Three firsts along the Severn Beach line

Three firsts along the Severn Beach line

A Human Books, CommuniTea, and Singing for the Brain on the Train

The Severnside Community Rail Partnership has enjoyed busy few weeks welcoming passengers old and new to “On the Move Events” along the Severn Beach Branch line and celebrating incredible things about our local communities.

The trio of activities kicked off with a Human Library where volunteers became books, lending themselves out to passengers to engage in conversations about their specialist subject during the journey.  Undoubtedly the major draw from the eclectic catalogue were popular Bristolian stars of Channel 4 Gogglebox Mary and Marina who raised many a smile sharing their local knowledge with characteristic cheek.  Other books included Darren Jones MP, Steve Bullock, Robot Engineer at the University of Bristol, Lee Holdstock from the Soil Association, Clifton Suspension Bridge expert Laura Hilton and LBGT+ champion Mathew Price.  Fletcher the celebrity butler was on hand to assist.


With non-stop chat between Avonmouth and Bristol Temple Meads and back again there was quite a buzz about the Saturday afternoon service.  Human Library is an international movement started in Denmark in 2000 with the aim of challenging prejudice against social contact among people and this is the first Human Library (as far as we know) to take place on a train.   The event could well be a forerunner to more “chatty trains” as a means of reaching out to those who may be feeling socially isolated.

Another first was a Crimestoppers CommuniTea along the branch line.  The first of many CommuniTea events taking place across the country between May and July 2018 to mark the charity’s 30th anniversary, and the first time a cl166 turbo serving the Severn Beach line has been all dressed up for afternoon tea, served by colleagues from Great Western Railway, Severnside Community Rail Partnership and committee members from West Country Crimestoppers.

Heather Cullimore, Partnership Officer at the Severnside Community Rail Partnership and member of the West Country Crimestoppers Committee said: “We were delighted to join with the Crimestoppers charity and offer afternoon tea along the Severn Beach line.  Guests learned about the opportunity to report crime with 100% anonymity guaranteed, whilst enjoying great tea, cake and the scenic rail journey.  A call to Crimestoppers could well be the final piece in the jigsaw needed to solve a crime committed on the railway or within our local communities”.

Crimestoppers Regional Manager, West Country, Karen MacDonald, said: “Organising events is a great way for Crimestoppers to build practical support, raise much-needed funds and spread the message about the important service we provide.

“Crimestoppers’ achievements in the last thirty years are not to be underestimated with 144,000 arrested and charged, over £346 million drugs seized and over £136 million worth of stolen good recovered as a direct result of information received via our 100% anonymous 0800 555 111 telephone line and online form.  We believe everyone has a right to feel safe from crime, wherever they live.”

On Wednesday 23 May passengers found themselves Singing for the Brain on the Train between Bristol Temple Meads and Severn Beach, with musical accompaniment in a special takeover organised to mark Dementia Action Week (21-27 May).

Staff and volunteers from Bristol’s Dementia Wellbeing Service, a partnership between Alzheimer’s Society and Devon Partnership NHS Trust, helped to organise a special Singing for the Brain session on the Severn Beach Branch line.

The event attracted more than 40 people affected by dementia. Many people hadn’t travelled by train for years and they’d certainly never sung on the train. Songs like Do-Re Me from the Sound of Music, and Let’s Twist Again by Chubby Checker, could soon be heard ringing through the carriages.

Usually entitled, ‘Singing for the Brain’, this special event was renamed ‘Singing on the Train’. Singing for the Brain, developed by Alzheimer’s Society for people with dementia, promotes communication through singing which can help with articulation, concentration, focus and motivation. The sessions usually feature vocal, rhythmic exercises, along with songs from different eras and styles. However, this is the first time that a Singing for the Brain session has taken place on the Severn Beach Branch line.

Allison Johnston Dementia Navigator with the Dementia Wellbeing Service said: “In the UK, one person develops dementia every three minutes and almost everyone knows someone whose life has been affected. Yet too many people face the condition alone without adequate support.

“Activities, like our singing on the train event, illustrated how taking action can help people affected by dementia to feel more included in their community and able to live the life that they want.

“Staff on the train were very welcoming, and understanding, and took time to listen and chat to everybody. There was a lovely atmosphere and there were lots of smiles all round. We’re very grateful to staff from both Great Western Railway and the Severnside Community Rail Partnership who helped make this happen.  One family in our party commented to me that this was the first time in many years that they had travelled by train together. It goes to show that if we all take small actions, for example to listen and be patient, then we can have a big impact on the lives of people affected by dementia.”

Heather Cullimore, Partnership Officer at the Severnside Community Rail Partnership said “The Severn Beach branch line has a strong community ethos and it was a pleasure to link with Bristol’s Dementia Wellbeing Service to support ‘Singing for the Brain on the Train’.  It was wonderful to see so many people affected by dementia enjoying a sing-along and a cake on the train.  We are proud to have been part of Dementia Action and to spread the message that our local railway is a dementia friendly community”

If you would like to bring your community event to the local railway contact the team at

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