Parents who have lost a child are being helped to process their grief through songwriting sessions with an international cabaret star, at a Chorley children’s hospice.
Kiki Deville, who tours the world performing – and is best-known for her appearance on reality TV’s The Voice – has led the first-of-its-kind project at Derian House Children’s Hospice.
A total of 10 families took part in the Keepsake Circle project, with an album of the songs being released for sale today to raise money for the charity.
The project has even attracted the attention of celebrities, with one of the songs on the album performed by West End star Kerry Ellis.
The songwriting sessions were particularly poignant for Kiki, Patron of the charity, whose baby son Dexter was cared for at the hospice during his short life. Dexter, who was born with Zellweger Syndrome, died aged just one month and three days in 2007.
Working to help families, she said, brought her a sense of peace.
“After writing my own musical tribute to my son Dexter, who died at Derian House 14 years ago, I felt I could add real value, both therapeutically and in raising awareness around bereaved families,” said Kiki, of Earby, Lancashire.
“It has been the most rewarding and uplifting project and a privilege to get to know all the children through their families. Fourteen years ago, all the light in the world went out for me and I thought I would never find it again. Thanks to places like Derian House and doing things like this I found it again.”
Families were interviewed by Kiki and her songwriting partner Guss about all their favourite memories, funny stories and family traditions. The pair then took away the stories and crafted the precious memories to music.
The hospice’s family support team were on hand to help families deal with any issues the emotional meetings unearthed in follow-up counselling sessions.
An official launch evening with performances of the songs was held at the Leyland Hotel earlier this month, and the CD of 10 songs is now available to buy in the hospice charity shops and online.
Mother Adele Holland, whose son is remembered in Yaaseen’s Song, said: “As we approach what would have been our son’s 21st birthday we couldn’t have been given a greater gift than to write a song with professional songwriters that encapsulates our son and how his life altered ours forever.
“Kiki and Guss were fantastic listeners and to be able to reflect on our precious memories as a family and then for them to highlight all of those in Yaaseen’s song was mind-blowing. We now had a song we listen to daily. A song that reminds us how fortunate we have been to have met our son but also the great service that Derian House offers to families.”
The project even attracted the attention of West End star Kerry Ellis – best-known for performances in Wicked and We Will Rock You – who sang Rebecca’s Song on the album.
Kerry, who became involved in the project after meeting Kiki whilst running a songwriting workshop, said: “I can’t begin to tell you how special it was for me to sing and record this song, to use my voice to bring comfort was one of the most important vocals I have ever done. I loved being part of this and am in awe of the team who brought everything together.”
The project has been so successful with families at Derian House that the charity plans to repeat it with another 10 families in 2022 and is even in talks with other hospices from across the UK about how they can roll out the service to ensure other families have the chance to use songwriting workshops as part of their bereavement services.
For Kiki, the Keepsake Circle has meant giving something back. She said: “I’m so proud to be part of something so special and I’d like to thank all of the families for opening up to us. I know how hard it is to unpack your grief.
“This project is so special because when everything and everyone else has moved on, music is forever. For some of these families, it has been over 20 years since the loss of their child. Being able to share their child and their memories for this project has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I finally feel that I am giving something back in a small way.”
Buy The Keepsake Circle – Chapter One at any Derian House charity shop or by visiting our online shop (you can listen to a preview too!).
For more information and news about the project see @thekeepsakecircle on Instagram and www.thekeepsakecircle.co.uk