On the same day it has been announced that BBC Music Day 2019 will highlight the power of music to help people with dementia, the UK’s leading music and dementia charity, Playlist for Life, is celebrating after being awarded £1.6 million in National Lottery funding.

The money, raised by players for good causes, is being distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

To celebrate the award, Playlist for Life will be promoting ‘Musical Teas’ in communities across the UK in the run up to Music Day on 26 September.

Playlist for Life teaches families and care staff how to create a unique personal playlist of the soundtrack to a person’s life. Personal playlists allow others to understand and ‘see’ the whole person with dementia; to stop the feeling of helplessness and bring joy and connection. Personal playlists have the potential to revolutionise dementia care - homes trained by Playlist for Life consistently report a reduction in medication for residents with dementia, by up to 60 per cent.

The National Lottery award will be used to raise awareness of the power of playlists and delivers half the funding required to grow the existing grassroots network of Playlist for Life community Help Points to 1,500 across the UK. 

Playlist for Life Help Points are hosted by existing organisations, such as churches, faith groups, libraries and carers’ centres, based anywhere in the UK.  Host organisations are given free training and resources to promote the power of music to help dementia and often provide a helping hand to anyone who gets stuck with technology or finding the right tunes.

Any organisation that would like to be part of the UK-wide project can apply to become a Playlist for Life community Help Point on the Playlist for Life website. Host organisations need to:

  • Already work with people with dementia and their families
  • Have physical premises with good public footfall
  • Have existing volunteer structures in place.

Rev Helen Jamieson, Playlist leader of first ever community Help Point at St Andrews Church of Scotland in Carluke, Lanarkshire said:

Playlist for Life has changed my ministry. The training we received opened our eyes to the power of music to reach people with dementia. Personal music is now a regular part of the way our church supports people living with the condition and their families. We have incorporated playlists into church services, pastoral visits and even funerals.” “Our church is fully committed to including and supporting people with dementia. Playlist for Life has enhanced and enriched all the things we already did. Once a month we now turn our memory café into a ‘Musical Tea’ where people with dementia can come with their family members to chat, laugh, dance, listen to music – and sample home-baking from our unique ‘LP-cake stands’.

To celebrate the grant, Playlist for Life will be promoting Musical Teas in communities across the UK in the run up to BBC Music Day on 26 September. Anyone who wants to host a Musical Tea – and learn how to make an LP-cake stand – can sign up for a free Musical Tea Pack here.

Playlist For Life has also been advising the BBC on www.bbc.co.uk/musicmemories, a website which helps people test and find musical memories by browsing 30-second snippets of thousands of tracks arranged in specially curated playlists. The Playlist for Life Musical Tea pack includes resources to make use of Music Memories as a memory-finding tool and run a music quiz. 

Playlist for Life was founded in 2013 by the writer and broadcaster, Sally Magnusson, after the death of her mother Mamie, who had the disease. In just six years the charity has gone from strength to strength and the National Lottery award is a major boost to its ambitious plans to reach every family affected by dementia with the power of playlists, wherever in the UK they live.

Writer and broadcaster Sally Magnusson, founder of Playlist for Life, said:

I founded Playlist for Life to share with other families something we had to discover by accident when caring for my mother: personal music helps dementia. My vision was that if every person with dementia has a unique personal playlist and everyone who loves or cares for them knows how to use it, then we can improve the way we connect and care for people living with this illness. This award from The National Lottery Community Fund brings that vision closer. We are grateful for their faith in us and excited about the work to come.

Joe Ferns, UK Funding Director at The National Lottery Community Fund said:

“Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, people with loved ones affected by dementia will be given the skills needed to create personalised playlists. We’re proud to support Playlist for Life as they continue to empower family members, care staff and people living with dementia.”   

Sarah Metcalfe, CEO of Playlist for Life, said:

Anyone who saw Vicky McClure’s dementia choir programme has seen the power of music to help dementia. It can help manage mood, unlock memories and abilities thought lost, and bring people closer.  A personal playlist makes the power of music available to people wherever and whenever they need it. We are delighted that The National Lottery Community Fund has understood our vision and made this game-changing award. We are a young charity born of family experience. They have valued that knowledge and experience, putting people in the lead. For nine months they have worked with us to hone and develop our proposal through a challenging but rewarding process. Now, thanks to them, we have the plan and the funding in place to make our vision a reality. We can’t wait to get started.”