Arts and Mental Health Health & Wellbeing music pandemic research Social Prescribing

Beyond the pandemic: music, maladies and mending

Starting with a major study on music behaviours and coping during the pandemic, this month’s blog is a music-themed exploration into health and wellbeing.

In this post I share several reports published this month, and events and training you can participate in. I leave you with a fantastic example of a vivid cultural adaptation from an original song, controversial and highly popular at the time.

Featured image supplied courtesy of So Many Beauties

Research & Reports

Viral tunes: changes in musical behaviour predict coping

In this study across three continents, researchers asked over 5,000 people about their music listening and making behaviours between April and May 2020. For music making, higher levels of coping were found among participants who reported using music to help understand feelings and regulate mood.

In line with existing literature on music and social bonding, higher levels of coping were found among those who reported feeling able to share their experiences and connect to others via music, and where music was perceived to reduce feelings of loneliness. The research shows that people who were particularly interested in other people’s ‘coronamusic behaviour’ (I know, it’s a new one on me too, defined as musical content responding to the pandemic) showed the strongest increases in coping for both making music and music listening.

Orchestras in Healthcare

Also published this month is a significant report called Orchestras in Healthcare, using information from 54 UK orchestras, opera companies and choirs.

The report shows the locations and types of healthcare settings in which orchestras are currently working, orchestras’ motivation for such involvement, and the role that health and wellbeing delivery plays in their approaches and business models. The authors also explore the aspirations of orchestras and musicians around their roles in the UK’s recovery from the pandemic.

Considerable patchiness in provision was found, particularly within England. Interestingly, it is noted that in the two areas where orchestras have formal links with social prescribing programmes – Scotland and Greater Manchester – devolved health authorities are operating. I believe this feature is a key reason why the arts and health field continues to flourish in Greater Manchester, and one which has enabled us to establish the Arts, Culture and Mental Health programme within GM i-THRIVE, the only one of its kind within the national THRIVE transformation of children’s services.

Key findings

  • Among professional orchestras surveyed, almost two thirds deliver work in health, wellbeing and social care settings. Of those remaining, most stated that they wish or have plans to do so in the future.
  • 50% are working in hospitals, 31% are working in social care settings, and only 22% in mental health settings.
  • Over half of orchestras said health and wellbeing work is central to their business model towards serving wider audiences and making a positive impact on society.
  • This represents a net gain of at least £1.6m to the public health sector. 93% (£1.48m) was raised by orchestras themselves.
  • There exists a rapidly developing social prescribing infrastructure nationwide, better connecting the health and cultural sectors, and meeting an orchestral sector with the ability and ambition to increase their role in a range of health, wellbeing and care contexts and in recovery from the pandemic.

“Enabling people to connect to music…is recognised by the health and care system as being valuable to its future.”

James Sanderson, Chief Executive of the National Academy of Social Prescribing:

Where funds are being raised by orchestras themselves, in the context of a clear need and interest in their value for wider society, might one solution be found through an example by our Finnish colleagues? In a brilliant and useful practice in Lapland, a ‘city band’ is salaried by local Government and can be booked by any institution to help soothe, celebrate or commiserate.

Ofsted on music in schools

Ofsted has published a research review looking at music education in schools.

The economics of the music industry

Also out this month, an important and overdue report from UK parliament on the economics of music streaming. Parliament calls for reform as
MPs declare a ‘complete reset’ of music streaming is needed to fairly reward performers and creators and avoid ‘putting music at risk.’


With the Paralympics a month away, and Wimbledon’s Para Championships underway, find out more about Paraorchestra. This orchestra ‘is the world’s only large-scale virtuoso ensemble of professional disabled and non-disabled musicians.’ Their mission is to redefine what an orchestra can be. 


So Many Beauties Collective – Intercultural Music Showcase

Thursday 5 August – 6pm – 7.15pm
Zoom and live-stream – Free to attend, reservations on Eventbrite

The So Many Beauties Collective features some of the North West’s finest musicians who have come together during the pandemic to share music, celebrate each other’s heritage and develop new inter-cultural ideas. The ethos of the Collective is to “work co-creatively with people in health and social care settings, providing opportunities for patients, residents and staff to be actively involved in the creative process of making music.” This event features music made by colleagues in MFT NHS Foundation Trust in online workshops.

