Room 217 in Nottingham Fall 2018

by Chelsea Mackinnon

Photo Credit: Kayleigh Renberg, University of Nottingham

While 2018 has been exciting for many reasons here at Room 217, one of the highlights has been the opportunity to develop and strengthen our international partnerships in the United Kingdom. Earlier this month, I was fortunate to represent Room 217 at the University of Nottingham, teaching Music Care Training Level Two, and presenting at the first international Music Care Conference.

It has been an unreal experience for me to be immersed in the U.K. context, where there is so much recognition of the importance of health arts and social care. As I return home, and everyone in my professional and personal community asks me how my experience was, I continuously find myself using the same two words: inspiring, and validating.

I was inspired by the many innovative ways that the arts are being integrated into the care system in the U.K., to improve health, wellness, and quality of life. My jaw dropped on the first morning of Music Care Training (Level 2) during our class introductions, when one of the delegates introduced herself as a member of the York Teaching Hospital arts team. How amazing is it that a hospital has a designated arts team?! I was equally excited to meet healthcare musicians Nick, Sarah, Oli and Rich. This incredibly talented team travels to primary and secondary health care settings to provide “cultural exchanges within clinical environments” (more here). An equally important and inspiring take-away from the U.K. was witnessing different scopes of practice work towards the same goal, coexisting and complimenting each other’s respective practices. Specifically, music therapists, healthcare musicians, professional musicians, and other caregivers all deliver music within the scope of their individual roles, in healthcare settings. I felt an unspoken recognition of the importance of each group’s work, and the understanding that each player brings a different value to the care setting. This gives me hope that we can find the same balance here in Canada.

A large part of my job is to educate various groups about how music can make a difference in care settings. It was refreshing, for a period of five days, to never feel the need to provide further evidence justifying the importance of the work we do at Room 217. My trip to the U.K. was validating because we are constantly striving for recognition of the arts as contributors to health, wellness and community here in Canada; that validation already exists in the U.K.

Despite that, health arts organizations in the U.K. struggle with similar challenges as those in Canada. Most operate as a not-for-profit organization or registered charity, where funding revolves around granting cycles and donations, accompanied by much uncertainty. To summarize, while the U.K. recognizes the need for music in healthcare, they, too, struggle to find sustainable funding and business models.

I was overwhelmed with hospitality in Nottingham. Our host and champion at the University of Nottingham, Justine Schneider, has believed in bringing Room 217 to the U.K. since she met Room 217’s Founder and Executive Director Bev Foster, just over two years ago at a conference in Toronto, Canada. Justine and Bev both possess an incredible ability to bring people together. This was exemplified in the diverse and complementary voices that were represented at the first Music Care Conference at the University of Nottingham.

If you have never had the pleasure of attending a Music Care Conference, I highly suggest you take a day to do so in the future. Music Care Conferences are like no other conference – they are inspiring, participatory, educational, and fun. Our first international conference collaboration was a huge success.

This trip has made me appreciate the value of international collaborations, and the importance of interdisciplinary perspectives. I come home refreshed, and ready to continue the process of humanizing healthcare through music here in Canada, and around the world.

Chelsea Mackinnon, MEI (c), MA, BHSc, works to incorporate music into healthcare settings. As Research Lead of Room 217, she gathers evidence to support music in care. Chelsea is an adjunct professor in music and health at McMaster University, and has founded and leads the Hamilton Intergenerational Music Program.