Knees-Up Therapy

The days when working-class Londoners would gather to sing in pubs may have ended in the 1960s, but the East End’s lost singing culture is having a revival in an unlikely place: a dementia day centre in Newham.

Research has shown that music is one of the last things to go for people with dementia, and they are often able to remember entire songs even when they can no longer form full sentences. But in East London, it’s more than just a scientific fact — it’s cultural. Singing and dancing were an integral part of the working-class life in the East End until the 1960s, whether it was in a pub, a drunken trip to the seaside, or around a piano in someone’s parlour. Working with music therapist Kevin Plummer at the Sam Boyce Centre in Newham, we documented the unique role of music in this East London dementia centre.

An exploration of music, memory and knees-up spirit late in life.

Sound pieces and photos by Thalia Gigerenzer. This project is in collaboration with the artist collective polkadotsonraindrops and is funded by the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund. This project was selected as part of the Association of Independent Radio’s (AIR) public media scan and was broadcast on Resonance FM in December 2013.