Causeway Chronicle

Oh Yeah Music Centre’s ‘Drop the Needle’ Strikes a Chord of Unity at Newington Day Centre

The podcast is available to listen now at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGRcLZW1HsA on the Oh Yeah Centre Youtube channel.

A group of carers from Newington Day Centre have unveiled a unique narrative on a podcast created through Oh Yeah Music Centre’s project, “Drop the Needle.” This initiative, a blend of storytelling and music, delves into the early memories of local Belfast women, unlocking a reservoir of cultural heritage.

The first voice we hear on the podcast is that of 77 year old Maureen, born and raised in North Belfast where she still lives today. She paints a vivid image of the small house she grew up in and reminisces on singing competitions she would have at home with her six siblings. Maureen also shares the tale of auditioning for the showband ‘The Blue Caps’ at age 16, which she performed with alongside her late husband.

Reflecting on what it means to have this legacy in the form of a podcast, Maureen shared, ‘‘It’s wonderful. I think it’s gorgeous because it gives you a wee bit of something you leave behind for your children. It’s just nice to have something you can look back on and say, this is my story.”

There was also an intergenerational element to the project with St Malachy’s students visiting Newington Day Centre with their instruments, resulting in spontaneous music sessions tapping into different genres such as trad, blues and classical. Some of these pieces of music were recorded and integrated into the podcast, helping bring the stories to life.

Maureen remarked that the connections made with the St Malachy’s students were one of the highlights of the project. She said, ‘‘I love the violin, trombone, the piano, most of all I love the saxophone – and to know that those boys could play those instruments and hear them play, that was really remarkable. It was really nice to meet the young people because despite the age gap, if you talk to them, you’ll find that you had more in common than you thought.’’ 

The participants, all carers or volunteers at Newington, discovered joy, friendship, and a sense of community through the project. “Drop the Needle” has become a poignant refrain in their lives, a testament to the uncharted resilience within these caregivers.

Paul Kane, Arts and Older People’s Manager at Oh Yeah Music Centre, expressed his awe at the profound stories that emerged, stating, “There’s this idea of building confidence that is also a legacy as well, where the participants have had the courage to tell their stories and be counted. It’s a really fulfilling job to do and I’m very privileged to facilitate the project because I just try and ease people in and guide them but they do all the work. If I’m lucky, they’ll enjoy it. If not, there’s a challenge but in the end we’ll make it work.”

‘Drop the Needle’ was a 12-week project, managed by Oh Yeah Music Centre and funded by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The weekly workshops were delivered by Oh Yeah’s Arts and Older People’s Manager Paul Kane alongside musician and producer Chip Bailey who brought his unique brand to the project. The initiative aligns with Arts Council NI’s commitment to reducing isolation and loneliness while bringing the voices of older people to the forefront.

Lorraine Calderwood, Arts Development Programmes Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented, “We know that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, boost confidence and motivation, as well as help to relieve stress, loneliness worries and pain.  Thanks to The National Lottery players, the National Lottery Arts and Older People Programme is providing meaningful opportunities for older people to take part in the arts, enriching their lives for the better, and the Arts Council is thrilled to support this wonderful, engaging project from the Oh Yeah Music Centre.”

Michael Anderson

Michael Anderson