New project supports children and young people to access the mental health benefits of live music

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Selective focus on lluminated microphone on stage

New research has identified ways more children and young people in Scotland can experience the mental health and wellbeing benefits of live music. 

The Live Music and Mental Health project, delivered by Children in Scotland, Scottish Ensemble and the University of Stirling between May and October 2023, explored the barriers to children and young people engaging with live music and supported them to co-create solutions to enable better access to support their mental health and wellbeing. 

This animation captures one young participant’s experience of taking part in the research.

In a series of in-person workshops, referred to as Innovation Labs, in Inverness, Stirling and Glasgow, over 90 attendees, including children and young people, youth workers, music professionals and mental health practitioners came together to experience a range of live music performances and activities. The groups engaged in more traditional audience experiences as well as interactive performances exploring mindfulness and physical space. 

The project heard about the key barriers to engaging with live music experiences which included cost, transport, safety, and additional support needs. 

The findings present new ideas for future live music interventions that could support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Participants identified a range of different factors to improve access which included:

•    Free or heavily subsidised tickets 
•    Youth-led programming or co-ordination of festivals and venues 
•    Festivals for children and young people offering a range of music styles
•    Festivals and gigs for children and young people in their local areas
•    Free and/or specialist transport to and from venues 
•    Safe and quiet spaces for young people at music events 
•    Live streaming of live music events   
•    Events that involved big names and emerging musicians
•    Family-friendly music activities during the day
•    Live music events that included opportunities for young people to get involved in music-making
•    Apps to support young people to connect with venues and live music events
•    Involvement of businesses from the local community

The innovative project method, which followed an intergenerational, co-design approach, also provided important learning on how to overcome some of the challenges of this type of project work to ensure that all children and young people, regardless of their age, are treated as equal partners and feel empowered to share their views. 

Musicians, music providers and venues are encouraged to use the findings from the report to support the planning or hosting of live music events. Children in Scotland, University of Stirling and Scottish Ensemble will now explore funding opportunities to turn some of the exciting project ideas contained in the report into reality.  

A portrait photo of Dr Lynne Gilmour
Dr Lynne Gilmour
University of Stirling
We know that live music can be beneficial to children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing and now have some great co-produced ideas of how to deliver live music in a format that is more accessible and acceptable, not only to children and young people themselves, but also to those delivering events.

Read the full Live Music and Mental Health report 

David Mackay, Children in Scotland’s Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, said: “Children and young people are experts in their own lives, and they have great ideas about how to improve their communities and the opportunities that are available to them. We know that there are rising rates of poor mental health and wellbeing among children and young people and it’s vital that they are involved in designing solutions to this problem. 

“The Live Music and Mental Health Project provided an important platform for children and young people to share what’s important to them and work together with professionals to develop new approaches to supporting mental health and wellbeing. The report and findings will be of interest to anyone working on co-design projects with children and young people, and are particularly relevant for the arts and culture and mental health professionals.” 

Stuart Burns, Scottish Ensemble’s Head of Artistic Planning, said: “Collaboration is at the heart of what we do at Scottish Ensemble. The Live Music and Mental Health Project gave us an important opportunity to engage closely with children and young people as collaborators, so we as an arts organisation can better understand the interests and needs of young audiences.

“Live music is an interactive experience. Through the Innovation Labs we saw first hand the impact of live music on children and young people. The workshop format enabled the performers to actively engage with their audience, hearing in real time the impact of different approaches to performance on young people’s feelings and emotions.

“The project has helped us deepen our understanding of the important connection between audience and performer, and the barriers that audiences, in particular young audiences, face when accessing live music. We will use the findings of this report to investigate how best we can start to remove barriers children and young people face in accessing our work, and explore new ways of co-producing work with young people in the future.”

Dr Lynne Gilmour, University of Stirling, said: “The Innovation Labs brought together lots of different people from diverse backgrounds, roles and age groups, and allowed young people to work with practitioners to come up with some brilliant ideas. 

“We know that live music can be beneficial to children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing and now have some great co-produced ideas of how to deliver live music in a format that is more accessible and acceptable, not only to children and young people themselves, but also to those delivering events.

“It can be challenging for some adults and professionals to give equal power to the voices of young people and this project embraced some really creative methods to facilitate intergenerational co-production.”