All-Party Parliamentary Group, March 2019

Music in Mind, Manchester Camerata (c) Rachel Bywater Photography

On Monday 11 March, Sarah Derbyshire, Orchestras Live’s CEO joined the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing to discuss challenges and opportunities in spreading music and dementia work across the UK. Here Sarah shares an overview of our position at Orchestras Live…

As a national organisation, producing work in partnership with orchestras and specific communities including people living with dementia, Orchestras Live is uniquely placed to gain an overview of the classical music industrys work in this field. 

Our recent publication, From Bingo to Bartok, has enabled us to pull together best practice case studies focusing on eight orchestras, a literature review of research and evaluation in the field, and a comprehensive summary of classical music organisations engaged in projects with older people. 

From Bingo To Bartok has shown us that even the sector and specialist organisations aren’t aware of the breadth and depth of work taking place nationally. As far as public awareness goes, the picture is much worse. The media’s sporadic interest in one off projects us compounded by orchestras’ reticence to share, a highly competitive funding context, and a tension between medical and social approaches to delivery. 

In music and dementia work, creative practice goes beyond treatment-based models and care management models to embrace and even celebrate the role of dementia. This collaborative approach and its results have the power to reshape the public perception of dementia. 

At this special Roundtable on Music and Dementia, I called on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing to adopt the concept of cultural wellbeing, embedding engagement in the arts as a civic entitlement for a healthy life. A requirement for access to high quality cultural activity as an integral element of care for people living with dementia will create a quality benchmark for standards of care provision. This will help drive delivery and scale up activity with less fragmentation.  

I welcome the contribution of organisations such as the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance and Music for Dementia 2020 to provide resources, map activity and illustrate the picture of current provision.   

I hope that From Bingo to Bartok will encourage orchestras to celebrate their achievements in the field and to share their learning across the sector. The work that many are undertaking to support their musicians through training and CPD is exemplary and should be more widely acknowledged.

These initiatives should smooth the path for the health and social care sector to team up with orchestras, commission tailored orchestral delivery, and work with the sector collaboratively and strategically.

If you’d like to join the conversation, please email 


Read more: Find out about our Creative Journeys project with Sinfonia Viva, featured as part of our From Bingo to Bartok publication.