Music Café – Community Diary

“It’s a place to get lost in music, have fun and make friends.”

Welcome to our Music Café Community Diary!

The Music Café is a weekly music making project aimed at people living with Dementia and their carers. We sing familiar songs, improvise music, write songs and tell stories through music.

We’ll be curating a Community Diary, capturing all our creative activities and memories from these sessions to share with you! This page will be updated every Wednesday afternoon.

Want to join in?

Weekly sessions take place on a Wednesday morning in The Great Nave at The Monastery, from May to October 2022. Arrive from 10am for a 10.30am start. Sessions generally run for up to 90 minutes; refreshments are included.

Download a ‘Dates for your Diary’ sheet here.

For more information please contact Helena Bull: 0161 226 8696 /

Exciting news this week – one of the pieces we have been writing at the Music Café will be performed at Camerata’s Community Concert ‘The People Make the Place’ on 17th November!

‘The People Make the Place’ concert will feature many community groups that we work with, including:

To find out more about the concert and to book tickets click here.

The Music Café forms just one area of our extensive work for people living with dementia.

We also work in care homes delivering our Music in Mind programme. This is where we improvise soundscapes with care home residents in order to communicate with them and to let their voices be heard, especially when they no longer have speech.

We work with carers too, giving them the skills, resources and support they need to be able to deliver Music in Mind sessions themselves, making their music and dementia programme self sufficient!

Take a look at our Music in Mind page to find out all the ways we support people living with dementia through music – Music and Dementia – Manchester Camerata

We always have out dancing shoes on at the Music Cafe! We caught a nice moment between two of our participants while snapping some photos of everyone’s moves.

We use all kind of instruments at the Music Cafe – our musicians play their orchestral instruments which include a French horn, clarinet, flute, cello and tuba, but they also play lots of handheld percussion which Cafe goers also use! These are really easy to play so participants don’t need any musical experience in order to join in at our sessions.

Today we had a very loud improvisation using lots of the drums and tambourines that we have on offer.

This week we have a guest blog from Eden – one of the fantastic volunteers we have at Manchester Camerata. Eden is a student at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and is in the yellow t-shirt, getting stuck in!

Hi everyone!

My name is Eden and for the past month I have been working with the Camerata, gaining industry experience, and developing my orchestral management and Orchestral librarian skills. It was suggested to me by a member of staff that I should observe and participate in Manchester Camerata’s music café. To which I quickly said YES!

Though I have worked in the past with many different people in the community, I distinctly remember in the first session asking this question to the Head of Community, “How do I facilitate someone with dementia, what is it like to have dementia?” Prior to this experience I had never met anyone with dementia to which this created a helpful discussion, and before I knew it, we started.

The first session started, and I sat and watched the room in AWE. People came alive. There were sparkles, colours, and sounds everywhere. I thought to myself “hold on to your seat here we go”. Feet were dancing hands were tapping as everyone moved and sang together as well as they were happy to or able, there was a space for everyone no matter whether they felt big or small inside and out. One aspect of this session that I loved was the “Hello Song”. In which we went round the circle singing together and it includes everyone’s names. How lovely that we can connect with each other and be seen by each other when perhaps often many aren’t seen or heard. Humanity at its finest.

Having attended now for the past four weeks, I can safely say what an amazing experience. I have seen my confidence grow each week. Now I am the one who can’t stop moving and singing and making noise. Through watching members of the group, I started to build relationships with each member and now feel it is I who have learnt from them and thus have grown as a person. I can’t put into words what I have learnt. Simply that group and experience will be a part of my story and I can’t recommend this experience enough to everyone and anyone. All that is left to be said is thank you.

One group member shared some Nigerian dances moves with the group, telling us how dancing can make you happy and express your happiness with others. This inspired some other group members to dust off their dancing shoes!

Heatwave! Beautiful sunlight streaming into the nave, suns out funs out…

We practised our new song ‘We’ve Still Got the Moves’. All music and words written by the group over the last few weeks. Great to hear it all come together!

We had some new members who brought along their own instruments. Great to have new faces in the group adding new sounds to our music!

This week we improvised with tuned percussion and metallic sounds. What does it make you think of? We think it sounds magical or ethereal.

The sun was shining today and everyone was feeling its good vibes! We welcomed back some familiar faces this morning – it didn’t take them long to get back into the swing of things.

Wiggle those hips!
Dancing feet

Inspired by our dancing and moving, we started to write a new song as a group, thinking about how dancing makes us feel and what makes us get up and do our thing!

Words and phrases from the group that will be used in our new song

As one of the group wisely said today:

“You’ve got to start with the beat of the drum, the drum will bring the dance out!”

This week we experimented with some new instruments including a snare drum, cymbal and laptop Cajon! We also found different ways to play lots of instruments:

Snare Drum

Lots of our group shared instruments together, having musical conversations and questions and answers. We also improvised our own music on top of tunes we already know!

Familiar Songs

Next week we’ll be talking more about our memories of Gorton and Manchester, and trying to put together a song. Get your thinking caps on!

In weeks 3 & 4, we started to think about writing our own music. We looked at photographs of Gorton from the last 100 years and shared our memories of local parks and places of interest.

Hyde Road, 1958
The Monastery, year unknown

We welcomed some new members along to the café too – it didn’t take them long to get stuck in! We shared some really special moments connecting with our new members, enjoying musical conversations and playful music-making. We ended each session by singing our goodbye song, thanking everyone for joining in our music-making.

Musical Conversations
Goodbye Song

Welcome back everyone, and hello to new faces too! Wednesday mornings just weren’t the same without you. We got straight back into making music together, greeting everyone with our hello song, singing music that the group had previously written in 2021 and improvising new music as well. Lots of the group were dancing and moving to the music, making new friends and reconnecting with others.

Hello Song
Dancing and Making Music