Several months ago when I had confirmed my travel plans to France and the United Kingdom I received a message along the lines of “come and sing with the Wigan Warblers”. My first thought was who are the Wigan Warblers and what do they do? Answer- they are a patient singing group. After several conversations with their founder Carol Liddle, I had to go and visit as Carol’s enthusiasm was infectious. 

Where is Wigan?

Being from Australia all I knew about Wigan is it was a city in the UK many Australian Rugby League players have played for over the years. Wigan is approximately a two hour train ride north of London through some beautiful English countryside. The Wigan Warblers meet every Tuesday at the Douglas Bank pub .  

We had been filming for pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim in London on the Monday. After telling the team from Boehringer I was going to visit the Wigan Warblers on Tuesday for a day of singing, they decided they needed to come and see the Warblers for themselves. So Tuesday morning my wife Leanne, step-son Ryan myself and the team from Boehringer boarded a train and headed to Wigan for a day of singing. 

More than a singing group!

On our arrival at the Douglas Bank Pub we were warmly greeted by The Warblers boss Carol, musician Cameron and Publican Terry. As we entered the pub we were overwhelmed by what we were confronted with. A room full of respiratory patients standing and clapping as I walked into the main room, not what I was expecting. The warmth I felt in that room, I’ll cherish forever. These were people who’s lives I’d touched. They had followed my journey over the years and travelled as far as 1 ½ hours to be part of the day.  

In the group for the day included respiratory nurses, representatives from the British Lung Foundation and local politicians. They had gathered not to just sing along with the Warblers but to see how they could support this merry band of fellow wheezers. After an introduction to everyone, we took our positions and warmed up our vocal chords. Musician Cameron ran us through some vocal exercises before we joined forces to belt out some tunes.  

It was half way through singing 500 miles I looked around to see a room full of patients and carers beaming in the joy this atmosphere had created. It was then I realised the Wigan Warblers were much more than just a singing group. Yes the singing was exercising their lungs, but the support they were sharing with each other was just as valuable. Support networks are an invaluable part of living with COPD and the Wigan Warblers delivered a masterclass on supporting each other. 

Come and join the fun.

Tuesday September 6th is a great example of the importance of patients uniting for a common cause, which is support. Together we were able to achieve some great things in four hours, from connecting patients to respiratory nurses to help manage their disease better, to the promise of more support from local politicians so the Wigan Warblers could grow and offer more support. Of course we also had the chance to exercise our lungs as the singing continued throughout the afternoon. If you’re in the Wigan area, have a story to tell, like the idea of getting together with a great bunch of people to exercise your lungs by singing, then Wigan Warblers can help. They have a facebook page you connect with them on and before you know it you’ll be singing your way to a better quality of life. 

Thank you Wigan Warblers for taking us in and making us feel like family!

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