Spotlight on: Helena Bull

Simon Industrial Fellow, Creative Manchester. Camerata in the Community Project Manager at Manchester Camerata.

Since the beginning of February 2020, Helena Bull has been carrying out a Simon Industrial Fellowship at The University of Manchester, with Creative Manchester. This Fellowship builds on the existing relationship between The University and Manchester Camerata, and is centred on arts and health, investigating the role of music in those with dementia.Trombone players

We talk sector experience, music-making, pathways to research, community engagement (and of course, lockdown music) with Helena.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your areas of interest.

I’ve worked in arts and culture since graduating in 2014, most recently focusing on participatory arts with Manchester Camerata. I love working for an orchestra because I love music and the power it has to inspire change. Music also gives us an opportunity to make connections with others. I’m a people person, so being able to use music to communicate with other people in our community feels very special.

2. Why did you apply for the Simon Industrial Fellowship? How did you feel it could help you explore your areas of interest?

Camerata has several years’ experience in delivering projects for younger people living with dementia, using music as a tool to communicate and connect with others. I wanted to investigate different ways that we could deliver projects like this, the reasons behind those choices and ultimately the impact that work like this can have on people’s wellbeing and quality of life.

3. What work are you carrying out, or hoping to carry out as part of this fellowship?

I’ve been able to consult specialists in young-onset dementia and arts practitioners who work in this area too. I’m now planning a new programme of work with Manchester Camerata for younger people living with dementia and exploring ways in which a research project could be part of this. I’ve also been working with UMI3 to see how new technology could help Camerata deliver specialist training around music-making in dementia care.

4. What is the benefit and impact of the fellowship on Creative Manchester and Manchester Camerata, respectively, and how are you finding working across both organisations?

This fellowship has allowed me to reflect on how Manchester Camerata delivers work in this area, which will ultimately allow us to become better at what we do. Camerata and Creative Manchester already work in partnership, so this has provided an opportunity to focus on work within the community that can have such an important impact on people’s lives. It's very interesting to see how organisations from different sectors work, and how they can work together.

5. How might the work you’re carrying out impact real people and communities?

There is still a lack of public awareness and understanding about young onset dementia, and there are very few specialist creative groups for people affected by this. Our aim is to create regular music-making groups across Greater Manchester, specifically for younger people with dementia which gives them an opportunity to create new music, share their stories with a wider audience and connect with new people.

6. Looking to the future, do you have any plans, goals or dreams that your current work might help you achieve?

That’s a good question! Throughout this fellowship, I’ve gained more specialist knowledge about how music is used in a variety of settings. I’m really interested to explore this further to gain a better understanding of the impact that music-making can have with different groups of people in our communities, and also have the opportunity to facilitate some of this work myself.

7. Finally, what music has been keeping you inspired during lockdown?

Lots! Music is a regular source of inspiration for me. My friend and I created a playlist together which includes Prince, Joni Mitchell, Whitney Houston and a beautiful cover of ‘Heroes’ by Peter Gabriel; a great mix of things. Other than that, I always turn to my classical favourites like Sibelius Symphony No. 5, Ravel Piano Trio in A minor or Philip Glass Symphony No. 3.

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