Camerata in the Community programme, Manchester

Manchester Camerata, one of the UK’s leading chamber orchestras, works within health and social care to make music with community groups across Greater Manchester. This case study forms part of the Value of culture - health and wellbeing section of our online Culture Hub.


The ‘Camerata in the Community’ programme delivers creative music-making projects across three strands of activity: children and young people, health and wellbeing and the youth programme. One of its projects, Music in Mind, has worked with over 500 people living with dementia since it began in 2012. It provides music therapy based activity once a week for approximately 15 weeks for people with dementia in care homes, community centres and hospitals. Music in Mind operates using funding from sources including Tameside Council’s public health service, Rochdale Clinical Commissioning Group, the Henry Smith Charity and the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Each session is led by a music therapist and a Camerata musician trained in person-centred musical approaches and dementia awareness. The sessions are improvisatory, creating pieces of music in the moment by responding to members of the group, their abilities and needs. Participants need no prior knowledge of music-making as the musicians encourage them to choose from a range of simple percussion instruments to play alongside them. The participants are supported to gradually become more involved in the sessions and a sense of cohesiveness is established over time.

Impact of the project

Manchester Camerata is developing an evidence base for its dementia work. An initial evaluation, in 2012/13, focused on the impact of the sessions on participants and carers. It found that participants enjoyed the sessions and some subsequently reported feeling happier and more relaxed. Families and carers reported an immediate positive impact on their relationships.

Camerata has since been working with the New Economy and HKD Research Ltd to look at what factors can affect the project outcomes, such as duration of the sessions and the care home environment. Longer engagement (above the original 10-week period) was found to be important for the duration of relationships and sustaining wellbeing outcomes, having a positive effect on participants’ communication and mood, decreasing agitation and making them more likely to take part in other activities in their care setting.

More recently, evidence has been collated through interviews with care home managers which shows a reduction in the use of certain medication, such as anti-psychotics, while a person with dementia is taking part in a weekly Music in Mind session. These findings will be explored in greater detail through project evaluations in 2017/18.

Angela Wild, Programme Officer Lead for Dementia in Tameside Council’s public health team, said: “We commissioned Music in Mind in 2014-15 initially to look at alternative non-medical interventions to anti-psychotic medication being prescribed. Psycho-social interventions have been found to improve people’s mood and interactions with others.”

Comments received from carers in feedback following sessions in different care settings include the following:

A client who normally would be medicated for behaviour and can be controlled by music is a fantastic achievement.

A client who came into the session quite unusually upset/angry and wanting to leave – managed to completely turn the mood around in 20 minutes.

Verbal confirmation of pleasure in the session, further evidence of reduced agitation.

Looking to the future

Manchester Camerata is continuing to develop the evidence base by working with its partners to measure impacts and their meaning within the wider context of health and social care in Greater Manchester. A partnership with the University of Manchester has been awarded funding for three years from the Economic and Social Research Council for a PhD student to develop a multi-sensory music assessment tool. This will be used to gain a deeper understanding of the experience people are having ‘in the moment’ and provide a new, participatory way of collecting data to add to the growing evidence base regarding the impact of music-making for people living with dementia.

For further information contact Lucy Geddes, Camerata in the Community Manager: lgeddes@manchestercamerata.com