Percussion pals

02 October 2019 | North West England

Members of the Bloco Mente

How drumming together boosts mental health for kids and pensioners

A groundbreaking drumming group is bringing people of all ages together, from schoolkids to pensioners, helping to boost their mental health.

Bloco Mente’s members meet every week to learn percussive music from around the world, and then share it with local people at public performances.

They also support community events such as carnivals, festivals, sporting events and parades.

The music sessions were initially launched as an eight-week programme by the health and wellbeing team of the local council. They thought it could offer benefits to both mental health, fitness and encourage social interaction. It was so successful, they secured funding to keep it going.

“The funding pays for the instruments, uniforms, and rental of the drums,” says chairman Vicky Jeffers, 56. “We have them in all different sizes. We had to get legs put on some of the massive ones because they are too heavy, and some of our members have back problems.”

There are around 25 members, of which six are from the original group.

Kevin Barnsley, 63, is a retired police dog handler. He has been coming to Bloco Mente for the last year with his wife Linda. “It is a fantastic way to meet people of all ages. It also clears your head and helps with stress. The minute you walk through the door you forget anything negative.  We have even bought our own drums we love it so much.”

Vicky got involved six years ago after she spotted an advert in the local paper for Samba Reggae percussion classes.

She had been looking for an activity which she and her 13-year-old daughter could do together, helping them spend time with each other and bond.

Bloco Mente proved to be that, and so much more. The community band, based in Tameside, has members from all walks of life, with ages ranging from eight to late 70s.

Members have a variety of health and social needs ranging from low level mental health issues to heart disease and life-limiting illnesses. They also have children who suffer from ADHD or are on the Autism spectrum. The second part of the group’s name Mente, is a reference to mental health.

“I was a single parent, and struggled to get my daughter Rebecca to engage in activities,” explains Vicky. “Coming to drumming together allowed us to participate in a joint activity, which helps us to be active together. What was brilliant was how we mixed with people of different ages and backgrounds over a shared love of music.

“We are like a little family, and everyone is here for everyone and everyone benefits. One lady is a teacher, and coming here is a form of relaxation for her. Another member had his hip replaced recently, but we wanted him to still come along so we go help him and carry his drum in. Then in turn he brought in some euros when a younger member was going on a trip to Europe.”

 

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