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Archive sounds to help dementia and brain injury patients in new Sounds Around game with NHS

Wednesday, 18 May, 2022
Archive sounds to help dementia and brain injury patients in new Sounds Around game with NHS

A British Library project with Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) dedicated to preserving sounds has inspired a new game in collaboration with health and care professionals at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to help people with dementia and brain injury.

The Sounds Around game is part of the legacy of the British Library’s Unlocking Our Sound Heritage (UOSH) project, a national initiative that preserved, digitised and provided public access to thousands of the UK’s rare and unique sound recordings. Tyne & Wear Archives, part of TWAM, acting as the North East and Yorkshire hub preserved over 10,000 sounds alone.

Sounds Around is a sound and card game designed for care professionals to use with people with dementia or brain injury. Using a variety of these heritage sounds drawn from partner hubs across the UK alongside imagery and interesting facts, the game stimulates conversations, unlocks memories, and encourages play.

Sophie Mitchell, communities officer at TWAM, said: “It is a wonderful legacy of the Unlocking Our Sounds Heritage project, that these preserved sounds can go on to help people and aid health professionals, enriching people’s lives and recovery. The groups who have trialled the game in North Tyneside have enjoyed it so far. The game is a product of our ongoing relationship with NHCT which we’re hoping to develop further.”

Alexandra Pentelow, an occupational therapist at Northumbria Healthcare, added: “It was great to work on this project and share my experience of working with people with dementia, looking at how the game could be adapted to make it more engaging and user-friendly for this patient group.

“It was important to look at factors such as the colour and design of the game and also the practicalities like the volume, length and clarity of the clips. Due to the differing needs of people with dementia and the different stages people may be at, it was important that the game could be played flexibly to accommodate this.

“Playing the game with patients has sparked so many meaningful conversations where I have learned about their past and experiences which is so valuable in delivering the best patient care.”

Chandan Mahal, learning projects manager at the British Library, said: “We are delighted Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, a UK-wide project to save the nation’s sounds and open them up to everyone, has inspired the new Sounds Around game. Tyne & Wear Museums & Archives’ collaboration with health and care professionals in the North East shows how sound collections can be used to support wellbeing and mindfulness in a creative and inspiring way.”

The game also helps people with dementia to boost their mood, develop their confidence and have conversations about the world around them. The game is a tool to be used by care professionals to start conversations and to support them in their professional practice.

Physical copies of Sounds Around will be available from TWAM to use by health and care professionals with their patients. To enquire about borrowing a game, please email to find out more.

Sounds Around consists of 16 cards with images and text, a board and a sound playlist on SoundCloud.

By playing the sounds and matching them to an image on the card, participants can start conversations about different subject matters. Then they can select their favourite 10 sounds to arrange in an order of their choice. On the back of each card is a fact about the sound, keywords and example questions to ask the participants. There is no right or wrong way to play the game.

There are 16 cards connected to 16 different sounds from the project. Sounds include:

  1. Circus-themed Fenwick’s Christmas window, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1986, Fenwick Archive [Tyne & Wear Archives]
  2. Guitar music from Hull Fair Project Collection, 2005 [University of Sheffield]
  3. Newcastle Civic Centre Carillon Bells, playing a Christmas carol medley, December 1967 [Tyne & Wear Archives]
  4. Music of Northumbrian Bag Pipes played by Kathryn Tickell [Tyne & Wear Archives]
  5. A dog barking [Tyne & Wear Archives]
  6. The sound of the tide [University of Sheffield]
  7. The start and finish of the 1990 Great North Run, in Newcastle and South Shields [Tyne & Wear Archives]
  8. Commentary from the game of Newcastle United winning the FA Cup in 1951, with a goal from Jackie Milburn [Darlington Centre for Local Studies]
  9. Queen Elizabeth II opening a train line [Tyne & Wear Archives]
  10. The sound of a brook, recorded in Kynance Cove, Cornwall, 1 March 1996 [The British Library]
  11. Scottish Woodland in late spring [The British Library]
  12. A tawny Owl hooting, Gloucestershire, October 1979 [The British Library]
  13. A nightingale song, Brownsea Island, Dorset, 1964 [The British Library]
  14. Rain falling on leaves and puddles in a tropical rainforest in Tambopata Wildlife Reserve, Peru [The British Library]
  15. A common frog, South Brent, Devon, 1965 [The British Library]
  16. A train leaving Aberystwyth at 9.50am, 13 November 1965 [The Chris Thompson Railway]