A £15,000 grant from Manx Lottery Trust is helping an Island charity to thrive and expand its reach to other social groups, despite the coronavirus impacting upon its normal operations. 

Singing Jo & Co is a local charity group which was established in March 2018 to support early learning through action songs, dancing, rhymes, music and drama. It provides a unique programme across the Island, bringing communities together and providing important learning opportunities and musical fun for pre-school children.

Ordinarily, sessions are held at venues around the Isle of Man weekly and are enjoyed by around 600 babies, children, toddlers, preschool children and school reception children, supported by their parents, grandparents and carers. In recent months, Singing Jo & Co has invited elderly people from local care homes to join in too.

In March, Singing Jo & Co announced that all sessions were suspended for the time being due to the impact of the coronavirus, but the team were looking into finding alternative ways of bringing happiness and laughter through singing. Since then, it has launched its virtual offering which provides sessions online through live video, meaning up to 1,000 families can take part in each 45 minute session. Preparations are also in place to launch a Youtube channel in the very near future.

Similar to the usual group sessions, the online sessions run Monday to Friday and are free to join; the charity only asks for a donation, if possible, from those taking part to help with the running costs. 

The funding from Manx Lottery Trust, in addition to help and support offered by other groups and individuals, has enabled Singing Jo & Co to continue to offer its unique programme across the Island and now internationally. The charity is determined to continue to provide 'learning and laughter through song.'

Founder Jo Jackson explained: Quite simply, the grant from Manx Lottery Trust has enabled us to make the switch from delivering our regular sessions to the live sessions online. Without its help, we may have had to suspend our sessions completely.

There is a lot of heartache and uncertainty around us at the moment, with no definitive answers of when it is going to end. Any form of escapism can help, and in our case this is singing, dancing and having enormous amounts of fun! Singing is guaranteed to lift spirits and create an instant feeling of happiness and warmth. A 45-minute session with Singing Jo & Co not only provides valuable learning for the little ones, but also keeps us active and brings joy.

These sessions are also important in providing continuity and helping our little singers and their parents to carry out normal daily routines. Being at home for such an extended time can lead to anxiety and social isolation, so being able to continue our sessions in a familiar format can be a great comfort and act as a welcome distraction for everybody.

Further down the line and once some sort of normality resumes, we will also be looking to develop regular collaborative sessions with care homes thanks to the Manx Lottery Trust funding. We have received fantastic feedback on these sessions, and theyre a great way to promote friendship and inclusion. The oldest participant we had was 98!

Singing Jo & Co works alongside a number of other charity organisations, the Department of Education, Sport and Culture and the health visiting teams. These sessions focus on developing communication, language, literacy and numeracy skills, and promoting emotional and physical skills and friendships.

Chairman of Manx Lottery Trust, Sarah Kelly, said: Singing Jo & Co sessions are popular Island-wide with parents and carers of pre-schoolers, and, of course, the children themselves, who enjoy learning through song and dance. Moving the sessions online and expanding the group to include older people is a very positive way of promoting inclusivity and tackling the issue of social isolation.


Singing Jo in home playroom where the live sessions are filmed

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