Leeds musician recording memories for bereaved families is recognised by National Lottery
A charity worker from Leeds is one of 13 people across the country who have been recognised by the National Lottery for going above and beyond during the pandemic.
Ben Buddy Slack has been honoured with a handcrafted bench designed by the country’s most famous furniture restorer and eco-designer Jay Blades - face of hugely popular show The Repair Shop.
The bench has been unveiled in Meanwood Park near to where he lives and is in recognition of his work at The Swan Song Project. It features design motifs of colourful musical notes and white swans and is emblazoned with his poignant quote “The Lyrics of Life”. An in-built QR code will allow visitors to the bench to listen to an audio recording of Jay Blades regaling Ben’s story.
The Swan Song Project was set up in 2017 to provide people facing end of life and those surrounding them the opportunity to write and record their own original song. He was inspired to start the charity after losing his grandmother, and regretting not recording her singing.
The process allows people to reflect on their lives and create a unique musical legacy that can be enjoyed by their loved ones for years to come.
The charity believes in celebrating lives, making memories and leaving legacies and despite the pandemic he continued to grow the charity by making the service available virtually and working with people all over the country.
Mr Slack also started a free online singing group and launched a podcast where he interviews songwriters about their craft and coping with bereavement.
He is one of 13 local community workers across the UK who have been recognised for their time and efforts in supporting some of the most vulnerable in communities during the pandemic, thanks to National Lottery funding.
"There was this amazing reaction when she’d been so ill. Thinking back on it, I realised how powerful that was and I thought how nice it would have been to have a recording of her singing or even better a song she had written herself.
"I was a songwriter myself and thought I’d see if other people wanted to write and record songs near the end of their own lives. We’ve done songs for about 80 people now and it’s been amazing. I have worked with a lot of incredible people in some of their most difficult times and learnt so much about life and death really.
"The National Lottery have funded us from the start - they’ve been amazing - we definitely wouldn’t have grown in the same way if it wasn’t for Lottery support. It feels really bonkers to receive this kind of National Lottery recognition and I’m still struggling to get my head around it. I walk my dog in that park regularly and seeing the bench feels quite surreal."
David Knott, Interim CEO of The National Lottery Community Fund added: “Throughout these challenging times, the power of individuals and organisations in supporting communities and people’s wellbeing has been so inspiring. As we reflect on the past year, I am proud to spotlight incredible individuals like Ben, from the Swan Song Project – they represent the best of human and community spirit.
"These community benches in local areas will help to showcase the impact they have had on others and to provide valuable space for reflection. Alongside Ben, the 12 local heroes featured from across the UK, have played an integral role in their communities. I am glad that The People’s Benches initiative provides a platform to recognise their outstanding efforts. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have funded over 13,000 community projects, across the UK, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.”