Home News Ken Forster – a man with a musical mission

24 Jul 2020 Care

Ken Forster – a man with a musical mission

After struggling with the conditions of his illness, former professional musician, Ken Forster, of Clayton West, was referred to Kirkwood’s team in 2016. His wife, Shirley, reflects how Kirkwood supported her husband throughout his illness...

In 2013, Ken was diagnosed with MSA (Muscular System Atrophy) and throughout the next seven years, he also developed Dementia, Diabetes and Supranuclear Palsy.

Ken first began attending Kirkwood’s Support & Therapy centre, after his wife, Shirley, had organised to bring him in for physiotherapy and the opportunity to meet new people.

By August 2016, Ken began to struggle with the symptoms of his illness, so Ken’s GP suggested that he might benefit from being admitted to Kirkwood’s In-Patient Unit.

Shirley reflects on Ken’s time at Kirkwood: “Ken was on the In-Patient Unit for around three weeks and I initially thought this was going to be for end-of-life care. He was in a wheelchair, having lost the ability to walk and move and also required a hoist. However, thanks to Kirkwood, he was looked after very well, received the specialist care he needed and during his three weeks there, his symptoms became much more manageable.

“Kirkwood was marvellous for Ken. They had a hoist which was great and he could have a bath where they would dim the lights and play his favourite music. The staff were so encouraging too.

“They gave him the support he needed to be able to stand and try to walk. I was so pleased that he was getting the care he needed and knew he was in safe hands during the times I couldn’t be there.

Ken and Shirley


“He was in one of the four bed bays at Kirkwood which was great for him. He was very much a ‘people person’ and loved to talk to others and find out about them. The support at Kirkwood was wonderful too. Even the volunteers who came round with drinks would stop and talk with him.

“I also remember how beautiful the gardens were. One day, the nurses pushed Ken out onto the patio in his bed so we could sit beside each other, looking out onto the garden.

“When Ken was able to go home, he started attending the Support & Therapy Drop-In Days at Kirkwood. This gave him the opportunity to meet new friends, talk to people and do the things he enjoyed.

“One of the things he was very passionate about and had a great love for, was music and that was when he met Kirkwood volunteer Dave Everett, who became a close and trusted friend.”

Dave Everett has been a volunteer in Kirkwood’s Marketing Team for the last 14 years. He met Ken back in 2015 whilst offering to play guitar in Support & Therapy throughout lunch time.

Dave shares his memory of meeting Ken for the first time: “We first met in 2015, when, as a service user, he attended the Thursday ‘Drop-in’ days in Support & Therapy. Shirley had arranged to bring him in for physiotherapy and the opportunity to meet and mix with other people.

 “Thursday also being the day I attended the Hospice as a volunteer, I had recently approached Support & Therapy, to ask if they would mind if I could play some songs to entertain their patients during their lunch break, which they agreed to.

“The following week, I turned up with my guitar and for the next hour, demonstrated my rock and roll repertoire to a completely new and appreciative audience!

 “I can remember at the time sitting near a chap in a wheelchair, who introduced himself as Ken and who was obviously interested in what I was playing.

“Between songs we got chatting about popular music and it turned out he had worked for a majority of his life as a professional musician. Born in England, his parents had however, migrated to New Zealand when he was three years old, where he spent his formative years.

“In 1967 he had signed up with an agency, given up his day job and turned professional, starting off on an incredible career that would see him and his band perform on TV and radio and to live audiences in New Zealand, Australia, Britain and Fiji. And here in the UK, on the same bill as such show biz luminaries as Cilla Black, Neil Sedaka, Roger Whittaker, Les Dawson, Morecambe and Wise and The Fortunes to name but a few.

“If it hadn’t been for Kirkwood, I would never have had the pleasure of meeting Ken and I know that he valued and enjoyed the time he spent there.”

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