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Playing the Ukulele all the way to Indian Adventure

Musician in Residence at the Royal United Hospital, Frankie Simpkins (24 years of age), will be swapping her ukulele for walking boots this October to take part in The Forever Friends Appeal’s India Dalai Lama trek to raise funds for the new Cancer Centre at the RUH. Frankie’s talent is singing so she will be raising funds by busking in Bath, and not only hopes to raise the awareness of her role as part of the Art at the Heart team at the Hospital, but the important role the arts has to play across the Hospital as well. Alongside her passion for helping and uplifting the spirits of patients through music, she also has been touched by cancer personally.

Frankie explains: “As soon as I saw the poster in the Hospital for the trek I knew straightaway that this was a fundraising adventure I wanted to take on for a few reasons. A number of people in my family have had and are fighting cancer, and although not all of them are being treated at the RUH, I really want to give something back to my local area. Without sounding morbid, the statistics suggest that someone close to me will get cancer in the future and would inevitably be treated at the RUH, so it is so important to me to help in some small way and contribute to the amazing new Centre planned.

I also love to challenge myself, and trekking India gives me two challenges – training to get fit and fundraising!”

Frankie’s role at the RUH as Musician in Residence is part of Hospital’s music programme Soundbite, which is run by Art at the Heart. Art at the Heart supports the Royal United Hospital with an innovative arts programme that aims to stimulate healing and well-being and creates an uplifting environment for all who stay.

Soundbite brings a varied programme of live music and creative activities to RUH wards and public areas of the Hospital. Since its initial pilot in 2010-2011 the programme has gone from strength to strength offering a completely different experience to standard background music, by providing an extra level of care that becomes the focus of attention, taking people’s minds off the worries they are likely to face in Hospital.

Frankie continues: “My job involves performing on the older people’s unit accompanied by my ukulele, singing well known oldies and I have recently started performing on the Children’s Ward where I tend to sing Disney, more specifically ‘Frozen’ songs! With my time on the Children’s Ward I have been working with young Oncology patients, which has really fuelled by desire to raise funds for the new Centre which would have a hugely positive impact on the lives of these little patients.

I love to sing and am so lucky to have a job where I get to sing to people every day. I choose my songs to complement the ward environment, so on a day where things seem quite frantic or fraught I might sing calmer quieter songs to promote a calm atmosphere, or if the patients seem a bit sad or anxious I will sing happy songs to cheer them up. Many patients sing along with me which is amazing, but I don’t expect them to, likewise I don’t force my music on people and always give them a choice – if I were poorly I wouldn’t necessarily want someone singing at my bed all the time!

My music doesn’t only affect the patients, but staff too, some sing along or dance around as they are doing their work which is so lovely and often the patients smile and laugh, which really helps the staff-patient relationship.

As well as working at the RUH, I am a franchisee of Musica, operating as Musica Wiltshire where I go into care homes and run interactive music workshops and I’m also a ‘Singing for the Brain Facilitator’ for the Alzheimer’s Society. Funnily enough I often come across people in the RUH who I know from my other work and it can be nice for them to see a familiar face. Often I can sing them their favourite song!”

Over the next few months Frankie will be putting her talent to even more good use by busking in and around Bath to get the fundraising part of her adventure going. She will be raising funds for The Forever Friends Appeal’s RUH Cancer Care Campaign is raising £8.5million, which will contribute vital funds to the building of a pioneering new Cancer Centre for the Royal United Hospital in Bath. This Centre will be a pioneering building, focused on an individualised and holistic approach to the treatment of cancer patients, where every part is designed around the needs of patients with different forms of cancer as well and their friends and family who visit them.  It will transform care for local patients and their families in Bath, Somerset, Wiltshire and even further afield.

Departing in October 2015, the Appeal’s India Dalai Lama challenge, in association with Global Adventure Challenges, is to trek for 67km over five days through this fascinating region of North India at the heart of the world’s highest mountain range. Trekkers will have the unique opportunity to explore the Kingdom of Gaddi (a semi nomadic race who wander the high passes with their cattle) passing through traditional Hindu settlements, Buddhist Monasteries, pine forests and even a glacier with spectacular views of the Himalayan mountains. This incredible challenge will end with time to explore the incomparable Taj Mahal, the greatest monument to love ever built!

To support Frankie’s trek and the RUH Cancer Care Campaign please visit her online fundraising page: www.justgiving.com/Frankie-Simpkins.

If you would like to join Frankie and travel to Northern India to raise funds towards the build of a pioneering new Cancer Centre for the Royal United Hospital (or another department in the hospital of your choice) please get in touch with Events Fundraiser, Laura on 01225 821535 / laurapearce1@nhs.net for more information or visit our India page. Places for the trek will be closing on Thursday 30th April so don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity!

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