• SianLewis

Can you help us to make high-quality arts accessible to those suffering?

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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