University hosts Music Health and Wellbeing Workshop

150 people attended an online Music, Health and Wellbeing Workshop hosted by the University as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science.

The workshop, which took place via Zoom on 11 November, was a collaboration between Creative Manchester, the Music Department and the University’s Division of Nursing, Midwifery & Social Work. Its varied, 3-hour programme brought together distinguished speakers and panellists with specialisms ranging from music therapy to dementia care to social prescribing.

Opening the event, alumnus Mark Radcliffe of BBC Radio 6 Music fame gave a welcome address on the universal power of music. Next, we heard four lightning talks, beginning with Professor of Ethnomusicology Caroline Bithell, who offered fascinating insights into the physiological and psychological benefits of singing. We also heard a talk by Professor of Older People’s Mental Health Nursing, John Keady, who explored the in-the-moment impacts of musical participation on people living with dementia.

Dr Virginia Tandy OBE, Director of the National Agency for Age-Friendly Culture, then spoke about creative ageing during and beyond the pandemic, while Bev Taylor of the National Academy for Social Prescribing explored the benefits of social prescribing – not only in relation to our health and wellbeing, but also our creative lives. “This is not just a health thing,” Bev told us, “this is a life thing”.

Creative Manchester partners Manchester Camerata also had a large presence at the workshop. Helena Bull, Rebecca Parnell and Lizzie Hoskin explained how the orchestra’s Camerata in the Community programme "gives everyone the opportunity to find the musical voice they have within themselves”, before honing in on the Camerata’s award-winning Music in Mind programme, which helps people with dementia to "live well through music".

Later on in the workshop, composer and workshop facilitator Dr Tim Steiner led a panel discussion featuring, among others, Dementia United‘s Gaynah Butler, Music Therapist Brigette Schwarting and Professional Musician Janet Fulton. All spoke passionately about the ways in which musical participation can benefit our health and wellbeing, with Janet Fulton concluding that “Music is, above else, a language of love”.

Following the panel discussion, participants were given the opportunity to contribute to the dialogue within breakout rooms, led by the speakers and panellists. Many participants took this opportunity to share personal accounts of music enriching their health and wellbeing, both in the context of the pandemic and more widely. The workshop then came to a close with a beautiful recording of Manchester Camerata performing works by Joseph Haydn and Richard Strauss.

If you weren’t able to attend the workshop, you can watch a recording of the entire event above. You can also view all of the presentation slides via Dropbox.

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