07 Nov 2017

A patient under the care of West London Mental Health NHS Trust has won a Koestler Award from a pool of over 7,000 entrants after being inspired by the River Brent and writing a song about feeling at home.

Prison arts charity Koestler Trust’s annual Koestler Awards highlight the work of detainees in UK prisons, patients in secure hospitals, those in immigration removal centres and ex-offenders in the community. The awards aim to challenge negative preconceptions of what ex-offenders are capable of.

The patient’s song titled Take Me to the River won a ‘Commended Award’ under the Singer-Songwriter category of the competition. As part of the submission process, the song was also recorded by a band made up of five patients at West London Mental Health Trust, two staff members and a former patient, who all perform as ‘The Band With No Name’.

Reflecting on his award-winning song, the patient said: “I am very happy to win the Koestler Award. Take Me to the River is about the ability to take me to a place where I feel at home. I think the fact that the River Brent is nearby to where I stayed in hospital makes this song poignant and helpful.

“It’s a great feeling to sing for a band in the hospital. The feeling we get from the crowd when we perform is really helpful. As members of the band we are all doing something together, and getting to work with musicians and professional equipment is really good. Writing songs helps me to express myself artistically.”

In addition to her therapy work, Laura Gullan Gale, Music Therapist at West London Mental Health NHS Trust, manages the band with support from the Trust’s arts therapies team and a volunteer musician. They help the band by arranging both rehearsal time and performances at summer barbecues and Christmas parties within the hospital.

Laura said: “We are thrilled that one of our talented patients has won a Koestler Award. This patient put a lot of hard work into writing their song and collaborating with other band members, and it is great to see this talent being acknowledged. Considering the extremely high level of competition, this is a fantastic achievement.

“Music therapy, like all arts therapies, is a form of psychological therapy that allows patients to access their emotions and express themselves. It can be really helpful to those individuals who struggle to verbally interact with others or put their feelings into words.

“At the Trust we know how important it is for patients undergoing long-term treatment to maintain areas of their identities that are not attached to their medical diagnosis. Music can be really helpful with this, and our patients often feel a sense of belonging and achievement from performing in a group.”

The patient will receive a certificate from the Koestler Trust to recognise their success.

A selection of the entries from the Koestler Awards (curated by internationally renowned artist and sculptor, Sir Antony Gormley) is now on show in an exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall, at London’s Southbank, until 15 November, admission free.

https://www.koestlertrust.org.uk/exhibitions/2017-uk-exhibition-curated-by-sir-antony-gormley/