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Music Therapy offering empowers storytelling through songwriting

At Hospice in the Weald, Music Therapy offers a safe space for patients and therapists to explore thoughts, feelings and emotions. Through music, our team can find many ways to help people with therapeutic goals, legacy work, and memory projects.

Here, Hannah James, Music Therapist, and Simon Denton, Creative Music Volunteer, explain more about the music offering at Living Well, the creative process behind songwriting, and the benefits of Music Therapy for overall well-being and quality of life.

Hannah singing and Simon playing guitar at Living Well
Hannah singing and Simon playing guitar at Living Well
Simon playing guitar at Living Well

The writing process

“When patients we see have a lot to say, we suggest writing a song,” explained Hannah, who has been running the music offering at Living Well for eight years. “Initially, their reaction is along the lines of ‘I can’t do that,’ or ‘I’m not musical,’ or ‘Who would want to listen to my song?’ Our response is to ditch the myths of songwriting!

“Patients don’t have to be ‘musical’ or ‘good at music’ to write a song, and they can have as much or as little input as they like. Songwriting is about sharing their story and giving them a voice. Simon and I work with patients to help them write the lyrics, compose the music, record the song, and mix it.

“Some patients feel confident enough to write the lyrics themselves; others like to discuss their song topic and compose the lyrics with us. Some patients like to help us record, while others tell us what to do, and we get it done!

“The aims are therapeutic, rather than educational or recreational, and those who choose to engage in Music Therapy do not need previous experience or expertise in music-making.”

“Music Therapy is not restricted by verbal ability, making it an ideal medium for many people – it focuses on developing new and healthy ways of making relationships through shared music-making. An ability to make contact with others and form relationships can allow individuals to face new situations or challenges with more support and resources,” Hannah continued.

Stuart and Jackie at their Golden Wedding Party 2021

Stuart’s musical journey

When Hospice in the Weald offered sessions over Zoom in 2021, Stuart Liffen, a Living Well patient, was one of the first to join Music Expression every Tuesday and remained a loyal supporter.

“When I was young, aged about 17 or 18, I was in a band with some friends, and I played guitar,” shared Stuart. “I’ve always had a passion for music and have quite a varied music taste, liking anything from ACDC to The Shadows. Both the Music Expression Group and the Singing Group gave me an opportunity to have fun and make friends, but also to reach goals that I’ve set myself, develop skills, and give myself a creative output.”

“Very early on, Stuart began writing song lyrics, and I asked him if he would like me to set some to music,” explained Simon. “The first song we did together was titled ‘Hospice in the Weald’ and expresses Stuart’s fondness and gratitude for the help and support that the Hospice had given him.

“This song was submitted to Radio Kent and played on their Upload programme. It received compliments on the lyrics from the presenter.”

Simon continued: “Since then, Stuart has written numerous other songs, including ‘Saturdays and Sundays’ – this song is a trip down memory lane and looks back to Stuart’s younger days in the 1960s when he played in a Rock & Roll band. The backing reflects the period, and there is a brief homage in the opening riff to one of Stuart’s favourite bands, the Traveling Wilburys.”

Remember Lyrics by Stuart Liffen
Remember Lyrics by Stuart Liffen
Remember Lyrics by Stuart Liffen
Remember Lyrics by Stuart Liffen

A personal message

“Stuart continued to write and handed Hannah and I the lyrics for ‘Remember’ in person, only a few weeks ago,” Simon said. “The message in the words is self-explanatory and carries a very emotional and personal message for his family. I wrote the tune and, together with Hannah, recorded the song as soon as we could. Stuart heard the finished song, and he and his family were very pleased with it. He has written seven songs in total at Living Well.”

“A big thank you to Hannah and Simon; listening to the song stirred a few emotions. It is as I envisioned, and I hope they are as happy with the end result as I am,” said Stuart, responding to his latest song, ‘Remember.’

Listen to Stuart’s song below!

Listen to 'Remember' by Stuart Liffen

With a range of cognitive, psychological, and physical benefits, including reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved self-esteem and communication skills, a reduction in pain, and improvements in memory and speech – Music Therapy has proved to be popular among patients and their loved ones.

Sarah Reeve, a patient at Living Well, said: “I never thought I would be able to write a song when the idea was first introduced to me. But honestly, I am so proud of what I have achieved, and I feel like the song has given me a voice. I can tell my story and share my positivity with others, which is such a special gift.”

Find out more about Music Therapy by contacting Hannah James via email at: