Farmers' choir praise mental health benefits of singing

A group of farmers and agricultural enthusiasts from Co Antrim have praised the mental health benefits of singing together.

The choir is made up of around forty people who meet once a month to sing and socialise.

The rural community is one which endures a lot of isolation.

Some members of the group described farming as a 'lonely job' but said the choir helps them to feel connected.

Mervyn Kelso and his wife Ruth are from Portglenone. They lost around 400 cows from their farm due to a tuberculosis outbreak.

Mervyn said it had a huge impact on his mental health but explained that coming to the singing group has helped: "It was a few months after the cows left empty stalls, empty sheds, It's mind boggling the effect that has on you.

"My sister had told me about this choir...Barkley Thompson was looking for recruits for his choir and she suggested I should join up so I went along and I really enjoyed it."

Barkley Thompson is the Musical Director.

He told UTV why he is involved in the group.

"We are a group of people who enjoy singing and it doesn't matter your experience or your expertise in music making, just coming and being part of it," Barkley said.

"We are such a welcoming bunch and it's lovely that people come together and encourage one another and we just all try our best."

Ivan Johnson and his wife Jennifer organise the gatherings.

The couple opened up their garage for this month's meeting as their local community centre was out of action.

Ivan said the social aspect of the group is uplifting: "As you talk to the farmers you'll discover that they love it.

"Just to come and get away from their farm because life's too busy for them, just to sit down and sing.

"Singing's good for you and they just enjoy the whole idea and then they talk after, we can't get rid of them sometimes they want to stay all night and talk to each other which is what it's all about.

"The farmers get out and help their mental health and their whole health and wellbeing just to be here with the choir."

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