Unsung Hero: Former headteacher who organises music club at Surbiton Royal Star and Garter: 'I wouldn't play Lady Gaga'

This Is Local London: Mary Taylor receives a one-year volunteering certificate from the Star & Garter’s chief executive Mike Barter Mary Taylor receives a one-year volunteering certificate from the Star & Garter’s chief executive Mike Barter

A former headteacher volunteers her time by running a music club at Surbiton’s Royal Star and Garter home for ex-service members – and even helps residents take communion.

Mary Taylor, who lives just a 10-minute walk from the home, joined the charity shortly before its move from Richmond, hoping to help residents adjust during the transition.

She took over the music group from veteran volunteer Pat Maynard.

She said: “I haven’t changed the format – I wouldn’t dream of changing something that’s worked so well.

“I look for something that is going to appeal to them.

"A week ago I did music from advertisements they might know.

“I wouldn’t be giving them Lady Gaga.

“Music is very healing for people. I think it is marvellous that they can all participate.”

The group receives visits from performers which have included the Met Police choir, Kingston Choral Society and solo artists.

Mrs Taylor, 68, said: “The residents really love it and it’s a very nice thing to do and be involved in.”

And she praised her fellow volunteers, adding: “I’ve been, in my time, into lots of nursing homes.

"But I can’t get over the atmosphere in the Star and Garter. The love and compassion – it’s a place you would want your loved ones to be.”

Her husband, Gerry, a former RAF pilot and news reporter for the Times, also volunteers at the Surbiton home’s bar.

Deputy activities manager Raquel Pena-Aristizabel said: “It’s a very popular club and she is wonderful with all the residents.

“She is really helpful – one of the people who you can ask to do any job and she’s always happy to help.

“She creates a monthly programme and includes staff, residents and volunteers.

"She goes around asking residents what kind of music they like – sometimes residents put the programmes together by themselves.

“Mary is always happy to help.”

Do you know an unsung hero? Call the newsdesk on 020 8744 4273 or email jon.sharman@london.newsquest.co.uk.

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