Helping those experiencing emotional stress in bereavement

Leeds Community Foundation is delighted to support Ben Slack through a ‘Solutions for an Ageing Society Do It Award’. The Fund invests in individuals, helping them to pursue their social ventures. Ben set up The Swan Song Project, which helps people and their loved ones facing end of life and bereavement. At a distressing time, The Swan Song Project has helped people by providing the opportunity to write and record an original song. Ben Slack tells us more…

What does the Swan Song project involve?
We work closely with hospice patients and their loved ones to create a song unique to them; it can be about whatever they like and sound however they want it to sound. We then record songs and they are given to the writers to keep. The project began in Bradford and Leeds Community Foundation’s support has helped to develop the project in Leeds at St Gemma’s Hospice.

Why is this kind of support so vital?
Death and bereavement are two of the biggest fears in our society, and we are all going to experience them. Medical advances have greatly reduced the amount of physical pain associated with these stages but a lot is needed to help with the emotional distress. Songwriting is a deeply therapeutic process and it helps people to clarify their thoughts, make sense of their experience, communicate difficult emotions and leave a beautiful legacy. We hope these songs will live on and be enjoyed by loved ones for many years to come.

Could you share a rewarding moment you’ve had so far?
I worked with a woman at St Gemma’s who wrote a beautiful song about appreciating life and enjoying the moments. It was a real pleasure to work with her on it and hear all about her life and what she wanted to say. She had told me several members of her family were musicians, so we arranged for them to come in and help record the song. It was really beautiful to hear them all playing the song together. Her brother also wrote a song himself about her which was fantastic as well and very moving.

What difference has the funding from the Foundation made? 
The funding has made a huge difference to the development of the project. It has helped fund a great deal of training opportunities that have been of great benefit. It has also allowed us to purchase more instruments and equipment to improve the sessions we do, as well as some fantastic promotional materials to help get word of the project out there. The support and advice from Leeds Community Foundation has meant a lot and I really appreciate the work you do.