It’s well known that respite from their caring role is critical to the health and wellbeing of carers. Some local authorities, charities and community groups offer carers access to regular training and creative activity workshops as a break from their caring role. Clare Graham went along to meet and take part in a comedy session in Ilford.


Have you ever heard of the healing power of laughter? A group of carers in east London have. The group meets for two hours once a month at a venue in central Ilford courtesy of Redbridge Carers Support Service (RCSS), Silver Comedy’s George Baddeley and a local comedian or in this case, comedienne, Pam.

The session kicks off with tea, brief introductions, the imposition of tinsel for a lucky few (it’s just before Christmas) and chat.

The session moves on quickly to a round of the ‘yes or no’ game. Essentially Pam goes round the group one at a time and those that make it to a minute of questioning without answering “yes” or “no” are the winners. I fall at the second question, but a couple of the ladies demonstrate the dexterity of the more mature brain and hold Pam off for the full minute – very impressive.

After a quick round of ‘truth or lie’, it’s on to ‘Blind date’.  A male contestant makes up a name (Tom) and gets to ask questions of three possible date candidates “Would you kiss on the first date?  Where would you like to go on your first date?  What do you wear in bed?”

The responses seem to me, surprisingly cheeky, but as George later explains “it’s really all about escapism, it’s therapeutic, people making their own fun, suspending disbelief.”

Next the group get an opportunity to interview ‘Mary Christmas’ (Pam) and ‘Miss-El-Toe’ (Pam’s friend Claire) for a role as Father Christmas. We all decide on a question each and then candidates are called in for interview one at a time.

Both candidates seem inappropriate for the role.  Mary hasn’t passed a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check, downloaded her sleigh driving license from the internet and would use a tazar to deal with the children that have been bad.  El is seemingly more interested in what might await her at the residences of a number of boy-bands.

Again we all laugh belly-achingly hard, even the first-timers fall comfortably into the normality of the group and the game.

A murder mystery game where we all have roles and a good ‘sing-along’ to YMCA rounds the session off. I reflected that for two hours I’d completely forgotten who I was and why I was there, instead having immersed myself fully in the comedy.

“These types of sessions work really well with groups of people with dementia too” shares George “our care home and local authority clients comment on how cognitive ability improves after these sessions, well essentially it engages the senses.”

For further information and contact details for Silver Comedy, visit their website.

Redbridge Carers Support Service

RCSS support a growing network of carers in the London Borough of Redbridge. The group is already five hundred older carers strong and Sue Grant, who joined the charity in August 2012, is hoping to grow that further.

“My target is to find at least fifty new carers during the year. I have been trying to do this by outreach to organisations such as the Dementia Café, the U3A and the Redbridge Pensioners Forum.”

Of those registered, seventy five older carers have attended at least one activity. The activities available at the time of writing are:

  • Chair based exercise
  • Computer courses
  • Meditation
  • Mosaic Art
  • Tai Chi
  • Visiting a local theatre for dress-rehearsal performances
  • Yoga

“The yoga class has been very popular and carers have expressed improved flexibility and general feeling of wellbeing” Sue shares.  “We also attend the monthly Redbridge tea dance at James Hawkey Hall. I started with about three carers, but this month was our third visit and we had our own table of seven carers.”

“The computer course was very popular and useful for those who attended. From January carers will attend beginner and improver courses in Ilford and Hainault.”

Sue’s has further ambition for the group. From the early January 2012, a walking group and a card-making group will be starting. She’s also hoping to do something with an organisation called the Green Candle Dance company, if the necessary funding can be found.

For further information and contact details for Redbridge Carers Support Services, check out their website.