A scheme combining folk songs and old films has been delivered over Zoom for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia in Wiltshire.

Folk singer and song collector Amanda Boyd worked with Alzheimer's Support Wiltshire to deliver interactive Zoom sessions, which included fascinating old footage from the collection of Windrose Rural Media Trust, the rural media charity covering Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset.

She said: “It’s wonderful being able to share these old films and sing with people in their own homes.”

Amanda has been working with Windrose since 2012, helping to deliver creative outreach projects by arranging and performing folk songs with archive films for live shows.

The Zoom sessions were a natural progression from the work that Amanda does face-to-face for memory cafés. She sang during the films, encouraging people to join in if they wanted to.

She said: “The songs I sang complement the films on their screens.

“So, for example, I sang Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside to accompany a film about a coastal resort in the 1950s and Boys And Girls Come Out To Play along with footage of schooldays in Edwardian times.

“From the 1930s there was a BBC schools broadcast called Singing Together. Children would come together to learn folk songs.

“Some participants attending the sessions have had this life experience and recalled songs from that time.

“Singing together is a shared communication and is well-documented as being highly beneficial for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

“Folk songs are ideal for this work.”

The project was funded by Arts Council England’s emergency funding.

Sarah Marriot, head of community services for Alzheimer’s Wiltshire, said the sessions had been very well received.

“Our members have always loved Amanda’s archive film and song sessions, but during the pandemic it is obviously impossible for us to run the groups as we usually would.

“So, Amanda doing them via Zoom has meant that they are still accessible for so many.

“Lockdown has been so isolating for people with dementia and their carers so the chance to link with others is even more valuable.”

She said she appreciated the work Amanda had put in to provide such an entertaining morning for so many.

“The happy feeling that it created will have lasted with them for the rest of the day – such a benefit for us all in these turbulent times.

“Attendees loved the chance to see the old films of areas that were familiar to them, doing activities that brought back memories of times that they can remember.

“The informal, chatty approach was perfect, and several people unmuted themselves to share stories of their own that were prompted by the piece of film Amanda had shown.”

One of the attendees said: “Amanda showed some interesting pictures and sings well. The songs seemed very appropriate.”

Another, who has been sorting through family photographs from the early 1930s, said: “The sessions with Amanda have been great.

“The films were very reminiscent of my own farming and railway days.”

Amanda said it had been a learning experience delivering the sessions on Zoom.

“Singing into the darkness of the computer screen was a bit disconcerting at first, but when I stopped sharing the films and saw everyone’s smiley faces, then I knew it had gone well.”

Four recorded audio film books, sequences of songs and films, will be made available online on windroseruralmedia.org.

DVDs of old films and audio from Wiltshire can also be purchased from the website.