IF you want to get on in life, you must learn to dance to the beat of your own drum.


It’s a mantra adopted by many successful people over the years.


Some people would tell you, though, that such advice has not only enhanced their life, but has literally saved their life.


There is a church hall in Johnstone where a group of people who have been thrown more than a few curveballs in their time gather to express and enjoy themselves through the ever-powerful medium of music.


They are known as the Buddy Beat – and they’ve been drumming their hearts out for the past decade in a bid to fight back and live fearlessly against the tough cards life has dealt them.


The group, led by community musician Jane Bentley, is aimed at people who struggle or have struggled in the past with mental health problems.


It invites them into a world of no judgement and no pressure – just a good dose of friendship and loud music.


Paisley man Tom Chalmers, 52, said that before he picked up a drum at Buddy Beat, he thought he had reached the end of his life.


But a big drumming family with a thirst for rhythm and noise gave him a reason to keep going.


“I joined the Buddy Beat back in March 2008 when I had been really unwell,” said Tom. “I thought I had no future.


“Then Jane appeared at a course I was on one time and encouraged me to join. It was the first time I had drummed and it was the first time I’d felt peace in about seven years.


“It was very small back then – we only had about three people but I just couldn’t believe the peace I felt.


“It was like everything else packed up and ran out the door for two hours.


“Buddy Beat saved my life.”


The origins of Buddy Beat date back a decade and can be found at Dykebar Hospital, in Paisley, which treats patients with mental health conditions.


It was set up as a social inclusion project and is now based in the hall of Johnstone High Parish Church, near Ludovic Square.


The group has around 20 members, who are all benefitting from communicating and finding headspace through music.


Anne Dowie, from Barrhead, shudders to think where she would be now if it hadn’t been for the Buddy Beat.


She said: “I used to be anorexic and my parents were told I wouldn’t even make it to 30. I’m 56 now.


“I was in and out of psychiatric wards and self-harming when I was younger.


“None of that is happening now. What does that tell you about this group?


“It’s given me so much confidence and now I do singing and drama and all sorts.”


For so many, mental health issues can stop you from enjoying life and it feels as if there are barriers everywhere – but Buddy Beat, which won a Provost’s Community Award in 2012, is constantly seeking to change that perspective.


If you’re not musical or you think you don’t have rhythm, Buddy Beat will still welcome you – and you might just prove yourself wrong.

The Gazette: Anne Dowie (right) who says the group saved her from anorexia.

Anne Dowie (right) who says the group saved her from anorexia. 


Jane said most members didn’t think they had rhythm until they were given a drum.


“We have such a huge mix of folk at Buddy Beat,” she added.


“I think there’s a lot of people who didn’t think they were musical or had rhythm before they came.


“It’s a protected space for people with mental health problems and they can all express what’s inside out to the group through drumming.”


It’s not just in the church hall that you’ll find this group getting into a groove but right across the west of Scotland, as they perform on a beach in Largs or at venues such as the Spiegeltent in Paisley.


The noisy bunch have also played at Sma’ Shot Day in Paisley, mental health charity Flourish House, in Glasgow, and a 10-hour music marathon in Glasgow University Concert Hall, in aid of the Common Wheel charity.


Tom added: “I started to record how many sessions we did, as a way of validating my existence, really.


“It turns out we’ve now done 300. It’s incredible how much the group has grown.”


Alistair McIntyre, from Erskine, who goes along to Buddy Beat with his flatmate Andrew Milne, said: “It gets me out of the house and it’s a right good laugh.


“We are just like one big family.”


If you’re interested in joining Buddy Beat, visit www.thebuddybeat.com for more information.


The group meets on Thursdays, from 10am until noon.