Snape Maltings stages ‘Creative Thinktank’ about social prescribing ‘Singing on prescription: what do we need to be ready?’

A special two-day event begins today at Snape Maltings as a group including national policy-makers and clinicians convenes to discuss how community singing and music groups can help make their services available on prescription. The event, titled ‘Singing on prescription: what do we need to be ready?’ is one in a series of ‘Creative Thinktanks’ held at Snape Maltings, designed to explore the role of music in health and wellbeing.

The event has been convened as ‘social prescribing’ has been introduced across the country. New ‘link workers’ are beginning their work within primary care networks across the east of England, helping GPs and nurses to refer patients to local community-based schemes such as gardening clubs, befriending services and singing groups, designed to enhance their health and wellbeing.

There is a growing body of research evidence1 showing that singing can have a positive effect on physical and mental wellbeing. Snape Maltings has long been leading the way with community singing, encouraging more members of the community to seek the connectivity and uplifting qualities of group singing activities.

Phillipa Reive, Director, Creative Campus at Snape Maltings said, “2019 has been the year that the NHS has really got behind the idea of ‘social prescribing’ and is recruiting new workers to help link people with schemes which are right for them, through their GP practice. This means many more people will soon have the opportunity to access our community singing and music schemes here at Snape, and at other arts organisations across the East of England and around the UK. As one of the world’s leading centres for music we see it as our responsibility to help everybody involved in arts and health get ready for this change, so that nobody misses out on the opportunity to enhance their health through music and creative engagement. This Thinktank is the first of its kind in the UK, and we are proud to welcome so many stakeholders to Snape to move this discussion forward.”

Peter Thompson, 75, from Woodbridge, has Parkinson’s disease and has been part of the Skylarks Sing to Beat Parkinson’s group at Snape Maltings for two years. He said, “I have got so much out of attending the singing group. It may surprise people but there is lots of evidence that singing may actually make people with Parkinson’s stronger, it is known to be good for balance and overall strength, as well as strengthening the vocal chords, which are quite often weakened in people with Parkinson’s disease. I have a stronger and more confident voice as a result of my singing! It is also a wonderful morale booster when you are a little bit down, as you often can be when you have a difficult health condition to live with. Many people in the group really benefit from the social contact and the sense of community. I think introducing singing on prescription is a very sensible idea and Snape Maltings is the perfect organisation to lead the way with this. The work they do is marvellous.” 

Bev Taylor is the NHS Lead on Social Prescribing and is attending the Thinktank. She said, “I’m excited to be taking part in the Snape Maltings Thinktank on social prescribing. I’m particularly looking forward to thinking creatively together with a range of partners about how we can enable more people to sing for wellbeing, and how we can ensure that local groups provide good quality, safe, sustainable support to communities through social prescribing. The creative space of Snape Maltings is perfect for these Thinktank meetings that encourage collaboration and support the process of working together for wellbeing. It’s great that Snape is taking the initiative, bringing people together to build this social prescribing movement. We need more opportunities like this.”

Louise Hardwick, Head of Partnerships, NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “East Suffolk is certainly at the forefront of championing and implementing social prescribing as an effective way of supporting people to enjoy physically and mentally well lives.

“At the heart of social prescribing is the understanding that medicine from the doctor isn’t always the answer. Accessing new opportunities, making new friends and being able to express oneself through arts participation can boost a person’s wellbeing, restore their confidence and greatly improve their life. This Creative Thinktank event is a really special opportunity to understand what more we can collectively achieve.”

Nicola Wydenbach is Director of Training at Sing to Beat Parkinson’s, said: “Snape has historically been a leading light in community music beginning with the work of Benjamin Britten. It is the perfect place for all the leading players in the social prescribing movement to come together to figure out the best way of delivering this work.”

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