Big Smile Big Band and Smileawi’s Christmas Wish

Those who are regular followers of our blog will know of the partnership working between the MalDent Project and the charity Smileawi. Our first joint endeavour was a very successful pilot child oral health survey carried out in Malawi in July 2019, which was a collaboration between Glasgow Dental School’s Community Oral Health Research Group, six senior students from Glasgow and Dundee Dental Schools and Smileawi.

The successful team of Smileawi volunteers and dental students on their return with the survey data!

Since then, a strong working relationship has also developed between Smileawi, Bridge2Aid, the Dental Association of Malawi and the MalDent Project, leading work to establish a task-shifting emergency dentistry training programme in Malawi.

Like all charities, Smileawi is highly reliant on donations from members of the public. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has been a very difficult year for fund-raising. Nigel and Vicky Milne, the founders and directors of Smileawi, are both University of Glasgow Dental School alumni and by a happy coincidence a festive on-line fund-raising opportunity arose at their alma mater.

Glasgow Dental School is immensely fortunate to have its own musical troupe – the Big Smile Big Band. Its founder and director is Callum Wemyss, a Class of 2016 Glasgow dental alumnus, who established the band whilst still a student and has maintained his role as band leader since qualifying. He is now a Specialty Trainee in Oral Surgery at Glasgow Dental Hospital & School, so he has returned home to his band’s base! Such is Callum’s drive and enthusiasm that many fellow alumni, as well as current staff and students, continue to support and perform with the band.

In full swing at the Big Smile Big Band event at the SEC – making music with local schoolchildren

Clearly the COVID-19 pandemic has brought an end to live events, but earlier in the year the band put together two on-line songs by individually recording their parts and then submitting them to be digitally edited together into final performances. These so-called ‘Dental Lockdown Sessions’ were part of a very successful fund-raising initiative for Glasgow’s Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice, led by another Glasgow dental alumnus, Clive Schmulian.

A few weeks ago I met Callum by chance in the Dental Hospital. He was toying with the idea of pulling the Big Smile Big Band together digitally again, to record two Christmas songs. Callum was keen to incorporate a fund-raising element into the project and we decided to have a discussion with Nigel and Vicky, about a plan to make Smileawi the recipient charity. Since then, the project has come together and the two songs were launched at 8pm on Tuesday 22nd December to an on-line audience.

It was a fantastic event and for those who were unfortunate enough to miss it, you can see it on ‘Big Smile Big Band Catch up TV’ here:

Massive thanks are due to Callum and all the members of the Big Smile Big Band. Special thanks also to Roger Marsh who completed the audio mixing (as well as playing trombone!) . Finally, big thanks to Clive Schmulian for kindly providing access to the digital platform and to Clyde Munro for sponsoring the event.

If you have just listened to the performances and would like to donate to Smileawi, you can still do so at:

Merry Christmas and warmest good wishes to all for 2021!

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