Kirsty Freeland — “I have established good relationships with our musicians and every visit is a delight”
Kirsty has been a regional visitor with Help Musicians for over a decade
A happy accident
About 10 years ago, Kirsty had been looking online to find a job for her daughter. When she stumbled across a role as a regional visitor for Help Musicians, she said to her husband she felt the job could have been written for her, given it combined social work, support and music. Ten years later it is a position which she still finds very satisfying.
Regional visiting stopped throughout the pandemic but it has recently been agreed that visiting can recommence. Before Covid, visits were normally once a year but during lockdown, contact had to be moved to the phone. Phone calls were more regular than the home visits (with Kirsty speaking to the musicians on her list every 3 months) but for some people, speaking on the phone is a barrier and cannot replace face-to-face contact.
Kirsty studied music at university so it’s easy to think of topics that she and a musician might both interested in, whether it is specific genres or instruments. Kirsty still gets “a buzz from hearing how happy they are to still be playing. It is wonderful. Others talk to me about their past experiences as a musician and these stories can be fascinating.”
Each visit is unique
Visits themselves include a general catch-up as well as assessing if any additional help is required: “each person has their own unique experiences and daily challenges which need to be individually addressed, so every visit is different.”
Those unique situations cover a wide variety of needs. Some musicians suffer from physical problems, which can be temporary or permanent. An accident or injury might stop a musician playing for a fixed period, but long-term illnesses such as MS or Parkinson’s may progress over time, resulting in the musician being forced to stop working completely or reduce their commitments.
Mental health issues can also impact on someone’s musical career. Isolation and loneliness can also be an issue which underlines the importance of our visits. There are a whole range of reasons why someone might need support.
Kirsty’s last round of phone calls have been dominated by the cost-of-living crisis. “Many of our musicians are looking for the reassurance that Help Musicians will still be there for them as the cost of living increases.”
Trips to the Isle of Skye
During her time as a regional visitor, Kirsty has discovered that the distances between musicians can be vast and therefore it’s usually not possible for her to visit more than one in a single day. One of the most remote musicians she visits lives on the Isle of Skye. It takes 6 hours to drive there so she stays overnight on the island. Kirsty joked that she previously tried to do the round trip in one day and “it nearly killed me!”
When asked what the most rewarding thing about being a regional visitor is, Kirsty recalled a visit from a few years ago which summarises why Help Musicians is a charity that makes a difference and is a pleasure to represent.
Kirsty had visited a musician one day, where everything was fine and “no help was required”. That evening however she received a phone call from the musician who said: “You’re not going to believe it, our cooker just blew up.” This was two days before Christmas and the person had no money to buy a new cooker. Kirsty let Help Musicians’ managers know and the next day the individual had a new cooker – the charity gave them the money and the cooker was there. Christmas had been saved.
Face-to-face contact is vital
Feedback from the musicians we support consistently highlights face-to-face contact as important. It’s the starting point of providing support, a bridge between the musicians and the charity.
Regional visitors like Kirsty are based around the UK and are there for as long as a musician needs support.