Brixton resident William Longden has been honoured with a handcrafted bench designed by restorer and eco-designer Jay Blades from BBC One’s The Repair Shop.
William, a sculptor, fine artist and musician, founded Joy Of Sound (JOS) 20 years ago.
The charity runs inclusive music sessions using amazing bespoke instruments and inclusive approaches that are accessible to people of all abilities.
William is one of 13 community workers across the UK recognised for their time and efforts in supporting some of the most vulnerable people in communities during the pandemic, thanks to National Lottery funding.
“The transition (after Covid struck) was instant,” says William. “Within seven days, we delivered our first online session, a dance movement session that I co-hosted with a dance and movement practitioner.
“Within a very short time, the JOS team was delivering a full programme five days a week and engaging with people who had never been involved before, along with our regular client base and, amazingly, participants from all over the world.”
The bench dedication has been inspired by the work that William undertakes for the community group which he set up in 2000, after a chance meeting with a young man with profound and multiple learning access requirements, who was trying to play a guitar.
It became obvious to William that this man could play and share music if given appropriate equal opportunity. He just needed an instrument that suited his personal choice and needs.
He realised that by creating usable, adapted instruments and accessible workshops, everyone could enjoy and benefit from music, boosting their confidence and mental health.
William now facilitates three primary workshops in Lambeth, Hackney and Kensington, delivering an average of 140 session a year.
For the last two decades, Joy of Sound has offered its weekly workshops around London, as well as taking part in international collaborations and special events, with everything run by volunteers.
When face-to-face workshops halted at the start of the pandemic, William wanted to ensure beneficiaries, their family and professional caregivers, and volunteers could still access activities.
He began a programme of participatory online workshops, running three a week at first, before expanding to six different sessions a week.
“This situation proved we could improvise to make the best of any situation,” he says, “even when using a very different technological medium for online workshop delivery.”
William’s bench is now on Hackney Marshes with the design motif of a guitar.
It is also displays his moving motto: “We Can All Play”.
A QR code will allow visitors to the bench to listen to an audio recording of Jay Blades telling William’s story.
Other benches being unveiled across the UK today (15 July) celebrate inspiring individuals such as Brighton resident Emily Kenward, the founder of the Time to Talk Befriending charity; South Wales resident Mal Emerson who formed the charity Marauders Men’s Health designed to help men with mental health issues; and Oldham resident Oyovwe Kigho, founder and chief executive of the Widows Empowerment Trust’, a scheme to combat loneliness set up in 2017.
“Like most of us,” says Jay Blades, “I have witnessed inspirational acts of selflessness and kindness this year as people have adapted their lives to help others.
“It has been an honour to hear about the 13 people whose work is being honoured with a bespoke bench being placed in their local area.
“Each bench represents the person’s personality, passions and the impact they have had on others in their community.
“It is, hopefully, a fitting tribute to their efforts this year – efforts that too often go unheralded but never unappreciated by those they help – that these benches can be places where others can find out more about their work.”