FEELING lost and lonely in a foreign city, Anna Mathew knew she had to find somewhere for her young daughter to feel safe and make friends.

“We came to Glasgow from India four years ago and it was a lonely life at first,” says Anna.

“Then I found Givin’ it Laldie’s guitar group and everything changed.”

Anna, husband Sujit Samuel and their eight-year-old daughter Elena came to Scotland through Sujit’s job in the IT sector.

“It was hard, being away from our relations, not knowing anyone in this new city,” says Anna. “We struggled a lot in the winter especially, not being used to early sunsets and this new climate.

“I knew I needed to find something, not just for my own mental wellbeing, but to help Elena make friends.”

She laughs: “We are not at all a musical family – but the guitar part is only a little bit of the story at Givin’ it Laldie. It’s more than the music, it’s the fun, the relaxation and the being together.”

The Evening Times Streets Ahead campaign, supported by our generous partners City Building, City Charitable Trust and Glasgow City Council, helps bring neighbours together in a bid to improve Glasgow’s communities.

Givin’ it Laldie is a fantastic example of a project which is building and strengthening the Gorbals community, lifting lives and improving wellbeing along the way – all through the power of music.

It started up as a church choir around seven years ago, and it now offers a diverse range of free music sessions for local people - no auditions, no experience and no ability to read music required.

Manager Clare McBrien says the small team, who won an Evening Times Community Champions Health and Wellbeing award last year, are proud of the impact the project has had in a short time.

“One of the best aspects of winning that award was the effect it had on the people who nominated us,” smiles Clare.

“A gentleman called Tommy, whose wife is in one of the dementia units we work with, put us forward and when we told him we had won, he was so emotional. He said it was like winning the lottery, it meant so much to him. That means a lot to us – that side of our work is hard to quantify, so Tommy’s reaction reaffirmed, in a way, our belief in the power of music.”

As well as Strum for Life, the guitar group much loved by Anna and Elena, there is a children’s choir, a community choir, smaller singing groups and singing sessions for people with disabilities and additional support needs.

Givin’ it Laldie also goes out to local dementia units and sheltered housing complexes to run singing sessions for residents, friends, families and staff.

“We wanted to take the project out to the community, for those who couldn’t come to us,” says Clare.

“There has been a great deal of research done about the positive effects of music on mental health and wellbeing – we see that happening every week, right in front of our eyes.

“It’s really fantastic to see, particularly working with people who have dementia, how they come alive when they start to sing a song they recognise; or how children grow in confidence and self-esteem when they take part in the choir.

“The Children’s Choir have turned on the Christmas lights in the Gorbals, so they are really becoming part of the wider community.”

The Strum for Life guitar groups have been great at bringing people together, says Clare.

“You don’t get much opportunity in community learning to bring all ages together – often it’s split into age groups,” she adds. “Strum for Life has grannies and grandsons, mothers and daughter, brothers and sisters all learning together – it’s really special.”

She laughs: “But everything we do is about having fun. Music is fun. As well as all the health benefits it brings, it’s just great for relaxing and having a laugh.”

Recently the group launched a Friends of Laldie fundraising scheme and the project is always looking for volunteer helpers – find out more on the website, givinitlaldie.org.uk

They will be performing at the Gorbals Fair on June 1.

“Our main focus for 2019 is to build on the momentum and new partnerships we have here,” says Clare, who has worked in the community and charity sphere since she was a teenager.

“It’s a real passion of mine, and I’m really proud of everything Givin’ it Laldie has achieved so far,” she says. “In the current climate, with music tuition in schools getting cut back, it’s more important than ever to make music available for all in our communities.

“It doesn’t have to be your career, it can be a hobby, something you do to relax – but it needs to be available to everyone. Music is good for the soul.”

Are you part of a project which is bringing your community together? Be part of Streets Ahead and tell us about it. Funding is available – email ann.fotheringham@heraldandtimes.co.uk or call 0141 302 6555.