Linda Rose is the Founder and project consultant for Music for Life at Wigmore Hall, a programme bringing together professional musicians, care staff and people living with dementia through interactive music sessions. It was a truly pioneering organisation in fostering an equal and co-creative arts practice, enriching the lives of all involved in the sessions.
Please tell us about some of the work you have done to support, improve and contribute to the lives of, people with dementias?
I founded Music for Life in 1993, initially as a way for young professional musicians to learn to connect through music improvisation with frail older people in care settings. As dementia gained a higher profile, the work expanded to include care staff development, influencing both care practice and team building.
After Music for Life became part of Wigmore Hall Learning,the musician team worked with the wider arts community, to support the development of new initiatives for people living with dementia. I have also presented at conferences here and abroad and made contributions to publications on quality in community arts, dementia care staff, musician development and research on music and dementia.
What was your motivation for getting involved in the field of dementia?
As an educator I have always been excited by the deep connections people can make as they break new ground together. Moving into the world of social care in the early 1990s provided the opportunity to bring together older adults and professional musicians in creative relationships.
As we began working with people in the advanced stages of dementia, I was moved by the reciprocal relationships that developed between the musicians, the residents and staff. I saw how this impacted on everyone involved emotionally and socially and felt determined to drive this forward
What would you say has been your greatest achievement or highlight?
The agreement by the Director and trustees of Wigmore Hall in 2009 to take on the project, this succession securing future funding and giving the potential for wider dissemination of the work. After the many years of thinking and soul searching underpinning the development of Music for Life, it is encouraging to find it has a place in current thinking about dementia and still has much to contribute to further understanding and, ultimately, influence decision-making.
What still drives me is the continued and privileged involvement in the struggle to define and argue for the connections which are such powerful agents for change. The question is not about dementia – it is about a basic human right for all of us to continue to be part of and to give to society
If you could change one thing now to improve the lives of people living with dementia, what would it be?
To show that a diagnosis of dementia does not change a person overnight. People living with dementias have much to give and have the capacity to change us. We need to not be afraid of learning to make the connections which can ultimately influence major changes in policy.