Celebrating Age seminar 2019

On Monday 11 February, our CEO Sarah Derbyshire joined Matthew Swann (CEO, City of London Sinfonia) to present findings from our recent “From Bingo to Bartok” publication at the Family Arts Campaign’s National Celebrating Age Seminar in Liverpool.

“From Bingo to Bartok has provided a great platform to shout out beyond the orchestral sector about the varied and innovative ways that orchestras engage with older people. The activity evidenced in the publication is helping to change perceptions that orchestras’ older audiences are only to be found in concert halls; and that an audience-focused approach that embraces project participants and sharing audiences as well as paying audiences is revitalising orchestras’ engagement with older people. The publication has also initiated responses that throw light on hidden impact; for example, the creative collaboration at the heart of Hear and Now has influenced Tibbs Dementia Foundation’s own organisational development. The key message I took away from the day was that many of the ingredients for success in the orchestral activities we highlighted are transferable to other art forms and genres.”

Sarah Derbyshire, Orchestras Live

Topics in the Q&A session following Sarah and Matthew’s presentation included:

  • Legacy – training for care staff in homes and day care to keep up activities in between musicians’ visits.
  • The importance of including rural and coastal communities.
  • Engaging older participants in the creative process requires skill but reaps huge rewards.
  • Diversity and inclusion are live issues in the area of arts and health, as much as in music education.
  • Creative engagement of older people living with dementia has a long term impact on the environment in which they’re living, resulting in improved wellbeing for residents and staff, as well as enjoyment in the moment.

Find out more about the publication and download a copy here.


Stories of impact in “From Bingo to Bartok”

Music for a While


Music for a While © Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

“My father is enjoying this, it revives his memory and gives my family and myself a glimpse of our old Dad.”

Music for a While is a partnership project with Arts & Health South West, the University of Winchester and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, working in hospitals to improve quality of life and patient experience for those living with dementia in acute NHS care.

Through providing music activities in hospital settings, this project resulted in a decrease in the number of patients requiring anti-agitation drugs, fewer falls recorded and the length of stay in hospital reduced.

Read more in Chapter 1.

Hear and Now


“It’s made me very happy coming here, and I’ve felt much more ‘not alone’ with memory loss.”

Hear and Now is an intergenerational community creative project developed by the Philharmonia Orchestra and Orchestras Live, aiming to encourage social cohesion, teamwork, improved morale and increased confidence amongst participants.

Hear and Now, Philharmonia Orchestra in Bedford July 2018 © Nikolaj Schubert

“Hear and Now is fundamentally an artistic project. It is an artistic project that embraces the sound, personality and characteristics of its assembled participants, and which creates new performance in response to that. The atmosphere is at once one of artistic care and reflection, but within a context that is open, flexible and supportive. The result of this approach is work that is continually developing and meaningful at both artistic and social levels.”

Tim Steiner, Artistic Director

Read more in Chapter 4.

Music in Mind


Music in Mind, Manchester Camerata © Rachel Bywater Photography

“A woman who apparently was in hospital unable to walk, gets up and starts to dance with a tambourine as if she was the most brilliant Spanish dancer ever. She was in her moment, switched on, loving life and loving what she was doing. She left the session with a smile you wouldn’t believe.”

Manchester Camerata’s Music in Mind project enables people living with dementia to express themselves, using improvisation as a tool to empower participants to make their own choices about what and when to play, and how they contribute as part of a group. This helps them regain a sense of control and identity, improving mood, communication skills and social interaction, as well as musical skills.

Read more in Chapter 2.

Creative Journeys


Creative Journeys, Sinfonia Viva in Brentwood Nov 2017 © Paul Starr, Essex County Council

“Each and every one of the 17 residents that I brought to the performance benefited from being involved and I think that it is a huge testament to the power of music for those with dementia as 99% of our residents that came along yesterday suffer from this condition and they were all captivated and attentive when often they would often be fidgety and agitated in some cases.”

Creative Journeys was a creative music project designed to improve the social interaction of residents in Essex care homes, to reduce loneliness and increase conversation. There were several unexpected outcomes, including the son of a participant (a man in his 50s) expressing his joy at sharing the experience with his mother and at hearing a live orchestra for the first time, and spontaneous dancing involving residents and care staff in the Can Can at the end of the performance.

The project was a partnership with Sinfonia Viva, Essex County Council, Brentwood Borough Council, Orchestras Live and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more in Chapter 6.

A Relaxed Approach


Sound Around Relaxed, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Carlisle Feb 2018 © Charlie Hedley

“Relaxed concerts for older people afford the opportunity to play a wide range of orchestral repertoire, in a liberating format, in local communities, to a potentially large audience, where funders can see clear cultural and wellbeing outcomes. This is an incredible opportunity to engage with a pressing (and fundable) societal need in an artistically exciting way for our musicians”

Many orchestras offer ‘relaxed’ concerts, which can be vital cultural experiences for families and carers with children with autism, sensory and communication deprivation and learning disabilities. These are environments where behaviours won’t be judged, and audiences are free to react in whatever way they choose, but this model can often exclude older family members. At the same time, the traditional concert model involves large scale concerts in busy town/city settings that take place after dark, which is not an ideal format, location and time for many older people – particularly the growing number who are living in isolation outside residential care.

City of London Sinfonia have developed a series of intergenerational concerts with The Albany to address these issues, taking concerts to their audiences (young and old) in welcoming, small-scale venues in their local areas.

Read more in Chapter 7.