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31 October 2023

Scoring Mental Health: two musical performances in South London to rethink the sound of mental illness

Artists, musicians, experts by experience and researchers will create musical representations of mental health conditions in two November performances at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) in Denmark HIll and the Bethlem Gallery in Beckenham.

grey sketch of people playing musical instruments
Image credit: Stephanie Bates

Scoring Mental Health takes audiences on a journey through sound to explore the inner worlds of people with lived experiences of mental health conditions.

The two performances will reflect the challenges of describing mental illness in words and present new possibilities for both expressing and understanding this complex area. Co-composed by artist Gawain Hewitt and experts by experience, the music invites listeners to rethink what mental illness sounds like, challenging popular representations by expressing despair, beauty, and hope.

The performances are inspired by a composition process captured in Scoring Mental Health, broadcast on Between the Ears on BBC Radio 3 in May 2023 and brought together experts by experience from the Bethlem Gallery, Mental Fight Club, and the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health to create musical representations of their experiences.

Both performances take place as part of upcoming ESRC and AHRC festivals. The inaugural performance is at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London on 14 November as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. This year’s theme is ‘lifelong wellbeing’ and the festival celebrates the 75th anniversary of the NHS. Musicians from City of London Sinfonia will take part in the performance and the panel discussion will include contributions from experts by experience and King’s researchers, exploring the role of music in contributing to innovative research in the field.

The second performance is part of the AHRC Being Human Festival 2023, the UK’s national festival of the humanities. This performance takes place at the Bethlem Museum of the Mind, on the grounds of the Bethlem Royal Hospital, the first hospital in the UK for the care of the mentally ill, renowned for its history and portrayals in popular culture. It will include new compositions created on the day in workshops with artists with lived experience of mental health conditions, followed by a panel discussion with artists involved in the project. Perspectives from the conversation with the audience will inform a new exhibition at the Bethlem Gallery in 2024.

Scoring Mental Health was developed from a project led by Professor Sally Marlow during her time as Researcher-in-Residence at Radio 3. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account, the aim of the residency was to build on previous research to explore music, mental health and mental illness in new ways. 

Scoring Mental Health: Event Details

Scoring Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN)
Part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science 2023
Tuesday 14 November 2023
Wolfson Lecture Theatre, Main Building, 16 De Crespigny Park, London, SE5 8AF
Register on Eventbrite for tickets and event details

Scoring Mental Health at Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Part of the AHRC Being Human Festival 2023
Thursday 16 November 2023
Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Rd, Beckenham, BR3 3BX
Register on Eventbrite for tickets and event details

In this story

Sally  Marlow

Professor of Practice in Public Understanding of Mental Health Research