Singing and Mental Health Sandpit Day

Ideas explored: music for health and wellbeing

Exploring practice and research into Singing and Mental Health


Illustrations by Simon Wild

On 8 January 2020 we were delighted to welcome over 60 researchers, singing practitioners, commissioners and policy makers working in the field of singing and mental health to a ‘Sandpit Day’ at Snape Maltings.

The event, hosted by MARCH Singing and Mental Health Special Interest Group in partnership with Snape Maltings and the Royal College of Music, was co-presented by Katherine Zeserson, Dr Dave Camlin and Phillipa Reive, and included presentations, workshops and facilitated discussions between professionals working in academic, arts and health contexts. The aims of the Sandpit event were to

  • share experiences and research findings;
  • explore connections and contradictions;
  • consider potential ideas for future investigation / action;
  • develop plans for advancing those ideas.

The day was underpinned by a shared commitment to create a common reference point of knowledge surrounding both research and practice in this field. This be be used to frame future research enquiries into the impacts of singing on mental health both as a community asset, and as a clinical intervention for specific health challenges.

The day was punctuated by group singing activities led by practitioners Lea Cornthwaite and Nicola Wydenbach from the Mind and Soul Choir and vocal group Mouthful.



KEYNOTE: March Network (Dr Evangelos Himondes)

KEYNOTE: Singing and Mental Health: Connecting Theory and Practice (Dr Dave Camlin, RCM)

Seagull and Chameleon – adult participation in community singing (Kathryn MacDonald, More Music in Morecambe)

Women in Criminal Justice (Catherine Birch, York University)

Voice Fear and the Sonic Environment (Nina Perry, independent artist/researcher)  

Melodies for Mums (Hannah Dye, Breathe Arts)

Infant Directed Singing (Helen Mottram, Hertfordshire NHS Trust)

Singing and Mental Health measurement scale (Yoon Irons/David Sheffield, Derby University) 

Trauma Informed Group Practice with adults (Janet Swan, Natural Voice Network 

Company Voice (Dr Amy Mallett, Snape Maltings)

Primal Singing Integrative (Maria Soriano, independent practitioner/researcher)   

Music for Recovering from Grief (Suresh Thapaliya, psychiatrist)

Icelandic Singing School (Gunnar Gudbjörnsson, Principal)   

Young People and Mental Health (Cindy-Jo Morison, Cumbria, Tyne and Wear, Northumberland NHS Trust)

Trauma Informed 1 to 1 Practice with Young People (Emily Foulkes, independent practitioner/researcher)

Sing Up Foundation (Michelle James)

"This event has had a huge impact on me, fostering a sense of hope and optimism. This is both for people affected by mental and emotional distress and their ability to find creative expression and recovery through singing. It has also given me reason to hope for our fractured society in which many problems, often considered to be health issues, are about much deeper and broader losses in people's lives- of things like creativity, belonging and self-expression. How wonderful then to know first hand that such a community of interest exists, advocating for the power of music in general and singing in particular to benefit of individuals, communities and society. I suppose, at the most simple level, this was a meeting not only of minds, larynxes and lungs but also souls. Thank you for making my soul sing."
- Sandpit attendee
"The event has given me a lot to think about and reflect on in terms of my practice. Presentations pointed me in new directions for the research I'm engaged in. And connections with practitioners have provided the opportunity to share ideas and continue the dialogue outside of the conference venue."
- Sandpit attendee

Read delegate Mary Ryan’s account of her difficult relationship with singing and her experiences of the MARCH Sandpit day