We have conducted the world’s first randomised controlled trial on community singing with older adults showing improvements in mental wellbeing, and have recently contributed to a Cochrane Review on Singing and COPD. 

The centre is exploring the benefits of participatory arts about wellness and illness. Many of our audiences have experiences of health conditions, both short term and long term, including mental health, physical injuries and learning disabilities. Our projects take place in healthcare and community environments, such as paediatrics, oncology, cardiology, palliative care, and community settings, with a special interest in festivals, participatory arts events, and prison rehabilitation centres.

We have also researched the role of art galleries and museums in promoting wellbeing; the value of drama workshops for children with communication difficulties, and the benefits of dance for older people with dementia and at risk of falls. The Centre is currently working closely with the Canterbury Cantata Trust, and collaborators internationally, to promote the value of regular singing for people with Parkinson’s.

In addition to research, the Centre has made important contributions to promoting the field of arts and health nationally and internationally through creating: the journal Arts & Health, the Oxford University Press Textbook for Creative Arts, Health and Wellbeing, the Royal Society for Public Health, Special Interest Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing and a web Repository for Arts and Health Resources. The Centre is also leading in the creation of a new arts and health network across the Cathedrals Group of universities in the UK.

The Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health is committed to researching the potential value of applied participatory arts such as theatre, storytelling, music, singing, movement, puppetry and digital arts in the promotion of wellbeing and health of different diverse groups/individuals in mental health communities, children, and young people.

Core funding support for the Centre’s work has been generously provided by the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, and currently by the Oak Foundation until 2020. Further funding for specific projects has come from a variety of sources, including: The National Institute for Health Research, the Dunhill Medical Trust, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity, Wellcome Trust, and local NHS Trusts in Kent.

Who was Sidney de Haan?

The Centre was founded in 2005, and named in memory of Sidney De Haan, founder of the Saga group of companies. Towards the end of his life, Sidney was diagnosed with vascular dementia. His family noticed that attending concerts and music events had a positive effect on Sidney’s wellbeing, and as a result his son Roger De Haan was keen to support initiatives that explored the positive benefits of music and the arts for wellbeing. An approach to him from Grenville Hancox and Stephen Clift, led to the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust providing generous core funding for the Centre until 2012.

Our main achievements so far

The earliest systematic review of research on singing and health (2008) with subsequent updates with increased focus and sophistication (2010), a comprehensive review of the value of singing for older people (2017), and a systematic review (2016) and cochrane review on singing and copd (2017).

Findings showed that singers with prior or existing health issues were more likely to acknowledge the benefits of singing.

Establishing and evaluating a network of community singing groups for participants with mental health challenges in East Kent (2009-10), with replication in West Kent and Medway (2014-16), showing positive benefits on a widely used standardised measure of mental distress.

Establishing and evaluating a network of community singing groups for patients with copd in East Kent (2011-12), with a replication in Lambeth and Southwark (2015-16), showing positive outcomes for personal and social wellbeing and self-management of this condition.

The first surveys of: children singing as part of the Young Voices Programme; women singing in choirs as part of the Military Wives Choirs Foundation, and choirs participating in the 2014 National Choir of the Year Competition. These studies offer qualifications to a too easy acceptance that group singing is invariably a positive experience.

In 2107, in conjunction with the Canterbury Cantata Trust, an international network of partners was established to promote the development of new singing groups for people with Parkinson’s and evaluate their benefits.

Details of links with Griffiths University in Brisbane Australia