Why I love Café Muse – by Veteran, Ron

Orchestra of the Swan’s Café Muse is a music café for Armed Forces Veterans living with dementia. We’ve been hosting it at The Courtyard for just over 6months. Today, we hear from Ron, who has been attending with his wife Norma.

Both Liverpudlians, Ron and Norma have been married for 65 years.  Ron became an RAF Pilot and retired as a Wing Commander in 1982.  They moved to Hereford in 1996 and have both been involved as Volunteers with St Michael’s Hospice, Age Concern and RAF veteran activities. The Café Muse musical experience at The Courtyard helps in countering Norma’s occasional loss of memory in a delightful way.

A man and a woman playing guitar at Cafe Muse at The Courtyard

“In July last year I, as an ex-serviceman, received details on an initiative in Herefordshire for veterans and their dependents with dementia – ‘Café Muse’ with The Orchestra of the Swan at The Courtyard in Hereford.  My wife and I were already aware of the stimulus that music can provide with those with dementia, and we enthusiastically enrolled for the Taster Session on August 4th.

On arrival at The Courtyard, the staff provided the necessary COVID-19 guidance and were directed to one of the comfortable function rooms, where we were warmly welcomed by an admin member of the Orchestra and introduced to the two musicians who would be our guides and mentors.

12 people sat on a long table in The Courtyard Restaurant wearing Christmas part hats and reindeer ears smiling at the camera

The aims of ‘Café Muse’ were outlined in the initial note we received and is worth paraphrasing….

Led and delivered by fully trained professional musicians who are themselves veterans, music will come from many different genres and cultures, with music for everyone to enjoy, regardless of music preferences, incorporating pieces that are familiar, whilst encouraging conversation with the sharing of life experiences and stories from the past.  Participants will have the opportunity to explore the sounds of musical instruments; learn or rediscover a new musical skill; participate in composition & improvisation sessions to enjoy well known songs and music; create new friendships and social interactions.”  For us, all the aims have been faithfully achieved.

All the above has been backed up by the efficient, courteous staff at The Courtyard, who has furnished our group, not only with welcome sustenance, but also with media aids to support the music being played.”


“The overall experience has benefitted both the participant and the carer. It has brought us peace, a myriad of memories and a huge sense of fun and enjoyment, so thank you to all those both ‘on stage’ and behind the scenes!  We appreciate the care and attention constantly given to us.  This is strongly emphasised by my wife asking at the end of each session “Do we really have to wait another week for their return?”

Since August 2021, The Swan have been delivering community workshop, Café Muse at The Courtyard.  These weekly workshops welcome members of the Armed Forces community affected by dementia, but also those who are experiencing mental health issues, are socially isolated and experiencing loneliness.  With thanks to The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust– Positive Pathways Programme and The Veterans’ Foundation, they have been awarded additional funding to extend Café Muse to include weekly break-out workshops running alongside the main café, and a monthly evening café.  The aim of these new specialist workshops is to encourage and promote a group support network, improve emotional wellbeing and self-confidence, with an opportunity for participants to showcase their work as part of the wider Café Muse concept in sharing and/or foyer concerts at The Courtyard. These free to attend additional workshops allow us to deliver a small creative environment, allowing the group to express emotions through co-creation of music pieces, and the opportunity to learn/re-engage with musical instruments loaned to us, such as the guitar, flute and clarinet, with a delicious lunch or supper in the modern and vibrant surroundings of The Courtyard, included.