Brixton resident William Longden has been honoured with a unique, handcrafted bench designed by restorer and eco-designer Jay Blades - face of hugely popular show The Repair Shop.

William, a sculptor, fine artist and musician who lives in Brixton, South London founded Joy Of Sound 20 years ago. The charity runs inclusive music sessions using an amazing array of bespoke instruments and inclusive approaches that are accessible to people of all abilities.

He is one of 13 community workers across the UK recognised for their time and efforts in supporting some of the most vulnerable in communities during the pandemic, thanks to National Lottery funding. 

William said: “The transition [after Covid struck] was instant – within seven days we delivered our first session, a dance movement session that I co-hosted with a dance and movement practitioner. 

“Within a very short time, the JOS team was delivering a full programme five days a week and engaging with people who had never been involved before, along with our regular client base and, amazingly, participants from all over the world.”
The bench dedication has been inspired by the work that William undertakes for the community group which he set up in 2000, after a chance meeting with a young man with profound and multiple learning access requirements, who was trying to play a guitar. 

Ealing Times: Joy of Sound was founded 20 years ago and has been honoured for its inspirational work with a special benchJoy of Sound was founded 20 years ago and has been honoured for its inspirational work with a special bench

It became obvious to William that this man could play and share music if given appropriate equal opportunity. He just needed an instrument that suited his personal choice and needs.

William, who now facilitates three primary workshops in Hackney, Kensington and Lambeth, and delivers an average of 140 session a year, realised that by creating usable, adapted instruments and accessible workshops, everyone could enjoy and benefit from music, boosting their confidence and mental health.

For the last two decades, ‘Joy of Sound’ has offered weekly workshops around London, as well as taking part in international collaborations and special events, with everything run by volunteers.  But when face-to-face workshops halted at the start of the pandemic, William wanted to ensure beneficiaries, their familial and professional caregivers, and volunteers could still access activities. He started a programme of inclusive participatory online workshops, initially running three a week, before expanding to six different sessions a week.

He added: “This situation proved we could improvise to make the best of any situation, even when using a very different technological medium for online workshop delivery.”

William’s bench is installed in Hackney Marshes and will feature design motif of a guitar.  It is also emblazoned with his poignant quote “We Can All Play”. An in-built QR code will allow visitors to the bench to listen to an audio recording of Jay Blades regaling William’s story.

Other benches being unveiled across the UK today celebrate inspiring individuals such as Brighton resident Emily Kenward, the founder of charity ‘Time to Talk Befriending’, South Wales resident Mal Emerson who formed charity ‘Marauders Men’s Health’ designed to help men with mental health issues and Oldham resident Oyovwe Kigho, who is the founder and chief executive of the ‘Widows Empowerment Trust’, a scheme set up in 2017 to combat loneliness.  

Jay Blades said: “Like most of us, I have witnessed inspirational acts of selflessness and kindness this year as people have adapted their lives to help others. It has been an honour to hear about the 13 people whose work is being honoured with a bespoke bench being placed in their local area. Each bench represents the person’s personality, passions and the impact they have had on others in their community. It is hopefully a fitting tribute to their efforts this year – efforts that too often go unheralded but never unappreciated by those they help – that these benches can be places where others can find out more about their work.”