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Greater Manchester Becomes the UK’s First Centre of Excellence for Music and Dementia Hosted by Manchester Camerata

The Monastery is very proud to announce that Greater Manchester is to become the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for Music and Dementia hosted by Manchester Camerata, based here at the Monastery.

The UK’s ‘most adventurous orchestra’ are incredibly grateful to have been awarded over £1 million through the Power of Music Fund (established by the National Academy for Social Prescribing, the Utley Foundation and Arts Council England), Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and the NHS Greater Manchester.

This award will enable Manchester Camerata to extend their Music Cafés’ to every borough of Manchester, providing moments of joy, connection, and expression to over 1,000 people living with dementia.

Scroll on to read the full, fabulous story!

Over £1Million of Funding

Over £1million of funding has been committed by Andy Burnham (Mayor of Greater Manchester), Sir Richard Lees (Chair of the NHS Greater Manchester) and the National Academy for Social Prescribing’s Power of Music Fund to enable Greater Manchester to become the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for Music and Dementia – hosted by Manchester Camerata from their home, here at the Monastery. The project will also receive in-kind support from the University of Manchester and Alzheimer’s Society.

Data Driven Research

This significant and successful bid will see both organisations run four weekly music cafes (two ‘Music in Mind’ and two ‘Singing for the Brain’) in each of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs. Together Manchester Camerata will collaborate with the University of Manchester and the NHS to undertake anonymised data-driven research into the impact and power that their music sessions have for people living with dementia and the way in which they can reduce pressure on hard-pressed frontline NHS and social care staff.

Training of 300 ‘Music Champions’

Between Manchester Camerata and Alzheimer’s Society, they will recruit, nurture and train a volunteer and community workforce of 300 ‘Music Champions’ who will be trained to deliver the Music Cafes, helping to support over 1000 people living with dementia in Greater Manchester across three years starting from October 2024. The research and data analysed by the University of Manchester will demonstrate the impact of embedding music support as part of dementia care and how this model can be scaled up and rolled outacross the UK and result in cost-saving measures for the NHS.

Music in Mind

Manchester Camerata’s Music in Mind programme is internationally renowned using the principles of music therapy to improve the wellbeing of people living with dementia. The programme was created in collaboration with research partner the University of Manchester and was devised from the foundations of some of the world’s leading dementia experts and their research. Music in Mind has established training, delivery and support offers to help partners create Music Cafes and recruit Music Champions, and has worked with partners in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Sweden and Japan to help them set up their own music and dementia programmes.

Singing for the Brain

Alzheimer’s Society’s Singing for the Brain is a programme based on music therapy principles, bringing people living with dementia together to sing a variety of songs they know and love, in a fun and friendly environment. The sessions also include vocal exercises that help improve brain activity and wellbeing whilst also creating an opportunity for people living with dementia and their carers to socialize with others and experience peer support.

The Power of Music

The Power of Music Fund was established by the National Academy for Social Prescribing, with generous support from the Utley Foundation, Arts Council England and other partners. It builds on the recommendations of the 2022 Power of Music report. In addition to the Centre of Excellence in Greater Manchester, the Fund is also awarding small grants to 70 grassroots music and dementia projects across the UK and will support more than 5500 people in total.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said:

This is fantastic news for Greater Manchester, and a reminder of the power of music to shape our lives and our communities. Manchester Camerata have played a key role in our Music Commission, and I’ve seen firsthand the transformational impact of what they do in our city-region. They are the ideal partner to pioneer the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for Music and Dementia, working with the Alzheimer’s Society to unlock the potential of music as therapy.This project will provide life-changing support to people with dementia and their carers in our 10 boroughs – support that is grounded in our communities and delivered with a real expert focus. It will also generate groundbreaking research that will influence health and care policy across the country while directly improving lives across Greater Manchester.”

Andy Burnham, Charlotte Osborn-Forde and Bob Riley

Bob Riley, Chief Executive of Manchester Camerata:

“This is a colossal moment built on over ten years of work and research in partnership with The University of Manchester. We know it will bring much-needed support for people living with dementia and their carers. It will create new opportunities for our amazing musicians in the UK, and bring about changes in the way we invest in music to bring the widest possible benefits to society.Sincere thanks to the leadership and vision of Andy Burnham, Sir Richard Leese and NHS GM, the National Academy of Social Prescribing, The Utley Foundation, Arts Council England and many others. We appreciate their boldness and commitment to the power of music, and in recognising the outstanding musicians whose passion and commitment makes such an incredible impact on and off the stage.”

