Housing

Westminster hostel replaces Big Ben bongs with recording studio for homeless

Westminster-based King George's Hostel's recording studio is helping its residents to be heard just half-a-mile from the iconic clock tower

A hostel is cranking its support for its residents up to 11 by building a recording studio.

The King George’s Hostel studio, run by Riverside Care and Support in the heart of Westminster, is doing its bit to replace the lost bongs of nearby Big Ben by helping to provide therapy through music.

The studio, named Changes, is a recent addition to the all-male centre, which was opened early in the 20th century by King George V, and has already struck a chord with the vulnerable men who depend on the hostel for shelter and support.

They are given the chance to rebuild their lives through open mic nights and weekly music groups as well as hitting the high notes in the studio.

One King George’s user, Michael Higgins, started learning to play the guitar while staying at the hostel and insists that it helps him to focus.

People come here off the streets with drug and alcohol problems, music gives them a new direction to take

The 41-year-old moved to London from his native Portsmouth 16 years ago for work but is now on his second stay with the scheme, arriving two years ago after falling on hard times.

Music is used to help residents find a new direction in life

Michael said: “I moved to London and eventually ended up at King George’s Hostel and stayed for over a year before getting my own flat and working.

“Then I was living with my grandmother, looking after her, but she died and I lost my home. I was living on the streets for six months before coming back here.

https://twitter.com/RiversideUK/status/903261525833605120

“Being able to play music at King George’s is really good and does make a lot of difference. It helps people to focus which is needed. People come here off the streets with drug and alcohol problems, music gives them a new direction to take.

“I can practise and make my own music in the studio with recording equipment, it’s great. I’m hoping to give guitar lessons to other residents.”

The 68-bed hostel supports men who have a history of sleeping rough while nearby sister-scheme Queen Mary Pathway supports homeless women.

A plethora of activities take place at King George’s to engage residents and help them to move past the issues affecting their lives.

The music studio is a valuable resource for residents as a safe space for them to come and express their thoughts and emotions

Art, creative writing and fitness classes, film club, gardening, and a breakfast club along with a recently opened digital café are all on offer at the hostel.

Helping residents make sweet melodies is Riverside support worker Cleo Sava, who takes residents to gigs as well as recording sounds in the area with them on ‘soundwalks’.

Open mic nights, weekly music classes and recording sessions are all on offer at the hostel

Cleo said: “The music studio is a valuable resource for residents as a safe space for them to come and express their thoughts and emotions in a positive and productive way. They use the instruments and equipment to record.

“Everyone is welcome to pop in, have a chat and listen to music. I play a multitude of instruments and teach people to play.”

Karren Ebanks, Riverside’s area manager, added: “Residents have said that these classes boost their confidence, and gives them the opportunity to deal with past traumas that they’ve never spoken to anyone about.

“Our music studio is at the heart of King George’s, and feeds into all the other activities be it through music, art, or film groups. Music is a powerful tool to engage them in the early stages of pre-contemplation.

“The studio operates an open-door policy and provides a variety of ways for people to get involved.”

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