Four older celebrities, Tony Robinson, John Simpson, Lesley Joseph and Gloria Hunniford, went to spend a week with elderly people and live 'as them', either in their homes (click here to see Gloria Hunniford's blog about her experiences staying in Ivy's home) or in residential care.
The celebs found it difficult, to say the least. The elderly people they met were living with various challenges; physical, mental and monetary. But perhaps the thing that struck me the most was the boredom they encountered on a daily basis- particularly those in the featured residential homes.
In a lot of the homes, with the best will in the world, and despite the heroic efforts of staff, there just wasn't the budget to provide regular entertainment. Often the choice was telly, dozing or more telly. With a side order of bickering. Well, we all know what daytime tv is like- enough to make anyone grouchy.
How awful, I thought, to be bored day after day like that.
Then I watched The Last Night Of The Proms, an event I've always loved. Flag-waving, singing, comical use of klaxons - unbeatable nationalistic fun. And I saw how happy it made the people in the audience at the Royal Albert Hall, and all the thousands singing along in open-air events around the country, to say nothing of those like me who were enjoying it on tv.
Wouldn't it be nice, I thought, to take a little bit of that joy and exuberance to those quiet, sleepy lounges in the residential care homes. For free.
I should mention at this point, that I've sung to many an older person in my life, so the idea wasn't as strange as it might seem. My singing teacher took the teenaged Me to many of Norwich's residential homes for the elderly- it was deemed to be good practice for me, and certainly our audiences enjoyed it. During my twenties I visited the same sort of venues to entertain as part of Andrews Sisters tribute act, American Tan.
For almost twenty years I have also sung with local musical theatre/opera fusion group The Upper Octave, and prior to that I put in many a panto performance with the thriving amateur dramatics group The New Taverham Players. Frequently, I'm asked to do one-off charity shows and sing at weddings and that sort of thing. Suffice to say, singing in front of strangers holds no fear for me!
I was astounded by the warmth of the response I got, and I was very quickly able to form a happy smorgasbord of performers and backstage helpers from which to choose. All the performers are, without exception, very good at what they do, and they have volunteered to give their time and -not inconsiderable- talents for free. My job is to find out who's available and when.
I was delighted to gain support from BBC Radio Norfolk, who squeezed me on air in time for the launch of the project in September 2013. I also have the support and help of the Norfolk Records Office (see this blog's Norfolk Records Office page for details).
At the time of writing we have enough bookings to keep us going until Christmas 2013. I would like to see more bookings for 2014 and to that end I will be leafletting local care homes very soon, and talking about it again on the radio.
If you've read this far, well done, you got to the end. Thanks for your time and, if you can, do book us (there's a handy contact sheet on the right hand side of the page).