Charlotte Osborn-Forde, Chief Executive of the National Academy for Social Prescribing, said:

“We worked with the Utley Foundation and Arts Council England to create The Power of Music Fund, to ensure that many more people living with dementia can benefit from musical projects. Through the Centre of Excellence, we aim to demonstrate how prescribing music to people living with dementia can improve quality of life, reduce isolation, and lessen the need for medication, hospital admissions and GP appointments. We were delighted to choose Greater Manchester after an outstanding bid. This project will provide a lifeline to people living with dementia in Manchester, but also provide new evidence and a model that can be replicated across the country.” 

National Press

Read all about it in the national press.

BBC News

Manchester Evening News

The Independent

This content was based on an article originally published on Manchester Camerata’s website.

Dementia care Manchester: Music Café at Manchester Monastery is in the news

Looking for dementia care in Manchester?

We’re excited to host this new workshop for people living with dementia and their carers.

Music Café provides free weekly music-making sessions created and run by the Manchester Camerata orchestra.

They’re well-known for innovative collaborations and you could hear them playing dance anthems as well as classical orchestral works.

They pop up in all sorts of places. They’re just as at home playing in care homes as they are grand concert halls.

Quick facts

What? Free music-making workshops

Where? The Great Nave at Manchester Monastery

When? Sessions take place on Wednesdays from 10.30 to 12.00

Who? These workshops are for people living with dementia and carers

How? Contact Emma Arnold for more information at

Music Cafe at Manchester Monastery

Music Café at Manchester Monastery

Manchester Camerata’s music workshops at Manchester Monastery give those with dementia an opportunity to reconnect with their love of music.

It’s a joy to see the change in people attending the sessions. A loosely held maraca or drumstick soon finds itself in a stronger grip. Passive or uncertain shaking and beating changes to rhythm finding music-making.

All this happens in the beauty of our Great Nave. A special location for a special event.

Memories of music and movement are rekindled and the friendly atmosphere encourages spontaneity. Perhaps encouraged by the open space, some people find they want to move to the music that fills the nave.

Dancing (at first it was impromptu) has become an important part of the session for some participants.

If you’re a carer, the Music Café is a great opportunity to meet other people. Enjoy a little respite and see your loved ones being looked after too.

There’s plenty of time to get a free cuppa and have a chat with other carers over a biscuit (or two).

The support doesn’t end when the session ends. You can learn how to use music at home to keep the fun going.

Music Cafe at Manchester Monastery

Music and dementia

Research shows that music can provide emotional benefits for people with dementia.

Often, people can remember songs and music learnt many years ago. The therapeutic benefits of unlocking these memories is an increasingly important part of dementia care.

Music is a powerful way to bring people together. It can reconnect people with their loved ones by reducing anxiety and encouraging social and communication skills.

Music therapy can help people with dementia soothe their symptoms.

ITV Music Cafe at Manchester Monastery

‘Simple, effective and often magical’: Music Café on ITV news

After hearing about the high-quality dementia care available at the Monastery, ITV spent the day here to find out more.

Impressed by the quality of the free music-making workshops ITV chose to feature it on the news to spread the word to their viewers.

Watch the news report and read the full story here.

Music Cafe at Manchester Monastery

Manchester Music Café brings joy to people with dementia

The outstanding dementia care provided by the Music Café featured on the BBC news too!

The BBC spoke to Bob Riley, the CEO of Manchester Camerata, to find out more about the orchestra’s pioneering music-based dementia therapy.

He describes the sessions at Manchester Monastery as, ‘All about improvisation, so there’s no right, there’s no wrong and anybody can do it’.

See Bob’s interview and the full BBC report here.

Interested in coming to the Music Café?

Manchester Camerata (based here at Manchester Monastery) plan, create, and deliver all aspects of the Music Café as part of their Music in Mind initiative.

Find out more about the Camerata and their Music Café here.

Or contact Emma Arnold for more information at


Words| Caroline Paige  Photography| Duncan Elliot (unless BBC or ITV watermark)

Music Café with Manchester Camerata @ The Monastery

Please come to Manchester Camerata’s first-ever, free music café this Wednesday, August 11th 2021, between 1-3pm held at their new base right here in the beautiful surroundings of The Monastery!

This wonderful event is funded by Music for Dementia/The Paul and Nick Harvey Fund and is for all people living with dementia, their families and carers and anyone else who is interested.

It’ll be a fun experience where you can meet specially-trained musicians – feel free to just pop in and see what it’s all about! Refreshments will be provided, it’s fully accessible and Covid-safe, and will be continuing weekly from 1st September (10am-12pm midday). Join a network of family carers and people living with dementia to learn more about how music can help you and your loved ones.

Watch this short film to find out more about what to expect:

More information can be found here on Manchester Camerata’s website.

[Editor’s note: we are assured that the Camerata team also have an excellent supply of Cadbury’s Mini Rolls and make a very good cup of tea!]

Remember, admission is free and so is parking. Link to directions here. Hope to see you there, folks 🙂