• SianLewis

The smiles say it all…

At Health:Pitch, we know that the arts boost mental and physical health and wellbeing.

To be in the room, when people laugh and sing along with the Health:Pitch performers is to witness the positive power of music and song to lift hearts and minds.

We’ve seen the smiles.

Yes, this knowledge is intuitive, but it is also rooted in science.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) brief on arts sets out the health benefits of the arts. “A recently published WHO Health Evidence Network synthesis report (The role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing in the WHO European Region) demonstrates how 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 a range of acute and chronic conditions arising across the life-course.”

Now more than ever, as more people struggle with anxiety, depression and isolation during the global pandemic, they need the arts in their lives.

This is one of many findings from the UK's most extensive study of its kind The COVID Social Study, Understanding the Psychological and Social Impact of the Pandemic. Led by Dr Daisy Fancourt, associate professor in behavioural science and health University College London, The COVID Social Study uses a mix of online questionnaires and phone interviews to harness the experiences of more than 85,000 people every week, who share their views on the effects of COVID-19.

* Do you want to join the COVID Social Study? You can sign up here.

Experts across the health and care sectors agree. On 16th July, an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) seminar live-streamed on YouTube, hosted by Arts & Health South West, focused on how the arts can support health and wellbeing, especially for those who are – or who feel – the most marginalised. The wide-ranging discussion highlighted the need to find new ways to reach people with the arts at a time when physical access is limited.

Feel a part of the performance

Sitting front row to watch a show is smile-inducing; to feel part of the fun is a more significant boost to health and wellbeing than simply being in the audience. We see and hear this in care environments, and our experience is backed by research from The Understanding Society, UK household longitudinal study.

The study found clear evidence that the arts are good for positive mental health, stating, “People who engaged in the arts frequently had lower levels of mental distress and higher levels of mental functioning and life satisfaction than those who engaged infrequently.”

What’s more, their results showed, active involvement is even better for health and wellbeing.

“Although any engagement with the arts is beneficial, it seems that being actively creative ourselves – whether that be in a group such as a choir, or at home, crafting – is better for us than watching someone else’s creativity at the theatre or concert hall, for example.”

This is the Health:Pitch approach: take the arts to those who will most benefit from the positive mental and physical boost - and bring them into the fun. They enjoy the performance and become a part of it too.

This week care homes began to cautiously re-open their doors to visitors. However, many vulnerable people remain isolated and desperately in need of the health-boosting effects of the arts.

Our challenge is to take the arts into care environments, at a time when the current situation prevents live performances.

How can we make that happen? That is the million-dollar question to which we seek an answer every day.

And, how can we make people feel part of the performance? Creative thinking helps, as does technology.

With our digital performance, The Soprano, we involved our audience (albeit virtually) in the music; we invited viewers to join soprano Francesca Lanza in her operatic warm-up voice exercises; we encouraged people to sing along.

All episodes of The Soprano are still available to enjoy for free on our YouTube channel. Can you help us to share it with as many people as possible?

Our focus is now to work with our partners in health and social care to find new ways to bring music to everyone, everywhere.

Together, we want to keep people singing. We've read the studies. We’ve seen the smiles. We know it works.

Can you help us? We’d love to hear from you.

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