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  • Camilla Vickers

Behind the scenes of the latest film from Health:Pitch...


Francesca Lanza has filmed her experience of winter lockdown in Italy.


How has winter lockdown been for you?


For many, it has felt dark, lonely and very long. Unable to find solace in the simple joy of face-to-face human connections, we have had to focus on the small daily things in our lives that bring joy.


Francesca Lanza, the Italian soprano who helps Camilla Vickers run Health:Pitch, found a boost by sharing the joy of music with treasured friends.


And she became a documentary-maker… to create a short film about her winter lockdown with musical friends in her hometown of Turin, Italy, which Health:Pitch produced in partnership with Celebrating Age Wiltshire.


“We came up with the idea of a Winter in Italy film, to offer our audiences the chance to see a bit of Italy and how Francesca is getting on there,” explains Rebecca Seymour, creative director at Celebrating Age Wiltshire. “We supported The Soprano last year, so it was only natural to be part of another film involving Francesca. Many of our audiences, both from care homes and living independently, now recognise Francesca and enjoy following her. We hope it won’t be too long before they can hear and see her sing live again!”


'Winter in Italy', Francesca’s first role as writer, director and film editor, is an uplifting lyrical journey through her lockdown season of songs, music and emotions with her cast of fellow singers, musicians and…cats. Yes, cats!


“Telling this story through the camera’s lens gave me an interesting perspective on this winter and life itself,” says Francesca. “Above all, it turned on the need to share stories to overcome the obstacles of this time.”



Francesca wrote, starred in, filmed and edited 'Winter in Italy'.


Last September, Camilla, Francesca and Rebecca joined Tom Service on the BBC’s Music Matters programme (for those in a hurry, from about 14:00 – 20:00) to discuss in more detail how music can positively affect the brain and offer respite and joy for people living with dementia, those struggling with loneliness, and frontline workers in the COVID-19 trenches.


As people suffer continued isolation and anxiety linked to the global pandemic, sharing the arts to benefit health, for bodies and minds has never been more vital.


“’Winter in Italy’ reminds us of the important role music and the arts play in transcending borders and boundaries both physical and mental,” says Camilla Vickers, Health:Pitch founder and director. “With that special mix of Health:Pitch magic, Francesca and her musicians help to transport us out of our current confines. Whatever our personal or professional lived experience of COVID, we are all tired and stretched by the confines of lockdown. In this film, we join Francesca and her friends in the room – a room in Italy! And we can connect through the very human, humorous and humbling way that Francesca shares their beautiful musical talents and generosity of spirit with us.”



Francesca used a ring light to ensure the right lighting while filming.


Winter in Italy is the latest Health:Pitch project produced in collaboration with a long-term partner organisation. Rebecca Seymour, from Celebrating Age Wiltshire, explains why this partnership is hugely beneficial to both parties.


“We have worked with Health:Pitch over the past three years,” says Rebecca. “We are developing this wonderful relationship around offering high-quality music to our local communities in Wiltshire. Strong partnerships are the way forward, pooling resources to make a much stronger body of work and to draw on each other’s specialism."


“Celebrating Age Wiltshire and Health:Pitch have worked together many times now, so we know we’re going to get high-quality work and Health:Pitch know they’re going to get the specialist knowledge around delivery for older and isolated communities.”


Camilla hopes that ‘Winter in Italy’ gives audiences, of all ages, a chance to enjoy beautiful music and share the warmth of friendships that so clearly emanates from these musicians through the love for their craft.


Speaking of ‘crafts’, now that multi-talented Francesa has added ‘filmmaker’ to her list…we hope to share more of her creations with you in the future.


"I jumped into this documentary project," Francesca explains. “And, producing the film, I realised that what keeps me going is simply music. And of course, my friends! Yes, the technical aspects have been a challenge, and I am surely going to solve them… in the next project!”


  • ‘Winter in Italy’, created in collaboration with Celebrating Age Wiltshire, is available to view for free on our website. Click here and scroll down to view.


  • For more information about Winter in Italy or Health:Pitch's work, please contact us at admin@healthpitch.org.


