THE SMILING SESSIONS

“The Smiling team encourages song, laughter, friendship and story-telling that revive and warm the hearts of an isolated part of society that badly needs support, acknowledgement and inclusion. It’s a privilege to be able to meet so many amazing residents who love to sing and share their stories with us.” – Founder and Artistic Director, Alison Jones

We have been delivering our signature participatory singing project, The Smiling Sessions, to older people in residential sheltered housing schemes and care homes for ten years.

We’re delighted to see the impact our sessions have on the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Our musical team performs a range of popular and favourite songs, encouraging people as much as possible to engage and take part.

Music can significantly influence our emotional state, confidence and social skills and also our cognitive abilities and mental health. It’s heartening to see the visible improvement in people’s mood and wellbeing after each session.

Started in 2011 in East London and originally funded by The Big Lottery, The Smiling Sessions were voted into the finals of The National Lottery competition. Since then we have gone from strength to strength developing partnerships with many organisations. These include the Arts Council England, NELFT NHS Redbridge, Red Nose – The Evening Standard Dispossessed fund, The Genesis Wellbeing Fund, Mercers and City Bridge Trust.

Alison Jones & Pete Baikie started this work from the desire to develop another strand within their portfolio careers & to deliver more community rooted practice, wishing to give something back to their local communities as artists. The project constantly challenges musicians to deliver songs in new & engaging ways, with well over 100 songs to their repertoire, they have also produced 3 printed songbooks with CDs and a Christmas songbook and CD!

To support our sessions, we have developed a series of CDs and accompanying large-print songbooks for residents to use after we’re gone.

dONATE

Please consider supporting us. We want to touch the hearts and souls of as many older people as possible and your contribution will make a big difference.

BOOK a SESSION

If you would like us to visit your residential care home or Social Housing Scheme.

Call +44 7843739099 or email below.

buy a cd

Help us by buying our “Smiling Sessions CD”. All proceeds will go towards making more Smiling Sessions and improving the project to make our sessions more accessible and inclusive.

Meet the team

Alison Jones

Artistic Director/sessions facilitator: vocals; violin; percussion

Besides having over 35 years experience in producing, management & workshop facilitating, Alison is a composer and musician. She toured worldwide as solo violinist with Spirit of the Dance, appeared regularly at WOMAD and other major international festivals with cult all-girl band, The Well Oiled Sisters, who toured with Morrissey, & appeared on the same line up around the world with incredible musicians, including Van Morrison, Suzanne Vega, The Pet Shop Boys and Boy George. After establishing Shapeshifter Productions in 2007 to launch her outdoor spectacular, “WILDFIRE!”, Alison became passionate about giving back to the community and creating opportunities to participate in music. She became a founding member of The Smiling Sessions and has been instrumental in setting up and developing the project, which has now become The Smiling Remotely Project during COVID-19 lockdown. Alison was shortlisted as “Citizen of the Year” in Love Your Borough, 2014, and nominated a Cultural Star for the London Borough of Culture Waltham Forest 2019.

Pete Baikie

Sessions facilitator: vocals, guitar

Pete is probably best known for writing and performing four series of

Channel 4’s cult comedy show ‘Absolutely’ in the 1990’s. He then won 4 Welsh BAFTA’s for producing various comedy series for ITV including ‘Barry Welsh is Coming.’ As a musician, Pete led ‘The Peatles’, who became the house band on Channel 5’s ‘The Jack Docherty

Show’ in the late 90’s. During the run of this show, Pete was thrilled to play guitar alongside such musical superstars as Glen Campbell and David Bowie. He has played with loads of bands including ‘The Hairstyles’ and ‘The Glenbuck Cherrypickers’, and is

currently playing with ska tribute band ‘The Irregulars’. As a TV theme tune composer, Pete has written music for many TV shows including ‘Shooting
Stars’, ‘The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer’, ‘Big Fat Quiz of the Year’, and ‘Jonathan Ross’s Asian Invasion’

Nowadays, Pete and his old pals from ‘Absolutely’ regularly appear on BBC Radio 4 in ‘The Absolutely Radio Show’, and when not playing with Alison and Neil in the Smiling Sessions Band, Pete works as a BACP accredited psychotherapist at the 18b practice in Golders Green.

Neil Herd

Sessions facilitator, Guitar, Vocals

Neil is a solo artist, broadcaster, production manager and educator. Known principally as a founder member of the bluegrass band “The Coal Porters”, who toured on the international circuit on a regular basis for the last 20 years, including Nashville, and SXSW and appeared live for Bob Harris on BBC Radio 2. He has lent his guitar playing and distinctly Scottish singing style to a host of artists during his career, working alongside the likes of John Hegley, Jo Brand, Julian Clary and Mark Thomas (for whom he acted as musical director). For several years, Neil was a key producer for the BBC’s Blast project, making songs, radio comedy & drama with young people in disadvantaged communities across the UK. Neil currently lectures in songwriting and sound engineering at London College of Music and has just launched his first solo album, “Every Soul a Story”. One of Neil’s favourite things about The Smiling Sessions is the opportunity it offers to play classic songs of the last 50/60/70+ years  and engage with an audience who sing these songs from their very souls!