Singing on prescription

Series: Creative Thinktanks

Ideas explored: music for health and wellbeing

Creative Thinktank 30 Sept - 1 Oct 2019

A growing body of research evidence is drawing attention to the many positive impacts singing can have on physical and mental wellbeing, encouraging increasingly more members of the community to seek the connectivity and uplifting qualities of group singing activities. With social prescription currently high on the government agenda, both demand for such provision and complexity of need are likely to increase dramatically. Facilitated by Katherine Zeserson, and with an opening presentation by Bev Taylor, NHS Lead for Social Prescribing, this event brought together researchers, policy-makers, clinicians, practitioners and other stakeholders to consider how community-based assets (choirs, singing and music groups) become ‘social prescribing’ ready.

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Illustrations by Simon Wild


June Boyce-Tillman
Pip Cahill
Baz Chapman
Christine Davies
Dean Dorset
Emily Foulkes
Andy Hall
Louise Hardwick
Heather McClelland
Amy Mallett
John McMahon
Phillipa Reive
Bev Taylor
Nicola Wydenbach
Katherine Zeserson

"The Thinktank has been a great way to develop our understanding of how to meet potential growing demand around singing on prescription, how it might affect the way that singing groups welcome members with particular needs, and also how singing leaders might need to adapt their approaches. It’s been invaluable to have different expertise and perspectives around the table, so that we can meet these needs in the best possible way, and Snape Maltings is just the perfect setting for creative thinking."

- Baz Chapman
"The Thinktank was a time to try and clarify how the arts and in particularly singing fit in the new social prescribing movement. To spend time with other experts in the field to find solutions and promote via a collective voice was a luxury that most freelancers do not have the chance to explore."
- Nicola Wydenbach


The provision of a training offer that:

  • establishes a common knowledge base for SP singing leaders
  • provides a threshold of trust/quality badge for recognition by link workers
  • shows practitioners how to tap into local SP systems
  • empowers practitioners to use artistry
  • encourages mentoring and self-care practices
  • facilitates the development of a network of SP-trained practitioners
  • feeds into a digital ‘mapping’ of SP providers


AIM: To change cultural perception of the benefits of singing and raise awareness of singing on prescription

To include:

  • Good news stories
  • De-mystification of the topic
  • Progression
  • Strong advocacy



  • Need high impact, quick to action, mixed method research initiatives that solve big challenges.
  • Greatest impact for highest need
  • Could every CCG be linked to an academic institution?
  • Comparing different types of singing intervention: singing-based participation vs non singing experiences where singing featured, or same intervention but different contexts


  • Gather large datasets on common themes
  • Focused case studies (e.g. PRUs, family groups, estates, particular health condition)
  • Multiple anecdotal and case study evidence could be turned into larger body of data
  • Show some economic outcomes (GP/A & E visits, hospital admission, reduced drug prescriptions, offending)
  • How can evidence captured be used to scale up activity?


  • How to assess quality of provision
  • How to assess individual impacts – who does this and how is it fed back to the link worker?
  • Must include failures
  • How to keep people engaged even after failure
  • Use common outcomes framework