Artists: Katherine Zeserson, Nicola Naismith

Series: Creative Thinktanks

Ideas explored: improving musicians' health and wellbeing

If the arts are positive for participants, so too should they be for creative practitioners delivering them.

There is a growing body of robust research evidence supporting the claim that the arts are positive for our health and wellbeing. If the arts are positive for participants, then so too should they be for the creative practitioners delivering them.

In November 2019 Snape Maltings hosted a Creative Thinktank inspired by Nicola Naismith’s 2019 report Artists Practising Wellwhich recognises that practitioners, commissioners, organisational leaders, funders and policy-makers all have roles to play in the health and wellbeing of creative practitioners, supporting them to make and facilitate best quality work.

Co-created by Nicola Naismith and Katherine Zeserson, the event brought together leading researchers, policy-makers, clinicians, practitioners and other stakeholders to consider musician resilience within the field of arts, health and wellbeing. Issues explored included:

  • What do musicians need to do their best work in the field of music for health/wellbeing?
  • What are the conditions necessary for musician resilience to thrive?
  • Who has responsibility for musician wellbeing?
  • What do CEOs/commissioners/producers/settings need to hear/know?
  • How do we build the best partnerships between musicians and producers/commissioners?
  • How can we work together to ensure musicians are invited into decision making processes?
  • How do we ensure that the musician has a voice in the development of socially engaged practice?
  • How could working with co-creation / co-production models facilitate practitioner resilience?


Sara Ascenso

Anna Batson

Alex Casey

Dora Dixon

Susie Gorgeous

Emily Gottileb

Joe Hastings

Xenia Horne

Jessica Maryon Davies

Claire Mera-Nelson

Nicola Naismith

John Speyer

Julian West

Hayley Youell

Katherine Zeserson

Sarah Zins

Related reading

Nicola Naismith – Artists Practising Well: Affective Support for Creative Practitioners working in Health and Wellbeing settings March 2019

Full report:

Visual Format: sites/default/files/2019- 04/NicolaNaismith_ArtistsPractisingWell_KeyInf ormation.pdf

Nicola Naismith – Reflections on group discussion of the research as part of Creativity and Wellbeing Week. June 2019: Where Research meets People

François Matarasso: A Restless Art. 2018 Chapter 12 Hope in uncertainty (Page 189):

Shorter, Gillian W, Siobhan McCann & Lisa McIlherron Changing Arts and Minds: A survey of health and wellbeing in the creative sector. 2018:

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Developing resilience. 2011:

Yuill, Chris Gig-Economy: Gig-Health? 2017:

Recent industry-wide survey that was delivered by Classical Music, with the results released on 10 October:

UK National Arts Wellbeing Collective:

Thoughts on the Thinktank...

For me, the Creative Think Tank experience was so well timed. As for many people, this has been a challenging year on many levels, and coming to Snape has an instantly calming and grounding impact, physically and emotionally. My first experience of Snape as a place of learning was years ago. I came to attend a SoundSense area gathering, which was organised in partnership with Aldeburgh Education. That event had been a workshop around inclusion and was also in partnership with Streetwise Opera, the organisation working with homeless people. Susie Gorgeous from Streetwise was one of the group taking part in the Think Tank last month. The atmosphere of the Think Tank from the outset was rather like a cloud of warm positivity, into which we were all gently folded ! From the delicious hot soup on our arrival, to the home made cakes during our breaks, and comfort of our beds, the focus was clearly on our wellbeing from start to finish. Conversations and interactions revealed a whole host of connections and coincidences, linking us all together despite our disparate identities. In turn, this created a truly supportive and positive environment for ideas and concepts to spring into being. Throughout the Think Tank experience, an artist was capturing our conversations visually, and notes were also being made to ensure that each idea was plucked from the ether. During the evening we experienced ‘ Collision Drinks’ where the artists in residence came across to meet us all, giving another opportunity also to try out the ideas which were slowly gathering momentum through our animated discussions. We recognised parallels and synergies in our shared experiences which offered a tantalising glimpse of a way forward, and a way of bringing all the threads together. Paramount to our feeling of wellbeing and our enjoyment of this quite intense 24 hours was an awareness that throughout our time together, there had been a palpable focus on giving us each a sense of support and nurturing. This approach lies at the core of so many participatory projects. As practitioners, I realise much more clearly, the need to ensure that we are in the best place to start work, are really tuned in to ourselves and recognise our own needs alongside those of our participants. We are often the last to consider whether we are truly monitoring ourselves and our own wellbeing. It will be so interesting to see where this work takes us next.

Xenia Horne, Thinktank attendee