INTERVIEW: Jane Glitre of the Spitz Charitable Trust / #IWD2016

Victor Stuart playing Kings Place Festival 2015 with Jay Phelps and Ben Hazelton
Photo Credit: Delphine Orliange
Jane Glitre ran the Spitz venue from 1997 to 2007. She is currently involved with a wonderful project bringing jazz musicians to perform in nursing homes. She explained the background to Sebastian:

LondonJazz News: How did you get involved in this work and can you remember the first event(s)? 

Jane Glitre: We shut the doors on the old Spitz in September 2007. Around that time I began wondering – who is in our Nursing Homes these days? What music do they want to listen to? Then in 2011 an opportunity came up,  I was invited by Entelechy Arts to bring six musicians for an event in  a Nursing Home in South London.  I went there on a research visit to start to answer those questions.  There I found a multi cultural aging society. Top of their list of requests was Reggae, fast followed by Jazz.  So I hand picked six musicians from the London Jazz scene who I knew were not only great musicians but also warm hearted, willing to have a cup of tea and a chat.

The afternoon began with Emine Pirhasen, Ben Hazelton and Jay Phelps playing outside the bedroom windows of those who were too frail to come to the main event.  The music wafted into their rooms and was remembered as much as a year later by one man who asked “Do you remember the day the music came?”

Then they joined Alan Weekes, Jonathan Gee and Michael Mwenso for the main event.

In advance of the event we had been told we may have to stop playing early as everyone gets tired but none of that – we eventually finished half an hour late.  The energy was extraordinary. The   memories the music invoked, and the way it affected people’s mood and mobility was inspiring. The sense of possibility was enormous. I was hooked and needed to find a way to do more.

Jay Phelps and Victor Stuart prepare to play at The Hackney Museum
Photo Credit: Delphine Orliange

LJN: What is the organisation?  

JG: To gain charitable status was the best way forward. So The Spitz Charitable Trust was born and the fundraising began.

LJN: Have there been musicians who have made a real hit / why?   

They have all been amazing. Their improvisational skills have taken on a new meaning – responding to all the different atmospheres and moods that can never be pre-guessed.   Alan Weekes has worked on some one to one sessions eg with an 87 year old man with mild Alzheimer’s disease, Victor Stuart, who used to play guitar a lot.  During the first 121 Victor remembered five songs, this enabled him to play at both Kings Place Festival and the Hackney Museum with Jay Phelps on Trumpet.  Jay is superb at improvising with Victor – tunes that we have now coined ‘Victor’s Blues’.  Jay has also taken the opportunity to practice his own singing and has sung in public for the first time at The Vortex.

Emilia Martensson‘s easy going warmth and beautiful voice have been a real hit.  Alongside Arthur Lea they create a stunningly integrative atmosphere.

Emilia Martensson sings at a Nursing Home in Finsbury Park
Photo Credit: Hannah Lovell

Everyone brings something different and special – Winston Clifford, Larry Bartley, Quentin Collins, Jonathan Gee and many more…..

LJN: Have you had comments back about this work?  

JG: “The Spitz musicians have class and an understated glamour that the clients immediately pick up on.” Rebecca Swift, Entelechy Arts

“The music was fantastic, it brought everything back to my heart.”  Participant, Haringey Day Centre

“Beyond our expectations; clients sang their hearts out, even those who don’t usually dance had an opportunity to enjoy themselves in the mix of beautiful music being played.” Day Care Centre Manager

LJN: What have you learnt from doing this?

JG: I have and am learning so much.  Bringing professional musicians to play live music in the setting of an Adult Day Care Centre or Nursing Home is powerful. More so than I could have ever guessed. Many old people feel forgotten or useless.  The music creates an atmosphere of expectancy before we even get there.  When being played it invokes memories, enthusiasm, bodily movements that may have been forgotten, relaxation. There is one lady who can hardly move at all and cannot speak – yet after meeting her just twice I can tell you that ‘Georgia on my mind’ is one of her favourite songs.  Her body relaxes and her eyes sparkle when she hears it.  The music brings us all together with a sense of our common humanity. We find ourselves in situations that are full of uncertainty, fragility  and transition and journey together.  The improvisational nature of Jazz is perfect for this setting.  The quality of the musicians and the way that they can interact within the unexpected contexts of the room is second nature to them.  

Science is still learning so much about the brain and body’s responses to different stimulation. We brought a man from New Cross to Kings Cross in his wheelchair to perform poetry at the Kings Place Festival.  The ride across London was the longest journey he had made since his stroke ten years ago.  The journey alone animated him so much that he was moving his limbs more than anyone who knew him had seen since the stroke. He had a new poem firing away in his brain and needed us to urgently write it down for him.

LJN: How are the sessions funded?

JG: We have had some grants from the Arts Council, Awards for All, RSA, Network for Social Change and some other funding bodies.  We urgently need some core funding so that we can really concentrate on the work and have more continuity.

LINK: The Spitz Charitable Trust

Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. I was a devotee of the old Spitz music venue so am delighted that Jane Glitre has started this charitable trust and is organising this amazing project – bringing music to the elderly. Though it seems the music is already there and bursting to get out. Fantastic and inspiring

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