A FILM produced by a television journalist has been sent to all care homes in Henley to entertain their residents.
Sophie Van Brugen wanted to help those who may feel isolated or trapped because of the coronavirus pandemic after her father Michael was cared for at the Chiltern Court Care Centre.
Mr Van Brugen stayed at the home off York Road for five weeks last year before moving into an annexe at his daughter’s home in Shiplake. He died at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading in January, aged 85 and Mrs Van Brugen produced the film in his memory.
She worked with the Henley Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group on the project and the end result is a film lasting almost 30 minutes.
It features singing, dancing, magic tricks and even a celebrity weather forecast from Carol Kirkwood. It was cut together with scenes of Henley and the surrounding area.
As well as famous faces, Mrs Van Brugen appealed for youngsters to come forward and show off their talents.
It begins with scenes of Henley set to Vera Lynn’s The White Cliffs of Dover with Mayor Ken Arlett sending a message to residents.
He said: “Hello, everybody in care homes. I’m sure you’ve all found it very difficult over the last three months being in self isolation. I know you must have done because my wife and myself have been there too and it’s been very, very difficult for us.
“But, I have some good news for you. The people of Henley and the surrounding area have some excellent entertainment for you and I hope you really enjoy this when you see it. I know it’s been difficult and I hope this will make up for the bad times and good times will be ahead in the future. I’m really convinced about that.”
Kirkwood told viewers from her studio, with a green screen behind her: “We’re all thinking of you, we’re all looking forward to this coming to an end and sunnier times ahead.”
Bill Buckley, a BBC radio Berkshire presenter, sang This Guy’s in Love with You written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, one of his favourite songs.
While he sang there were scenes of Henley bridge, the river and the old Brakspear brewery in New Street Mrs Van Brugen is shown on the river waving to the camera.
Sam Washington, of Sky News, read William Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and former Gillotts pupil Elenor Vockins, 17, who is part of the Garsington Youth Opera, sang, O mio babbino caro from the opera Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini.
Magician Milo McGinn performed a card trick for viewers, while T’Pau singer Carol Decker, husband Richard, son Dylan and daughter Scarlett filmed a clip celebrating the couple’s wedding anniversary with a picnic by the river.
She said: “We know that it’s tricky in the care homes and we hope that you’re being looked after and staying safe. We’re Henley residents so we’re letting you know what we’re getting up to in our local area.”
Steph Maxwell, from Divas & Dudes Dance Academy, was joined by some of her pupils for a routine.
The film also featured a reading of Maya Angelou’s The Caged Bird.
Mrs Van Brugen, who works for the BBC, said: “I’ve sent it to all the care homes and I’ve had a lovely response so far.”
She worked on the film most nights and spent about 48 hours in total creating the finished product. She filmed Cllr Arlett and the scenes around the town and praised the amount of effort contributors had put in and the variety of their performances.
Mrs Van Brugen said: “I wanted it to have a sense of variety. People were so thoughtful and considerate in the way they framed it and the way it looked. I was very impressed.
“It was a real labour of love. I often slept on it and looked at it the next day. I thought it was timely with Vera Lynn’s passing, it touched a lot of people and thought it was a fitting piece of music to use — it’s very evocative.”
She was pleased with the performances and praised Milo for his sense of “showmanship” and Elenor, whom she said had the “voice of an angel”.
Mrs Van Brugen said: “I think it showed that the whole community in Henley and the surrounding area really cares and the fact that people were so keen to do something to make a difference. I think Henley is very unique in that way.
“I think my dad would have loved it and my mum said ‘your dad would have really loved this and been proud of you’. The care homes have all been really delighted.”
Mrs Van Brugen, who has two children, Rufus, eight, and Miles, five, said the project would be a fitting tribute to her father.
She said: “He and I were very, very close and he would have wanted me to do something like this. He loved cheering people up.
“The boys were very close to him and he adored them and they adored him.
“He was just the most wonderful man and such a great member of the community. He used to work for Citizens Advice and was on the South Oxfordshire District Council planning committee.
“He was always helping other people and everybody loved him. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone and nobody had a bad word to say about him.
“It has certainly inspired me to want to do work with care homes in the longer term, to make sure people have that stimulation because the smallest of things can certainly brighten people’s day.
“We take so much for granted and the virus has made us slow down. These moments are so precious. I would give anything to give my dad another hug.”