This is a big year for Manchester Camerata. We’re celebrating 50 years of the orchestra and 10 years of our Music in Mind dementia programme.

We’re passionate about making music for change and we want our work to have a genuine impact. For us, impact is something which makes a long-term positive change for anyone involved in our work, from audience members and young people in our school projects to older people in our local communities.

I work with the amazing community team at Manchester Camerata on our Music in Mind programme, developing opportunities for people in our local communities to make music together with musicians from our orchestra. I love the gathering power of music, the way it enables a group of people to experience something new, and the vibrant energy that creates.

Our Music in Mind programme has been developed alongside music therapists and specialist musicians from the orchestra, combining music therapy techniques with musical improvisation. Working in residential care homes and community hubs, a music therapist and musician from the orchestra work with groups of people living with dementia and their carers for up to 20 weeks, exploring music and offering musical invitations to communicate as a group. Where language may be beyond some individuals, music becomes that language. Throughout the weeks of music-making, the group communicate with one another, listening and connecting, nurturing new or better relationships.

Music in Mind is a way for people to explore their own creativity, either by engaging with something they’ve done before or by experiencing something new. For me, creativity is less about a final product and more about having freedom to express yourself. You should be able to put something of yourself into whatever you’re doing, whether that’s a smile or a frown. This is the approach we take with Music in Mind, too. We focus on the process and experience than an individual has, being patient as people find their own way of understanding as to how they can use music to communicate and connect with others.

We work in partnership with the University of Manchester and creative researchers, including Dr Robyn Dowlen, to explore the impact that Music in Mind has on those who participate. Our specialist music-making techniques let participants be in the moment, using all of their senses to experience what is going on in the here and now, taking away the pressure of having to remember something that has happened or thinking ahead to what is next.

As a creative organisation, we strive to evaluate our work in creative ways, measuring the impact of Music in Mind on the wellbeing of our participants, and we hope to use these finding to give others a better insight into the power of this work.

Dementia Action Week runs from May 16-22. To mark this, Manchester Camerata is re-launching its Music Café at its home, the Monastery in Gorton, for those living at home with dementia and their carers. It also runs a similar music café fortnightly at the Museum of Wigan Life in Wigan.

By Helena Bull, Project Manager, Manchester Camerata Community Team


Manchester Camerata’s Music Café runs weekly at the Monastery in Gorton on Wednesdays between 10am–12pm. Wigan’s Soul Time Music Café runs fortnightly on Mondays until August at the Museum of Wigan Life. To find out more about taking part or to book a place directly please contact