A project in Darlington that aims to improve mental health and wellbeing through singing, songwriting and music production is to continue for another two years after securing funding from the National Lottery.

The Music Mind initiative was established in 2022 by Darlington singer-songwriter and vocal coach Hayley McKay, who announced the "fantastic news" to project participants on a live link from the USA where she is presently on tour.

Hayley founded Music Mind to create an environment where adults could meet weekly to make new friends and experience health and wellbeing though music.

The Northern Echo: The moment Hayley McKay told regulars of the Music Mind project that the future of the project has


The first year of the sessions - held at the Forum Music Studios, in Darlington - was funded as part of the Happiness Hub fund and supported by the team there, who provided everyone with a hot drink and a sandwich at every session at no cost.

Allison McKay, managing director of The Forum, said:  "We were overwhelmed by the amount of people joining the sessions and from a variety of backgrounds.

"The most common theme was social isolation and mental health challenges but also people who just wanted to sing or play a musical in a relaxed environment.

"Music Mind has been such a success that when the funding ran out in November 2023, the Forum continued to support the programme and received support from Creative Darlington and Darlington for Culture to continue through January."

She added: "Hayley has been the key in ensuring everyone feels welcome and relaxed and free to be creative.

"It is a safe and cohesive space that isn't about talent or performance or creating the next band - it is simply just having fun and collaborating through music and improving lives."

Hayley and her partner, musician David Neil Crabtree, are presently on a three-month tour of the United States.

The Northern Echo: Hayley, pictured here performing at the Forum Music Centre in Darlington, is presently touring in the USAHayley, pictured here performing at the Forum Music Centre in Darlington, is presently touring in the USA (Image: HAYLEY MCKAY)

While they have been away, Allison offered the Forum's facilities to Music Mind so the group could continue meeting up until Hayley returns. More than 30 of the regular attendees still meet there every week.

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Before Hayley left she wanted to secure funding to enable Music Mind to continue on her return to Darlington at the end of April - and this week the good news arrived.

Allison said: "We received a letter from the National Lottery to say they are fully supporting Music Mind to continue for a further two years when Hayley returns."

Hayley was able to deliver the news herself in an online session from her base in the USA to the overjoyed attendees at the Forum.