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Health:Pitch performers connect through music.


This year, many more people have (sadly) come to understand what it is to feel alone, anxious and stressed.


With theatres closed and concerts cancelled, the sense of isolation and loneliness that arises when you cannot escape the constraints of your day-to-day situation is felt keenly across all age groups and sectors of society.


More and more people have also become acutely aware that access to arts and culture makes life more enjoyable, and in some cases, more bearable.


One of the few positives of this ‘lived experience’ is that we no longer have to explain why we do what we do at Health:Pitch – we can move the conversation to the ‘how can we do it’.



What does the science say?


Since the early days of our charity, we have known that connecting through high-quality musical theatre engagement, in our case with operatic singers – always with light humour that resonates with the audience - helps people. We've seen the smiles in the rooms. We’ve heard the wonderful feedback. And, at every step, we remain guided by the science.


On 16th July, an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) seminar live-streamed on YouTube, hosted by Arts & Health South West for experts across the health and care sectors, focused on how the arts can support health and wellbeing, especially for those who are – or who feel – the most marginalised.


As reported in a previous blog, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2019 scoping review outlined the health benefits of the arts. “Arts interventions can help improve health and wellbeing, contribute to the prevention of a variety of mental and physical illnesses and support in the treatment or management of acute and chronic conditions arising across the life-course.”


The WHO findings continued: “The beneficial impact of the arts could be furthered through acknowledging and acting on the growing evidence base; promoting arts engagement at the individual, local and national levels; and supporting cross-sector collaboration.”



Music has the power to move us.



Cross-sector collaboration to improve access to high-quality arts for those suffering


That is precisely what we strive to achieve at Health:Pitch – cross-sector collaboration to connect through the arts at all levels.


“Let’s work together,” says Camilla Vickers, Health:Pitch founder and co-director. "I understand people's urge to try to guard their patch, but with broader horizons and a generosity of spirit, we can collaborate to reach more people. And if we can inspire collaboration, then together, perhaps we can reach more people higher up in the systems, the policymakers and decision-makers."


Health:Pitch performances, which blend international-quality opera and musical theatre with the essential ingredient of humour, are staged in the same way no matter who is in the audience.


"There is always the same exceptional quality – in the music, performance and everything that goes with it,” explains Camilla. “We would never dumb down what we do thereby patronising, even if with good intentions, our different audiences; people often don't realise that. Plus, our high-quality approach goes beyond the musical engagement. It is also an integral part of the way Health:Pitch performers interact and engage with the audience, whoever and where ever they are.”



Beyond the performances, the connection counts.


Again, the science agrees.


In his 2014 work, Older People and Culture, Mark Miers, a science journalist based in Holland, concluded that social interaction has a hugely beneficial impact. “A series of solid scientific studies are unanimous on the influence of active participation in dance, theatre, music and visual arts. When you experience something together (it) has a bonding effect.”


“Listening to and enjoying high-quality arts is wonderful,” says Camilla. “Feeling part of the performance and feeling the performers are connecting with you personally – that will blow your socks off.”




Innovation through high-quality arts


We know because we have witnessed it repeatedly, that if you touch souls, you can move minds. So, we want to take the conversation about innovating through high-quality arts, which are accessible to all, to those in the position to allocate budgets and assign time. By convincing them of the need to provide high-quality arts for those in their care, and the staff who look after them, we can affect real and lasting change.


“We realise that there is no money to stage Health:Pitch-style shows, with internationally trained performers (who we pay fairly) every week,” Camilla stresses. “But in addition to regular events, why not schedule something extraordinary once or twice a year? Let's raise the bar of the quality of entertainment and engagement on offer."


Camilla and the Health:Pitch team are aware that achieving our aims hinges largely on convincing those in positions to affect – and fund – change. This challenge will be easier, if we can show evidence that high-quality arts provision can result in cost savings in the long term, with reduced staff absence, lower staff turnover rates, and less mental and physical health intervention required in the health and social care sectors.


The evidence base to support this approach is growing.