This event forms part of the South Asian Heritage Month programme of events which you can find in full at Tickets here. 

Gisburn Forest Folk Gathering

Thursday August – Sunday 14th, camping included, day tickets also available
Tickets via Eventbrite, events takes place in Gisburn Forest

Don’t miss this rare opportunity! A carefully curated weekend of music workshops, sessions and professional development opportunities. Some of the region’s most experienced educators and professional traditional music performers will be on hand to teach, mentor and share their skills. Prices are kept low to support access to music among the many of us who’ve been missing it during pandemic measures.

The location is the beautiful and remote-feeling Gisburn Forest Hub, host of the award-winning Cloudspotting Festival. Tickets here.

Music in Healthcare: Cultural Engagement at Patients’ Bedsides

This Friday 30th July 2.30 pm
Free to attend, reservations on Eventbrite

Discussions on what it means to connect on a cultural level through music with patients, how this is done, and the impact of the work, both in the moment and beyond. Through discussions with other OPUS musicians, this podcast draws on a wealth of experience with a range of services, people and conditions.

Arts, Culture and Heritage: Understanding their complex effects on our health

This course coming soon from the Royal Society for Public Health aims to increase knowledge and understanding of how community resources, including arts, culture and heritage activities, can improve our physical and mental health and wellbeing. The RSPH are offering a limited number of free places, and places cost £30.

Three Minute Heroes

Have you ever wanted to experience Three Minute Heroes for yourself?  This Friday, as part of the Act For Change Together festival they are holding an online Three Minute Heroes session! Book your free ticket here – be quick; it’s tomorrow evening!

The Warren Youth Project’s initaitve integrating music and mental health

GM i-THRIVE Arts, Culture and Mental Health Programme: Get Involved

This month we welcomed over 70 colleagues to the GM i-THRIVE workshop on implementing arts and cultural options in children’s services. There we shared evidence and learning from GM based practice models – and what still needs to be done to broaden the offer to include these creative options.

You are welcome watch the workshop here. We will deliver it again in autumn.

Words chosen by participants to describe their views on the roles of arts and culture in clinical services.

Arts, Culture and Mental Health Ambassadors

You can sign up as an Ambassador to receive monthly resources here, and read more about the programme aims on our website.

GM i-THRIVE Youth Mental Health Arts and Culture Evaluation Kit

Request a copy of the Kit to demonstrate impact using mixed methods – free to use and database available to organisations within Greater Manchester.

GM i-THRIVE Community of Practice

Join our GM i-THRIVE Community of Practice to keep up to date with all things i-THRIVE.

Thank you!

I’ll leave you with this finest of musical treats: ‘Cod Liver Oil and the Orange Juice’ by Hamish Imlach, an Indian-born Glaswegian. His take on the American gospel standard “Virgin Mary Had a Little Baby” (written by Ron Clark and Carl MacDougall) was an obvious choice to me; firstly, for the vividness of Hamish’s rendition, set in Glasgow, secondly because it was most requested song on British Forces Radio, and thirdly, because it was also banned by the BBC, where it was assumed to be full of double meanings.

I'm a British clinical psychologist with a research background. I manage the Greater Manchester i-THRIVE Arts, Culture and Mental Health Programme, part of the national transformation of children's services. I also have an NHS clinical role in Lancaster and Morecambe working with children, young people and families (CAMHS). I began this blog in 2017 to record a WCMT Travelling Fellowship, from a research role at Arts for Health, Manchester Metropolitan University. I began clinical psychology training (DCLinPsy, Lancaster) in 2010, and studied the role of creativity in bipolar disorder, because of the known links, and partly due to my own experiences of creatively managing extremes of mood in adolescence and throughout my 20s. I have worked in several university psychology research departments including Manchester University in suicide prevention, the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University (notable for service user expertise), and on the Dementia & Imagination research programme.

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