Tonight we were pleased to welcome Ben Buddy Slack back to the Club. Ben is well known to us as the lead singer/guitarist in the dynamic blues band Blind Dead McJones, which has generously donated its services to our Charity Beer Festival ever since we started in 2012.
Ben is also the inspiration behind a wonderful charity, the Swansong Project, which he started in 2017. He came to the Club to tell us about it in 2018, and I quote from the account I gave of his visit then.
Through Ben’s registered charity the Swan Song Project, Ben meets people with terminal diagnoses and helps them to write and record songs for their families that can be played at their funerals and provide lasting comfort for their families.
He has had great success in coaxing melody and deeply meaningful lyrics out of people contemplating death, in a process that can be therapeutic and helpful in coming to terms with their past and future.
Ben, who has a background in running song-writing workshops… told us that his grandmother, despite dementia-induced memory loss, was able to sing with full recollection of lyrics up to the end of her life. Ben regretted that he’d not thought to encourage her to write her own song, which he could easily have recorded. From this experience, he resolved to engage with people facing the end of their life, and help them to make meaning of their experiences through song writing. He started the Swansong project for patients at the Marie Curie Hospice in Bradford in May 2017.
Every participant receives their song on a cd and has the option of sharing them with the wider public through The Swan Song Project Website. Participants have reported how proud they are of their songs, how happy they are to have a permanent recorded message to their loved ones, how it has helped them come to terms with their situation, how it has helped them articulate and communicate their feelings in a way they may not have otherwise done, and how much fun they had during the process.
After Ben spoke to us in 2018, he continued to grow the charity. It was given a boost in 2019 after DJ Chris Evans had heard about it, and made a donation of £25,000 live on air on his Virgin Radio show. During lockdown, Ben could not work face to face, but went on-line, meeting clients on Zoom to help them write their songs, and expanding his geographical reach across the UK.
Earlier this year the Club was pleased to be able to make a donation of £500.00 to recognise Swansong Project’s five year milestone, and Ben came to update us on progress.
There are now over 100 songs published on the charity’s website The work is no longer confined to helping the terminally ill to create their own songs, but includes pre and post-bereavement musical support for family members. Ben has been able to put together a team of seven new songwriters, enabling the creation of many more songs, and can draw on diverse musical talents to create songs in different musical genres.
Get in touch with Roundhay Rotary Club:
0113 266 6203