YORK singer, actress and teacher Jessa Liversidge is bringing joy with her Singing For All gatherings in York and Easingwold.

Open to people with dementia, other medical conditions and the wider public too, the weekly sessions take place at Clements Hall, Nunthorpe Road, York, on Tuesdays and Easingwold Methodist Church, Chapel Street, on Mondays, both days from 11am to 12.30pm.

"I first set up Singing For All with some trial sessions in Easingwold in July 2017, with a start-up grant from the Forget Me Not Friends, a dementia charity local to Easingwold," recalls Jessa. "The aim was to establish a daytime singing class open to anyone – I often use the hashtags #dementiafriendly and #everyonefriendly – whereas some groups are only open to those living with dementia.

"Those are great, but some people in the early stages of the condition aren't keen to be labelled and sectioned off, so I wanted to begin a group open to anyone, literally 'Singing for all'."

From the start, the Easingwold group took off, so much so that Jessa now has 30 to 40 people coming along every Monday to sing and enjoy tea, cake and company.

Since January, she has introduced the York sessions too, "The feedback from the Easingwold Singing For All has been so fantastic – with people regularly telling me how I have changed their life by setting up the group – that I wanted to spread the Singing For All joy further and venture into York," says Jessa.

"The charity Dementia Forward, who run many successful well-being cafés, as well as offering a wonderful personal service to people with dementia and their carers, suggested Clements Hall as a suitable venue. There were no singing classes running at the hall and it's a great hub of the community, with lots of different groups and classes using the centre.

"So I launched the Singing For All at Clements Hall – the rhyming was not planned but is quite handy – at the start of the year. A lovely group of people are attending and it's continuing to grow each Tuesday. The hall is large and welcoming and, crucially, accessible."

The feedback has been universally enthusiastic, ranging from "Jessa welcomes and encouraged everyone, no matter what notes we sing!" to "Brightens our day to come to Singing For All, better than a tonic"; from "A great feeling of well-being towards everyone – a most magical hour and a half" to "Sheer joy, like one big happy family".

"Everyone comments on the positive atmosphere," says Jessa. "We're singing purely for the fun of it in that moment. If someone goes wrong, it doesn't matter, we just have a laugh together. The difference in the demeanour of people, when they go out at the end of the session, is so noticeable."

Jessa chooses an 11am starting time so that everyone has "plenty of time to get up and about". "For the York sessions, many people get the bus as Clements Hall is very near Nunnery Lane and Bishopthorpe Road," she says.

"We start with a few stretches and some very basic singing warm-ups, sliding up and down, making some different – and often silly! – noises to wake our voices up. We might do some little games involving counting and clapping, which invariably leads to a few giggles and breaks the ice.

"Then we move on to some partner songs, where we sing several well-known songs in groups, at the same time: instant part singing and a fantastic energy in the group straightaway.

"We continue with a wide range of songs, from Sixties pop numbers, such as Carole King and The Beatles, to sea shanties and tropical calypsos, to well-known show tunes such as Wouldn't It Be Loverly, Somewhere and even The Lambeth Walk. Some people even get up and dance, but this is optional of course."

A break at 11.45am for a cup of tea and a slice of cake is a vital part of the session, enabling people to chat and make new friends. "We start the second part with a raffle, included in the session price, that just adds a bit more of a festive atmosphere and excitement, then we sing more songs, always ending with some upbeat mash-up, leaving everybody with spirits lifted and happy smiles all round when the session ends at 12.30pm," says Jessa.

She paints a similar picture of contentment in Easingwold. "It's very much a team operation there. I have a lovely bunch of volunteers who bake for the sessions, help with refreshments, help welcome people and take money, and give a hand to anyone who needs it during the singing part," says Jessa.

"Some people with dementia come on their own or with a spouse or carer; some people come with mental-health issues or other medical conditions, such as Parkinson's; some have recently been bereaved; some are lonely and isolated. Some are absolutely fine and just want to come for an informal sing, where there's no expectation of perfection and no stress or pressure. That applies to the York sessions too."

Singing For All costs £4 per session, with some free places available for carers. To find out more or to book a place, contact

Jessa at jessaliversidge@googlemail.com, ring her on 01347 823684 or 07740 596869 or, for York, ring Clements Hall on 01904 466086.

Summing up the benefits of Singing For All, Jessa says: "For me, the best thing about running these sessions is the wide range of people that come. I have retired music teachers and dancers; I have people who were told at school they couldn't, and shouldn't, sing. Together it is magical.

"When we sing together, nobody can tell who has dementia, who has just come out of hospital, who is really lonely and struggling. We are just singing together. So the main message is that absolutely anyone is welcome to come along, whatever their age, musical experience or ability and medical condition."

Charles Hutchinson