Singing group has been my lifesaver, says Fleetwood carer

Pauline Kennedy enjoys the benefits of singing with others in the Harmony and Health groupPauline Kennedy enjoys the benefits of singing with others in the Harmony and Health group
Pauline Kennedy enjoys the benefits of singing with others in the Harmony and Health group
Full time carer Pauline Kennedy has gone from deeply depressed 'rock bottom' to being able to confidently address many hundreds of people at national conferences.

And part of her recovery is a singing groups which gives everyone a chance to come together in song, regardless of age or ability.

Pauline, 66, wants to help other people who are struggling and hopes her story can offer some encouragement to others.

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She had become a full time carer for husband John after retiring but, as well as suffering with her own chronic COPD and asthma, like many carers she had gradually become isolated to the point that she felt her life was effectively over.

Members of the Harmony and Health singers at an event in BlackpoolMembers of the Harmony and Health singers at an event in Blackpool
Members of the Harmony and Health singers at an event in Blackpool

Her sole outings were to the GP for help with her breathing problems and she sank deeper into chronic depression.

But although she didn't know it then, she was soon to become part of a remarkable success story which has seen sterling efforts made in Fleetwood to tackle chronic health issues in parts of the town, so bad that life expectancy is still years shorter than the UK average.

And part of her recovery involved her joining the singing group, Harmony and Health, based on evidence that singing with others can be massively beneficial in many ways.

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Grandmother Pauline, of Bentham Avenue, Fleetwood, has been married to John for 42 years and she happily recalls that he asked her to marry him on the first day they met.

But after she retired as a civil servant and became a full time carer for John, who by then had become wheelchair bound after a serious injury, she didn't realise how much carers still need to retain a life on the outside.

She said: "It got to the point where my confidence was on the floor, I could not have felt any lower and at that point, in my early sixties, I felt my life was over.

"I had gradually stopped seeing people and I became preoccupied with my own illness, which was getting worse and worse. I felt so depressed I couldn't see things getting any better."

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This sad state of affairs continued for two years but in 2016 she was told about a new initiative called Healthier Fleetwood, set up by port MP Mark Spencer who realised that the way to tackle the town's complex health issues was not "more pills".

The stark health statistics showed that on average, people in some Fleetwood wards had a life expectancy that was nine years lower than those in nearby Poulton.

As volunteers and other groups came on board, Healthier Fleetwood has grown into a a thriving organisation whose ethos is to enable people to becoming the doers, rather than the done to, and to give residents more control over the factors and decisions that affect their lives

It has become far reaching, supporting groups such as Men's Shed, which is a safe haven for men struggling with depression and mental health issues - and Harmony and Health, the singing group for all people, regardless of singing ability, age or gender.

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Pauline said: "I read that one way to help lessen the symptoms of COPD was to sing regularly and I heard through Healthier Fleetwood about the Harmony and Health singing group.

"It has turned out to be a lifesaver for me.

"You can sing your heart out for a couple of hours and forget about your problems, you can make friends and and end up feeling uplifted - the exact opposite of being on the floor like I used to be."

And that's not all - Pauline has also become a director of Healthier Fleetwood and speaks about it at national events.

Only last week, via social media, she shared her personal story with more than 600 people at gathering of health body, the National Academy for Social Prescribing .

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Pauline told the audience how engaging with groups and activities in the community had made such a difference to her health and wellbeing, in particular as an enthusiastic member of the Harmony & Health singers.

Although the Coronavirus lockdown has temporary ended singing get togerthers at the Marine hall in Fleetwood, the group still holds some sessions on social media platform, Zoom.

Healthier Fleetwood itself has won various awards and continues to attract national interest as health bosses look to more holistic answers to tackle health problems associated with deprivation.

For more information about all the activities supported by Healthier Fleetwood, visit the website

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