How music can help reach through brain injury


Music can be an absolute life-line to people with acquired brain injury – which makes it highly appropriate that music will be at the heart of a fund-raising concert for Headway West Sussex.

Coming as part of this year’s Festival of Chichester, the concert will be on Sunday, June 16 at 3pm, featuring the Chichester Sinfonietta under conductor Mark Hartt-Palmer at Christchurch, Old Market Avenue. The music will include Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending and Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus and a performance of London 2012 opening ceremony conductor/arranger Robin A Smith’s suite Le Weekend with the composer as piano soloist.

Based at Lodge Hill, Headway West Sussex works across West Sussex to support people who have survived a brain injury and now face a new future. It extends the support to families, unpaid carers, professionals and friends.

Headway West Sussex chairman Trevor Hines is delighted with the money and the profile the concert will raise: “As a charity we are hoisted by our own petard. We want people to know about what we do so that we can help them, but every time someone comes to us, it costs us money… so we are always needing to publicise what we do so that we can raise the money to continue to serve the people that we want to serve. We really are a Cinderella charity. We have no assets whatsoever. Whatever we get in goes straight out.”

But they work with a complete understanding of their clients, as Trevor says: “We have all been there. We have all gone there, and the wonderful part-timers that we have supporting us all give far, far more than their allotted time.”

Trevor speaks from experience: “The power of music for people suffering from an acquired brain injury (ABI) is well known. I have a son who is an ABI survivor and music has been a life-line to him. It has the power to communicate. He sustained his acquired brain injury whilst on a Predendal School reunion in Bognor Regis. A drunken driver in a stolen white van mounted the pavement.”

Trevor’s son pushed his three female chums away from the oncoming vehicle but in so doing was thrown 30 feet distant: “It was the wonderful paramedics from St Richard’s Hospital that saved his life and the outstanding care given by The Donald Wilson Rehabilitation, a specialist unit with St Richard’s that enabled him to live within the community. He is now a wheelchair user with a range of physical and emotional challenges that are common to ABI survivors.”

When tragedy struck, Headway West Sussex was there to give immediate support and continued advice. It was this personal experience that led Trevor to become involved in Headway West Sussex and eventually become chairman.

He has since learnt the importance of music. In general, it can help ABI survivors express both happiness and sadness simply through their choice of music; it can express so much when verbal expression is difficult.

“It never ceases to amaze me how some frequencies, how just the sound of music can be so joyous to people. If you have got young children, they really just move instinctively to what they are hearing. Music is instilled into them to a greater or lesser degree, but for somebody with ABI, what is left of the brain, to put it crudely, can find new passages. Passages of the brain are blocked or destroyed by an accident, and it is irreparable, but it never ceases to amaze me how the brain manages to find new routes through music.”

Trevor is delighted to be working with Mark Hartt-Palmer and the Chichester Sinfonietta. Mark’s wife Claire is a solicitor with George Ide. As Trevor says, Headway and George Ide are “in each other’s DNA” they work so closely.

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