News: Sound investment opens doors for York charity

More children with serious illnesses and disabilities will be able to express themselves through music thanks to a partnership between a York-based charity and a technology company based in Knaresborough.

Apollo Creative specialises in developing systems which transform body movements into sound, light, image and video, maximising the users’ abilities by detecting a wide range of gestures, allowing the system to be used for music making, sensory environments and interactive stories.

The Wakefield Music Service in West Yorkshire has now invested in Apollo’s latest equipment but, rather than disposing of their older accessible music technology kit, managers agreed to donate it to York-based Jessie’s Fund, which works with children’s hospices all over the UK.

Set up in memory of nine-year-old Jessica George – who died of a brain tumour in 1994 – the charity will choose a hospice to benefit from the donation after circulating details of the equipment to those who may be interested in giving it a new home.

Lesley & Mark with some of the donated kit

Many of us take interacting with others for granted but, for some with speech problems or with physical disabilities, it can be extremely difficult,” said Jessie’s mum and charity founder, Lesley Schatzberger.

For them, the world is not about doing but about having things done for them which can be massively frustrating. Having control over sound or music is extremely therapeutic as it gives them a chance to communicate and participate.

The Apollo Ensemble equipment heading for Wakefield includes wireless games console handsets, adapted so they can be “played” as musical instruments, used to trigger sound effects or change images on display screens.

But whole orchestras, more simple sounds and even lights and images can also be conjured up by the wave or squeeze of a hand or the use of pressure pads, giving Ensemble users with limited movement similar levels of control.

Wakefield Music Services has invested in Ensemble as a powerful tool to engage young people with special needs in high-quality, accessible music making.

We had a demonstration of the system in March and were impressed by how easy the Ensemble system is to use,” said Senior Officer for Music for Wakefield, Geraldine Gaunt. “It’s a brilliant way to make music lessons more inclusive and we’re certain it will be a valuable addition to our resources.

Apollo’s creative director Mark Hildred added he was delighted to see Jessie’s Fund benefit from the investment in Wakefield.

It’s great when we can help two groups of children in one go. The older equipment will really benefit a hospice that has not previously had access to this kind of technology. It’s a programme were hoping to extend to other organisations.