Event review: Care Sector’s Got Talent
The Care Sector’s Got Talent final brought together eight entrants to battle it out for the winning position. Caring Times features editor Charlotte Goddard caught up with them backstage.
Ever since attending Care Sector’s Got Talent I’ve had the soundtrack to Les Miserables in my head, thanks to Kayleigh Morgan. The lifestyles co-ordinator at Greenhill Manor Care Home in Merthyr Tydfil sang On My Own to an audience of friends, family and colleagues at Derby Arena, and earned herself second place in Championing Social Care’s annual talent show.
Every contestant I spoke to told me how professional they found the event, and the organisers really had gone great guns to make it just like a televised talent contest, with screened backstage interviews from “the care sector’s Ant and Dec” and nicely-produced little segments showing the entrants learning that they had been chosen for the final. Just like TV as well, there were some really moving back stories. Kayleigh, for example, told me how she had loved singing on the stage as a child but two operations on her vocal cords forced her to quit. She started singing again with residents at her care home. “We try to do a concert at least once a week for the residents,” she said.
Helena Maskell is another contestant who finds her day job and her talent for singing mesh well together. Helena is obviously a fine actress as well as a singer – her cracking performance of a Billie Eilish song was like watching a music video, and I would genuinely like to see more of her acting. The senior care assistant said she chose the song because it highlighted her more vulnerable, self-critical side. “I think what unites people the most is when we feel in the same boat. The residents we work with were young like us, they had high-flying jobs, it is our role to remind them that we are as vulnerable as they are and as strong as they are - so let’s do it together.”
Helena said when she was younger she thought her future lay in music, and although her life took another path, it’s a path that has looped back round to her musical talent. “During Covid we were trying to keep morale as boosted as possible, and someone got wind I could sing, so they asked if I could bring live music to the residents,” she told me. “I felt I had a duty to these people to bring them music if they needed it. It is funny how a gift that I thought was pushed to the backburner has been reignited through the care sector.” Helena’s care home, Hartwell Lodge, now has its own choir, the Hartwell Harmonies.
Frances Gray, lifestyles assistant at Oakland Care’s Hastings Court care home, also put a lot of thought into her choice of song – Evermore from Beauty and the Beast. “I have ADHD and am autistic – I don’t always understand emotions,” she confided. “Music transcends that, ever since I first heard it, this song transcends all of the neurodiversity, and because of that I love it.”
Contestants were united in their view that Care Sector’s Got Talent was a great way to celebrate care workers, valuing the opportunity to mingle with others in the sector. “We work in one of the most underappreciated, under paid sectors in the UK,” said Frances. “Stuff like this highlights that we are so much more than people give us credit for - we are incredible people, we work incredibly hard and it is nice to just be together.”
“It brings us together, we have an opportunity to meet new people, share success stories and learn from each other,” agreed Paul Bekamba, health care assistant at Weatherby Manor care home. Paul performed a composition he had written for his home’s tenth anniversary, accompanying himself on the piano.
Many of the entrants were supported by family, friends and colleagues, while back at their care homes the event was streaming live for residents. Craig Smith, the care sector’s own Elvis, had his fiancée, small son and future father-in-law cheering him on. “I started singing in the care home I work in, and then I ventured out singing in other homes in the area,” said the care assistant, who has worked at New Carron Court care home in Falkirk since 2015. “I’ve never sung in a place like this before – the dining room of a care home is far as I have got, and even that was a step up from singing in my bedroom!”
Every contestant I caught up with had a story to tell. Dance and Dazzle, from Ty Enfys Care Home in Cardiff, were delighted with the opportunity to share their culture with the rest of the sector. Dhiya and Angeca are Year 12 students who volunteer at the home, while Dost and Mahesh work there, and the four had been practising their dance routine for three months prior to the competition. Robert Speker, pianist extraordinaire, is already known to many in the sector and beyond after his project recreating album covers with care home residents went viral during the pandemic. He urged the sector’s talented hordes to enter in 2024. “Go for it!” he said. “People in care know that they have got these skills but some are hidden. This is a nice opportunity to spend time with other people from the sector to talk about it in a positive light and have fun at the same time.”
Of course, I must mention Michael & Charlene, who not only closed the show but also won it with their performance of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s Shallow. The colleagues met at Hill View Care Home in Glasgow, where Charlene Reeves is wellbeing co-ordinator and Michael Gallagher is senior care assistant. “I have been doing care now for about ten years and it is a job I absolutely love, it is very challenging but so rewarding,” said Charlene. “I love my job, I absolutely love it.”
Michael sings in pubs “every now and again” but Charlene’s only previous foray into singing was karaoke nights, and the two had not sung together before entering Care Sector’s Got Talent. “The home manager asked me to find someone to enter, and I approached Charlene but she wouldn’t do it unless I was doing it with her!” laughed Michael. Asked what she would say to potential entrants in 2024, Charlene was definite. “Do it. One hundred per cent, don’t even think about it. Just go for it.”