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‘It’s bonkers but I love it’: Belsize Park musician on brightening up lockdown with shows made from yoghurt pots

PUBLISHED: 18:01 29 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:10 01 June 2020

Caroline Chan and William Jack have made lockdown their own with daily live Instagram streams for children. Picture: Caroline Chan

Caroline Chan and William Jack have made lockdown their own with daily live Instagram streams for children. Picture: Caroline Chan

Caroline Chan

“I really believe in the power of imagination. Children have become so bombarded with ready-made everything that a lot them don’t have the time of or space to develop it.”

Caroline has been delivering singalong sessions for toddlers at Belsize Community Library for more than six years. Her lockdown sessions have helped Caroline has been delivering singalong sessions for toddlers at Belsize Community Library for more than six years. Her lockdown sessions have helped "replace" them. Picture: Caroline Chan

Belsize Park singer-songwriter Caroline Chan has always tried to bring out the best of kids’ musical creativity, but even her live lockdown sessions have pushed her imagination to the very limit.

Every day, using all sorts of odds and ends from toilet rolls to cereal boxes to yoghurt pots, Caroline has recreated weird and wacky theatrical and historical scenes including the underwater world, VE Day and the Wild West – a new theme for every performance – all broadcast live on her iPad.

She has mocked up a stage using a giant cardboard box on her kitchen table – the centrepiece of her morning shows – and despite the sessions being aimed towards young children, parents haven’t been able to resist joining in the fun too.

People have tuned in from as far as Brazil and Caroline told the Ham&High her sessions are “45 minutes of craziness” and “exhausting fun”.

She said: “It’s mad and it’s taken over every minute of my life – but I’m so glad I’ve done it.

“I’ve had so many calls, emails and texts with people saying how much they’re looking forward to the shows.

“That’s kept me going so I don’t think I can ever stop really.

“A lot of people might think it’s a complete waste of time me spending every day getting ready for the next scenario, but I don’t think so.

The makeshift stage decorated in Union Jacks. Picture: Caroline ChanThe makeshift stage decorated in Union Jacks. Picture: Caroline Chan

“I just think it’s been an extraordinarily rewarding and happy experience really within all this difficulty [of coronavirus].”

Normally, Caroline delivers weekly singalong classes for toddlers at Belsize Community Library and the Maqam Centre in Queen’s Park.

The Instagram sessions have become her “replacement” and she’s managed to rope in her Australian lodger William Jack who is, very handily, a cellist, so the two have formed a double act.

Caroline’s son Oliver joins in on the tambourine too and the singer-songwriter says her eclectic taste in music has never proven so handy.

“It’s a huge mix of things, it really varies and that’s what’s killing me slowly – trying to come up with something different every day that doesn’t disappoint,” Caroline said.

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“It’s not the same as a live [physical] session but in some ways it’s different and it’s reaching people who I probably wouldn’t reach otherwise.

“I do feel that the people are in my room, especially when they comment and say they like my plant or paintings or things like that.”

Caroline emphasises things are far from serene in her “bonkers” world of live streams - “things go wrong, bits drop off”.

She likens her place to something out of the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – “full of inventions”.

But beneath all of the fun and harmless chaos of the live streams, Caroline’s music is lined with important meaning and purpose.

“Apart from entertaining people, music is a very powerful way of connecting people, their memories and their good times,” she said.

“I want to give people an experience, I want them to take something away that they don’t forget, so it has some sort of change and it affects them.”

Caroline continued: “I am trying to share my passion for using imagination and making something out of nothing.

“I don’t have anything really technical.

“Everything is handmade which I think has so much more memory and meaning for kids in the long run.

“Children can make something, use it and play with it – I really believe in that so much.

“Everything I do has an element of ‘let’s just see what we can use around us’.

“I don’t try and make anything perfect.

“I want people to see it’s been made and that it’s possible for anybody to create their own little world within this world we find ourselves in.”

Readers can visit Caroline’s website, Youtube or Instagram for more information and performances.

To donate to Caroline’s joint fundraiser for Samaritans click here.


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