Mark Mieras found that: The macro-economic question of how we will finance health care and humanitarian questions about quality of life are closely linked, because happy people are, on average, healthier and more independent. This co-relation is well-founded in science, and so is the relationship between cultural and social activities, and mental and physical vitality. Ageing, it appears, has less influence on people who stay actively involved in fascinating, challenging activities.”


“When Francesca and the other Health:Pitch performers sing – boy! You are transported," says Camilla. "You forget what you are doing and feeling. They get you involved in the performance, and you are lifted, freed from your particular constraints."


Now more than ever, people need high-quality arts in their lives. Can you help us to make that happen?


Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about Health:Pitch, our performances, our approach and how you can collaborate with us.

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  • SianLewis

Health:Pitch performers share the joy of 'The Audition' with customers at One Housing Group's Protheroe House, in Tottenham, London.


Health:Pitch has grown incredibly quickly, and we believe that our partners are instrumental to this success, and to our continued development.


As we innovate in health and social care through music, we connect with people who can help us achieve our vision.



Why are partnerships so important?


“You cannot achieve this on your own,” explains Health:Pitch co-founder and director Camilla Vickers. “In so many ways, it is such a fight. You have to grow your strength through solid partnerships to grow the energy together.”


Since Camilla set up Davina’s Fund, the precursor to Health:Pitch in 2015, in honour of her mother, she has partnered with people who share her generosity of spirit, who are keen to try anything to share high-quality arts with diverse audiences in different settings.


Today, we celebrate one of those partnerships, with Linda Kelly, the One Housing Group's customer partnerships manager.


As with many Health:Pitch partnerships, it started quite by chance…


"In 2017, we offered an activity co-ordinator in a One Housing service an afternoon of free opera," says Camilla. "Her response was, 'I'm not interested in opera, but as it's free – yes'. Obviously, we blew their socks off!"


Linda's colleague was wowed by 6 Characters in Search of an Opera, one of Health:Pitch’s first performances, Linda got in touch.



What makes a great partnership?


For us, a good partner understands our customers and is approachable,” says Linda Kelly. “We want to work with a partner who has the same ethos, who is flexible and collaborative. As we are so limited in our funding the value-added projects cannot be accessed, so we also need a partner who can bring their own funding.”


Linda, and One Housing, offered very practical support to Health:Pitch from the start. To save on the cost of hiring rehearsal space, Linda invited the performers to rehearse in One Housing services. In return, One Housing customers at a senior living centre were treated to the final dress rehearsal.


"We had lovely reactions from the people, including staff, who heard us rehearse," says Camilla. "There was one lady who never really spoke. She would sit outside the door as we rehearsed, and we could hear her humming, which was incredibly moving."


“Our customers and staff are still talking about the performances and wanting Health:Pitch to come back,” continues Linda. “The most important part of Health:Pitch is the smiles on customers faces.”

Forging strong, long-lasting partnerships, as with One Housing, helps on a more strategic level too. As we develop our mission to integrate opera and health and social care, our team benefits from working with partners who are open to trying new things, who are full of ideas and willing to share.


We work with partners who share our ethos and values. We also seek partners with different skills sets, knowledge of diverse environments and a willingness to navigate between sectors.


"Understandably, some organisations are protectionist, guarding their patch and wary of sharing the limited funding available," says Camilla. "We don't seek to compete; we work collaboratively to grow ourselves and to amplify the work of our partners."



“The most important part of Health:Pitch is the smiles on customers faces.” Linda Kelly, customer partnerships manager at One Housing.



The value of partnerships


For Linda Kelly and One Housing, the right partnerships are vital on many levels. “Partners are invaluable in a sector like ours,” Linda explains. “They bring value-added projects that enrich the lives of our customers. Not only our customers but also our staff; for a short while it takes them out of the mundane, and they see our customers in a different light.”


“Beyond the immediate, working with a partner like Health:Pitch inspires and supports us, it also opens doors to other partners and, like the branches of a tree, partnerships grow and develop.”


Would you like to find out more about becoming a Health:Pitch partner? Please get in touch.


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