Music as a preventive strategy for public health (3rd meeting of SMHN)

Sing For Life Speyside performed at the event (image: Louise Mather for No Middle Name Creative)

The third seminar of the Scottish Music and Health Network was hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University at the Technology and Innovation Centre on George Street, Glasgow on 23rd October 2015.The event was organised in partnership with the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE), and formed the third day of their Music and Health conference

One hundred and one people attended the event, including musicians, health practitioners and NHS representatives, researchers, students and members of the public. Scotland was well represented with delegates from Speyside to the Borders, with many attending from south of the border and international delegates registering from as far afield as the Philippines and Australia. Academic organisations represented included the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow Caledonian, Keele, Northumbria, Glasgow, Highlands & Islands and Queen Margaret, as well as Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Glasgow School of Art. Music providers represented included Common Wheel, SENSE Scotland, Big Noise Raploch, WHALE Arts and Big Big Sing as well as two community choirs, Givin’ it Laldie from Gorbals and Sing for Life Speyside.

Following an outline of the preventive agenda in healthcare provision and why music has important potential to improve public health, Douglas Lonie from BOP Consulting set out the challenges facing music initiatives seeking to evaluate health and other impacts of their work and proposed widely applicable models with which to approach this task. Allan Farmer from WHALE Arts and Katherine Waumsley from Common Wheel set out the important role of music making in the communities they serve and their approaches to evaluating this work, while music therapist Giorgos Tsiris detailed the impact of using music to build a community among all those at a hospice for end-of-life care. The coffee break saw a sterling performance from the musicians of Sensatronic at SENSE Scotland, while a lively session on the benefits of community singing kicked off with stirring singing (and audience participation) from the wonderful Sing for Life Speyside, Tara French and Shelly Coyne discussed the varied benefits to health from the community choirs they worked with, and Svend Einar Brown from Glasgow Life set out an ambitious research design to capture the impacts of the equally ambitious Big Big Sing programme in Glasgow. Finally, Chris Harkins from GCPH and Peter Nicholson described the development of Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise initiative in Raploch, and their far-reaching research to capture a broad range of outcomes at community level over many years.

The day closed with a discussion of priorities for future research and practice in relation to music for public health. Working towards prescribing music as a treatment and meeting the challenges of long term research into benefits were mooted as important areas for investigation. Commonly perceived challenges included capturing the impacts of music as a preventive measure to maintain wellbeing, and the difficulties of meeting policy agendas fro social or health benefits within a service whose objectives are primarily musical.  Greater and more effective use of existing data to support smaller research plans and availability of a common toolkit of robust outcome measures were suggested as important objectives, There was considerable discussion of the potential for a network of collaborating community practitioners to share and support the collection and understanding of useful data, as well as decreasing isolation, functioning as a ‘reality check’, increasing the feeling of community, support research lead by practitioners, and helping to bridge the gap between theory and practice,. Finally, the potential value of music as a cost-effective and positive activity compared with medication was seen as vitally important to communicate.

The programme from the day, as well as slides from the individual presentations, can be downloaded at the following links :



SMHN3 presentations files (PDF):

Graeme Wilson

Douglas Lonie

Allan Farmer

Katherine Waumsley

Giorgos Tsiris

Tara French

Svend-Einar Brown

Shelly Coyne

Chris Harkins & Peter Nicholson


The full programme from the day, with links to presenters' webpages, also appears below:

Music as a preventive strategy for public health: a one day seminar

Friday October 23rd


09:30   Welcome & Registration

10:00   SMHN team: Music and Public Health Research

10:15   Douglas Lonie, BOP Consulting

The tyranny of conscious thought – theory, policy and practice in participatory music projects

10.35   Allan Farmer, WHALE Arts

Music in Mind: making music and staying healthy in Wester Hailes

10.55   Coffee

11.30   Performance: Musicians from Sensatronic (SENSE Scotland)

11.40   Katherine Waumsley, Common Wheel

Common Wheel: Community Music in a Mental Health Care Context

12.00   Giorgos Tsiris, Nordoff Robbins, London/Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

Music in health promotion and death education: Perspectives from community music therapy

12:20    SMHN team roundup

12:30    Lunch



13:30   Performance: Sing for Life Speyside choir

13:45   SMHN Introduction

Community singing:

13:55   Tara French, Glasgow School of Art

Promoting health and wellbeing through community singing

14:15   Svend-Einar Brown/Siobhan Clark, Glasgow Life

Big Big Sing; what impact could community singing have on wellbeing in Glasgow?

14:35   Shelly Coyne, University of Edinburgh

We’re Givin’ it Laldie : Can Community Singing Improve Wellbeing in an Area of Multiple Deprivation in Glasgow?

15:00   Coffee

15:30   Chris Harkins, Glasgow Centre for Population Health; Peter Nicholson, Big Noise Raploch.

Evaluating Sistema Scotland – approaching complexity, recognising different forms of evidence and embedding a life course study of impacts

15:50   Discussion: Improving and maintaining public health with music

16:20   SMHN team: Network update

16.30   Close


Organiser: Dr Don Knox, Glasgow Caledonian University.

Conference committee: Dr Don Knox, Dr Gianna Cassidy, Prof Frederike Van Wijck (Glasgow Caledonian University), Prof Raymond MacDonald, Dr Katie Overy, Dr Graeme Wilson (University of Edinburgh).

Oct 21 to 23 2015, 9:15pm - 5:15pm