When music project “Tuned In” launched in 2019, no one expected these loneliness-busting jam sessions to take off in quite the way they did. With the release of two singles, and an album to come, Tuned In has given more than 500 people the chance to play with legends of the punk era, while creating lasting friendships.
Tuned In has been a very worthwhile experience and a lifeline for myself and my wife.”
Rod and his wife Lesley have been coming to Tuned In since the project started. Rod said: “I had retired as a working musician in the late 70s and had virtually stopped playing. After a short while attending Turned in, I found again my love of playing. I also started writing and recording again and most importantly I started teaching acoustic guitar, which I really enjoy. Tuned In has been a very worthwhile experience and a lifeline for myself and my wife.”
It’s been one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on.”
Merton’s Head of Libraries, Anthony Hopkins, helped set up the project with acclaimed musicians Jah Wobble, formerly of Public Image Ltd, and Jon Klein, ex-of Siouxsie and the Banshees, operating out of Merton Arts Space in Wimbledon Library.
According to Anthony: “It’s been one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on and it’s impressive to think where it has come from. To start with we launched it as a six-month pilot, we didn’t know whether there’d be any demand so it’s amazing to see how much it has grown.”
It’s become like a club; very inclusive and relaxed. It quickly became everything I dreamed it would be and a bit more.”
Initially the idea came from Jah Wobble, who was looking to set up a project that would appeal to men over 50, improving their mental health and combatting isolation. According to Jah (AKA John Wardle): “I wanted to tackle loneliness in older men. As a musician, I felt music was a good way to channel that.”
It soon became apparent that the appeal of the project was much wider. “We did a couple of sessions, but some younger people came, men and women, and I was delighted with that – to cover a wider demographic. It’s become like a club; very inclusive and relaxed. It quickly became everything I dreamed it would be and a bit more.”
One year into the project, the COVID-19 pandemic meant a pause to in-person meet-ups. But a shift online didn’t curb the members’ enthusiasm. “Tuned In really was a lifeline for many people during the pandemic,” says Anthony. “We continued to have weekly sessions. That time saw a lot of people start recording their music, on phones or laptops and sending it down the line.”
Something special happens when people feel the music together.”
For Jon Klein the project, has been “a great experience”. He added, “I’m really proud to be involved in the programme. Something special happens when people feel the music together, and lots of new friendships have resulted from the activities. The educational side of the programme has really helped empower our members and helped them to develop their creativity. As members get more confident, they also help each other which is wonderful to see.”
The group returned to live events a year ago and has since been meeting three times every other week. Mondays are jam sessions; Tuesdays are for song writing in in the Arts Space’s bespoke recording studio and Thursdays are taken up with music production classes.
Tuned In is an amazingly diverse and friendly place to play music, with people from all walks of life and levels of talent.”
Sandy Hendry is a drummer who has also developed his keyboard and song writing skills via Tuned In. He said: “Tuned In is an amazingly diverse and friendly place to play music, with people from all walks of life and levels of talent. It’s very rare to have access to a drum kit, keyboard, guitars, mics and a studio in one location – for free. There are pros like Jah Wobble and Jon Klein around to give advice and show off tricks of the trade, as well as near total beginners. Sometimes the jams sound awful and sometimes they sound sublime, but they always have a fun and can-do spirit that gets everybody involved.”
Tuned In’s first two singles were released on the south London label Cherry Red Records in 2021, with a third due before Christmas. An album is also planned.
Funding for the project comes from Merton Council’s winter pressures fund, and NHS South West London’s Men’s Sheds programme, which supports projects that bring like-minded men together to address their worries.
Says Anthony, “It’s not just about the music but the networks people have built, so many friendships. We have a regular group of 30 to 40 people who keep coming back. They are a lovely group, they really put the time in to keeping in touch, fixing each other’s instruments, just being there for each other.”
Anyone can come along to Tuned In sessions – find out more on the Merton Council website: