Breathe Magic & Headway Nottingham

Lilli Murdoch, Digital Communications Officer at Breathe Arts Health Research interviews Headway Nottingham Services Manager, Charlotte, to learn about her experience of Breathe Magic for Memory and gain an insight into the impact the programme has had on the participants.

At Breathe it is very important to us to work collaboratively with our partners, occupational therapists, and clinicians. It has been a real pleasure working alongside Charlotte and gaining her feedback on the programme. Charlotte has been working at Headway Nottingham since 2011 and is passionate about raising awareness about the long term effects of brain injury and encouraging compassion towards those who are often misunderstood and marginalised.

“Breathe Magic is the highlight of my week!” Breathe Magic Participant

Breathe Magic teamed up with the amazing Headway Nottingham to deliver a brand-new magic for memory programme. The sessions were specially designed to improve sequencing, ordering, narrative and memory skills for those with memory loss and associated mental health difficulties, as a result of a brain injury.

“I didn’t realise how relaxing and mindful magic could be, it’s enabled me to cut away time from everything else.” Breathe Magic Participant

Headway Nottingham support a community that are living with long term effects of a brain injury. This group of people often feel isolated, socially removed from their communities and are lacking confidence. They are supported to find new skills and build their talents to improve self-esteem, confidence and realise their worth.

Charlotte tells me how the joy, laughter and fun radiates through the Breathe Magic sessions and that this has been lacking over the last year, like it has been for many people.

“Breathe Magic has lifted everybody’s sprits, definitely during the pandemic, it’s something we all look forward to” Breathe Magic Participant

The Breathe Magic team and Breathe Magicians carefully design sessions and select magic tricks, that would be easy to remember, by using the rule of 3; 3 steps to complete each trick. The hope was that in repeating this structure each week may help build muscle memory, and in turn help with confidence in doing daily tasks.

“The Breathe Magic group found massive enjoyment in learning and showing their newly learnt magic tricks. The fact that they could do a magic trick and have the same result as a professional magician from The Magic Circle, instilled huge confidence in them” Charlotte OT

Charlotte tells me how she has seen an improvement in the group each week, how they have grasped the sequencing of the tricks and the speed in which they can recall the magic, but also in their performance skills. She tells me how she gained great enjoyment from watching the group weave a story together whilst performing magic. She is amazed how the group have suddenly started to be able to narrate a story on the spot.

“My children always moan at me because I cheat at boardgames, so I’ve decided to keep my one dice in a box, so of course now I can’t cheat. But hang on a minute, now I have 8 dice in my box, how has that happened?!?” Breathe Magic Participant

“It’s been such a privilege to be part of Breathe Magic, I thought it sounded fun, but I never could have imagined how much joy it could bring. When I heard our participants Peter and Carole’s story, it nearly made me cry.” Charlotte OT

Headway Nottingham member Peter has a condition called aphasia, which is an inability to understand or articulate language due to particular parts of the brain being damaged, this can be caused by brain trauma, brain infections or strokes etc. Over the last 6-weeks of learning Breathe Magic, Carole, Peter’s wife has noticed a big difference in Peter’s confidence and his ability to talk and create sentences, which is an amazing achievement, as this is something he couldn’t do prior to participating.

When Peter does his Breathe Magic tricks he tells a story, and explains what he is doing, such as putting the cards in the box. Carole believes this is possible because he has now found a new purpose in learning magic. Peter only has the use of one arm, but this hasn’t stopped him. Peter and Carole perform the tricks together, being described as the “best double act around” by Breathe Magician Richard.

Charlotte explains that people who have suffered a brain injury can often feel disintegrated in their communities, not accepted in social circles, and struggle to communicate with others. She also tells me how the Breathe Magic participants over the last 6-weeks have grown in confidence, learnt new talents and improved their communication skills.

Charlotte tells me how at first, she was apprehensive about the online delivery of the sessions, unsure if it would work or be beneficial. But she tells me how her fears were mis-placed and that it was clear to see the care, time and attention given to the planning of the sessions and the choice of magic tricks by the Breathe team.

“I can’t recommend Breathe Magic enough, I’m so happy how our members have taken to it. I’ve had conversations with some of the members and they have told me it’s their lifeline and it’s the thing they look forward to the most. It’s so amazing to hear this especially after such a difficult year” Charlotte OT

“Hearing the feedback from the members, seeing the improvement and happiness in them each week, is why we do what we do. I’m completely in love with the concept of Breathe Magic for Memory” Charlotte OT

“Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for letting us be part of this” Charlotte OT

In one of the last magic sessions are asked the Headway group which words summed up Breathe Magic for them, here is what they said:

“Relaxing, confidence building, learning something new, happiness, joyful, connection and come with a purpose, fantastic, mindful, very enjoyable, getting to know new people, interactive”

If you would like to learn more about Breathe Magic and the work we do or if you would like to work with us in the future please head over to our website and/or email Lorna at magic@breatheahr.org