Transforming Communities

Music and Mental Health

Mental health is an increasing priority for everyone, as we all become more aware of its improtance to the general health of individuals and communities. A new survey by YouGov of over 2,000 British adults, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, reports significant numbers of people always or often feeling stressed (29%), anxious (24%) and depressed (17%).

At LMN, we have been working with academics and practitioners to understand the unique role that participatory music can play in building confidence and contributing to a healthier mind and body. We recently completed a three year project into the subject, and for Mental Health Awareness Week (11-17 May) we were keen to help highlight issues of mental health through a series of performances throughout London. 

On Tuesday (12 May), folk ensemble Tir Eolas performed at the The Forum, where the work of Live Music Now musicians has been helping to address social exclusion, loneliness and migration-related trauma experienced by many migrants and refugees for nearly four years.

Tir Eolas performing at The Forum. Photo credit: Ivan Gonzalez

On Friday (15 May) Will Pound and Henry Webster performed for St Mungo's Broadway, an organisation that helps people recover from the issues that create homelessness. Later on that same day, flamenco ensemble Trovador performed at the Camden Recovery Service for Older People who provide assessment, diagnosis and treatment for people over the age of 65 with functional mental health illness.

Launched at the end of 2011, On A Good Day aimed to improve well-being for Londoners living with mental illness and mental health problems. LMN's South East branch recognised a real need to respond to the increasing number of requests that they were receiving from organisations working in the field.

Between September 2011 and June 2014 Live Music Now delivered a total of 220 music sessions reaching over 1,000 beneficiaries and involving 60 LMN musicians and alumni. Sessions took place in 25 mental health settings including psychiatric units, residential and day settings that work with a range of vulnerable people including older people, refugees and asylum seekers, and the homeless.

LMN South East created a range of sub-projects responding to the different needs of participants and the nature of the music sessions has varied enormously involving participatory performances, residencies, singing and composition workshops, one-to-one mentoring and a mix of musical genres.Working with an external evaluator, they carefully tracked the impact that these projects had on the lives of the people involved.

We met Raja at The Forum in 2011. Raja is from Iran where he was a professional violinist in one of the leading orchestras. When we met him  he had not played the violin for several years due to harsh and discouraging experiences both in Iran and in the UK. Over three years, Raja was mentored by LMN alumni and violinist Kokila Gillett as part of LMN's On A Good Day project.

The early stages of the mentoring relationship were concerned with encouraging Raja to re-engage with the violin and practical tasks such as repairing his broken instrumen. By the end of the first year Raja was playing again, had obtained a distinction in his Grade 7 violin exam and performed at an event organised by The Forum and The Refugee Council. In the second year, having been granted refugee status, he was encouraged by Kokila Gillett to access a chamber music ensemble course at London's City Lit. At the end of Year 3 he performed at the On A Good Day celebratory performance at The Forge and formed a duo with another musician with whom he was starting to seek performance work.

"When I was working with Kokila I felt better as I was playing with a professional musician after such a long time. She gives much confidence by her words and the way that she teaches. She has also encouraged me to start communicating with other musicians via a chamber music ensemble course in City Lit. Thanks the Forum and dear Kokila." – Raja

"Live Music Now staff and musicians have found working on the project challenging, exciting and rewarding and have learnt a great deal along the way. We have gathered much data over the course of the project which demonstrates that the project has had a real impact on individuals and their lives." Erica Lang, Project Manager and Trust Fundraiser, Live Music Now (South East)

Funding for 'On A Good Day' was provided by City Bridge Trust (Y1-Y3), The Adrian Swire Charitable Trust (Y2) and The Brook Trust (Y2&Y3). For a copy of the full evaluation report, please email [email protected]

Photo Credit: Harrow Community Choir / LMN musicians Kokila Gillet-Khan performing with Raja. Simon Jay Price



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