The Warblers singing for lung health

We wanted to shine a light on The Warblers, a National Lottery funded group based in the Lothians supporting people with chronic lung conditions.

It’s COPD Awareness month, which aims to raise awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – a lung condition which makes it extremely difficult for you to breathe. It affects millions of people in the UK.

The Warblers run a singing group to improve the physical and mental health of people with COPD. Over the past two years they have received over £10,000 of National Lottery funding to improve participants’ breathing techniques and give them confidence in managing their condition.

Jane Lewis, project leader of The Warblers was excited to tell us that their in-person sessions were set to resume this month. She explained why the project is something participants look forward to each week:

“It’s not just about singing, it’s about relaxation and doing something that’s joyful and uplifting – that, in turn, helps the breathing to settle.”

A member of The Warblers singing enthusiastically in one of the group sessions. An image from before the pandemic.
Photo Credit: Callum Booth-Lewis. The Warblers run two in-person sessions each week, encouraging people with lung conditions to improve their breathing. Note: Photo taken pre-pandemic.

You don’t need to be good at singing to join!

“I can’t sing!”

This was Joan’s first thought when she first heard about The Warblers. She is now a regular participant after realising how much the sessions have improved her breathing.

“Singing, to me, works as well as my inhaler – and it’s more fun… I never thought of myself as a singer but using my lungs in this way has made such a difference to me.”

One of the main barriers for people joining is that they don’t think they can sing. However, participants are not there just to sing, they also share information about self-management and making new friends who are in a similar situation.

They have now returned to two in-person sessions per week after a year-long break during the pandemic. The online sessions will continue, as not everyone will be ready to re-join a group situation.

Two members of The Warblers smiling and laughing as they hold hands as they sing and have a laugh with the group. Another image taken before the pandemic.
Photo credit: Jon Davey. The Warblers not only encourages singing for lung health but helps people make friends who are in similar situations and living with chronic lung conditions. Note: Photo taken pre-pandemic

Beyond the singing

Whilst having online sessions throughout the pandemic, they have found that some participants were not comfortable singing on Zoom either. With one of their aims being to reduce anxiety and isolation amongst the group, they had to find new ways to keep everyone connected.

The Warblers took part in the Citizen project, run by the Edinburgh Book Festival in 2020. The Citizen project is a long term creative programme that works in partnership with the Edinburgh Book Festival.

The project aims to give a voice to communities, offering local residents the opportunity to explore their connection to each other through a series of of events and activities in Scotland throughout the year.

Jane thought it was a great way to reach a wider audience:

“It was a fabulous outreach project that really helped sustain people during lockdown. We took part in online events and now we’ve just published a book on the stories that were written after the project.”

Thinking about joining?

The Warblers work closely with experts to ensure sessions work to fit the needs of their participants and they will often run taster sessions for those who are curious about joining.

Jane believes it’s as much about body awareness and checking in with your body and encourages people to get in touch!

Feeling inspired?

Like The Warblers, many other groups have applied for a National Lottery Awards For All grant to help fund their activities. It’s our simplest grant to apply for, and a great way for community groups to access our funding.

For more information visit the National Lottery Awards for All Scotland page on our website.

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