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Liverpool Philharmonic, one of the UK’s most forward-looking music organisations.

Mersey Care NHS Trust

The Musician in Residence (MiR) programme is a collaboration between Liverpool Philharmonic and Mersey Care NHS Trust.

It commenced on a pilot basis on two Trust sites; the Low Secure Unit (LSU) and Stoddart House, in November 2008, to provide weekly music sessions to the service users on these units. In addition, a number of ward based musical ensembles were built into the programme, as were supported visits to full orchestral rehearsals at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Since 2008 and based on the immediate success of the programme and contribution to health outcomes, the programme has expanded across all Mersey Care Clinical Business Units. For Liverpool Philharmonic, the collaboration enables the organisation to bring music making of the highest quality and our musicians to the most vulnerable members of our community, in a sustained, developmental and meaningful way

The aims of the programme are to:

  • raise self esteem through participation and achievement;
  • provide a means of self expression and creativity;
  • improve mood and sense of wellbeing;
  • increase access to high quality music and music making;
  • use music to animate wards;
  • offer diversionary activities for inpatient service users; and~
  • provide a range of activity in the community to support ongoing care of service users.

The programme provides music making and performance for service users and patients across Mersey Care business units and services. This includes adults with a range of complex mental health issues across low secure units, brain injury units, learning disability units, dementia units, community mental health services, residential services and the high secure Ashworth Hospital.  

How it Works

Liverpool Philharmonic musicians are resident across Mersey Care settings on a weekly basis. Each session includes 2 creative music making sessions with service users and Mersey Care staff, focusing on music performance, appreciation, improvisation and composition. The content is flexible and responsive to patient needs in order to contribute to individual patients’ recovery and emotional health and wellbeing. Over time, our team of musicians have developed repertoire, activities and responses that enable them to deal with a complex range of needs that remain fluid within sessions and from week to week. Each lead musician is supported by a number of additional supporting musicians throughout the year round residency, for example introducing other orchestral instruments, poets, rappers, vocalists and drummers.  

Throughout the residency, small performance ensembles from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra visit settings and perform for service users. In most settings, service users also regularly visit Liverpool Philharmonic Hall to observe orchestral rehearsals, equipped through preparation with their lead musician during the previous week.

Musical genres covered and repertoire is a mixed bag, carefully selected by the lead musician to support, enhance or change the mood of wards, along with service users’ new creations and favourite music across a range of genres identified by service users.

In 2011 the programme was recognised by the Royal Society for Public Health Arts and Health Awards 2011 with a Special Commendation for Innovative and Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Arts and Health Practice.

In awarding their Special Commendation, the RSPH Awards Committee “…were very impressed by the musical excellence of this project in its work with people with enduring mental health needs. Given the scale of mental health needs in the UK today, and the need for new approaches to supporting recovery, the public health implications of the your work are clear and substantial.”

For further information, please contact Judith Agnew, Learning Manager at

Mersey Care NHS Trust

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