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The love, support and connection that music brings

Mark Croxon writes about the positives of virtual music groups and how musicians have defied geography to come together in lockdown.

Smile by Stacey Hendy and Ben Croxon


A few words from Abbie, Tonic trustee:

Mark has been a good friend to Tonic over the years, supporting many of our gigs, helping man the stall and shake buckets, and modelling our Tonic Ts on and off stage.

He is a man of many hats: rugby coach, singer, guitar player, writer, all in addition to his actual day job. In this week’s blog, he shares the upsides of virtual music groups and how, after the initial disappointment of lockdown, the lack of geographical restrictions has enabled new groups of musicians to come together forming an additional supportive community.

Do watch the lovely rendition of Smile by Charlie Chaplin from his brother Ben and Stacey, who have never met in real life, but collaborated to produce this video, which is dedicated to Tonic.


The love, support and connection that music brings

8th November 2020

Remember, Remember…

It’s the first Sunday of Lockdown 2.0 in the UK. No youth rugby to coach. No Remembrance Sunday dedications to be part of. No cosy pubs with crackling fires for a pint after a long walk kicking up the leaves. So, what to do?

Well, there’s always music!

Over the years I have got to know Team Tonic through friends with a shared love of rugby, music, fun… and an understanding of the importance of mental health and wellbeing. This isn’t a blog about my experiences, but suffice to say we all have our own stories to tell. I know this because in March with the initial lockdown upon us, my pal Jim’s regular last-Wednesday-of-the-month open mic night at The Grosvenor pub in Pimlico had to be cancelled. Undeterred, he and I got a subscription to this new-fangled thing called Zoom, and a few of those who would have been in the pub got together and did our usual thing of three songs each as best we could.

The next week we had 10 players, then 13, and then someone said, “can I invite my sister, my pal, my bandmate?”

Before long, JimJams, the Grosvenor SW1 online open mic group, had become truly international with players from all over England, Wales, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Finland, Sweden and Poland. That in itself was brilliant, but what has become really apparent is the way people, many of whom have never met in real life, have bonded as a supportive family.

Once many of us had bought a little bit of kit – a microphone here, a mixer there – we started experimenting with remote collaborations. Not only have we felt the benefits of playing music live, we’ve also had the challenge of finding new skills in playing, recording, mixing and making videos. Indeed, some of us have even written songs! I’m sure Team Tonic could provide the scientific evidence to support how important music, creativity, poetry and friendship are to our mental health. What I can offer is first-hand experience and anecdotes from many of the players who, after 32 consecutive weeks, still cannot get over how wonderful this institution has proved to be.

One invited guest sat on the sidelines for a couple of weeks, watching the Facebook live stream, and then plucked up the courage to join the Zoom meeting. He didn’t say much at first, occasionally picking up his guitar towards the end of the night (the lock-in in real pub terms!) to strum just a few chords. Then he made a video, then some poetry, then a live performance, and then a live performance of his own song! He is not alone in experiencing the life enriching power of music.

It has truly been the most uplifting experience, and THE silver lining to come out of a year where so many people will have experienced a downturn in their mental health. Music has the power to make you smile, and not just on the outside: to really smile for the love, support and connection that music brings. It really is just the Tonic.

Mark in a Tonic T-shirt, Paul Nowak at the back, and the eponymous Jim of JimJams on the cajon at The Grosvenor, Pimlico


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