and support from Carole and Charmaine we switched to YouTube and began sharing the link with our walking group and Guitar Jammers using Whatsapp and via our Weekly Newsletter.

Views kept on going up currently standing at 84. This guerrilla approach to activities has yielded dance hall stories coming in on email and in person. We know that 2 people have been using Charmaine’s sessions to set themselves up for the day, finding it an enjoyable way to get into shape and to sing and move along to the familiar tunes. Now that we have just reopened the lunch club, we were fascinated to find out that 3 of our diners claim to have been at the same Helen Shapiro gig in the Embassy Ballroom in 1964 that Laurence Doherty generously shared with us online.

Another man wondered who ‘Helen Shapiro’ was to much tut-tutting, saying if it wasn’t country and western he wasn’t interested. We have also discovered lesser known dance halls and uncovered a star in Lena who came up with her own version of ‘You are my Sunshine’ from World War 2 Derry.

We have had conversations about style. Who had good feet for the high heels. Amazement at how dance steps were remembered by people deeply affected by dementia showing  that what the mind lost was stored in the feet. There has been light and shade in this lovely joint venture. Two of our lovely participants have gone into nursing homes. Another has just buried his wife.

Embassy Ballroom

There is something about music, memory and movement that has the power to keep us going and no where more so in discovering that one of our live wire participants is facing her final battle with cancer and as a swan song, we hope to get out into the woods and dance and sing what has become the signature song of Dancehall memories ‘ You are My Sunshine’ and if it rains, ….even funnier.

Part two of this post is here

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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.