Skip to content

TAnDem: Meet our students

Karen Gray

Evaluating arts-based activities for people living with dementia: Methodological challenges and possible solutions

Director of Studies Simon Evans (University of Worcester), Co-supervisor Amanda Griffiths (University of Nottingham), and PhD advisor Justine Schneider (University of Nottingham).

This project takes an in-depth look at how we currently assess arts and dementia projects, and why good evaluation seems difficult to achieve. It will consider how we might understand and capture the complex context of an arts activity more accurately as an aid to the process of identifying theories and mechanisms for change. It will explore how decisions are made about what is ‘valuable’ about the arts in this context and how we seek to measure this value. It will seek to unpick issues around communication and ethics in evaluation and research involving people living with dementia. An initial critical narrative review of both published and grey literature has helped to categorise the challenges currently facing the field but also revealed that many methodological challenges may lie under the surface. Interviews with stakeholders and their analysis will explore such issues in greater depth and a resulting theoretical model will be piloted in a case study evaluation project. Ultimately this research aims to support those needing to understand how to deliver arts activity that is beneficial for everyone involved.

Karen Gray is based at the University of Worcester and began her PhD on September 28th 2015. She was previously employed as Research and Evaluation Manager at Willis Newson, specialist arts and health consultants based in Bristol. Karen holds a first degree and a PhD in English Literature from Cambridge University. More details about her presentations, publications and research interests can be found at:

Amy Veale

Tailoring Arts Interventions to Individual Needs in Dementia: delivery of arts activities and individual difference (what works for whom).

Director of Studies Dawn Brooker (University of Worcester), Co-supervisor Amanda Griffiths (University of Nottingham), and PhD advisor Simon Evans (University of Worcester).

Knowing which arts-based interventions will suit which people, at what stage on the dementia ‘journey’ is a relatively unexplored area of research but is likely to be critical in order to optimise the benefit of particular arts interventions. The focus of this PhD will be to explore and understand individual differences (preferences, capacity, cognitive, cultural, emotional and physical responses to different arts forms) and how arts-based interventions can be tailored to individual needs and context. Based on the literature and practice knowledge, a decision-making tool will be developed and piloted in a series of case studies of arts interventions in different service contexts. These case studies will inform refinements to the tool, which could them be used to match arts-based interventions to individual situations.

Amy Veale is based at the University of Worcester and commenced on September 28th 2015. Amy studied at Queens University Belfast and has a first degree in Psychological Studies and a Masters degree in Social Research methods. She previously worked for Age NI (the Northern Ireland equivalent of Age UK) and was their Research Manager. Amy completed a Winston Churchill Fellowship on the topic of the cultural arts and dementia, spending eight weeks in North America visiting a range of organisations that deliver arts based interventions for dementia.

Emma Broome 


Evaluating Arts Interventions in Residential Homes

Director of Studies Tom Dening (University of Nottingham), Co-supervisor Justine Schneider (University of Nottingham) PhD Advisor Dawn Brooker (University of Worcester).

This PhD project is based on the Imagine Arts programme, an initiative encouraging partnerships between care providers and arts organisations to deliver a range of arts interventions to people living in residential care.

The attitudes of care personnel influence the access and experience of the arts for people with dementia living in residential care. This research will investigate the impact on resident and staff outcomes when care personnel are fully informed about the benefits of arts interventions and encouraged to maintain their impact between sessions.

There is a flourishing of creative arts in dementia care, and much innovation is happening in care homes. Sustainable approaches towards integrating creative and cultural arts programmes into practice in residential care have the potential to improve the quality of life of the people who live and work within the environment. This research will contribute to knowledge on creative arts and dementia care; evidence on which to build future programmes of arts in the most promising areas.

Emma Broome has an Honours BA Cum Laude with a Major in Psychology and English from the University of Ottawa and graduated with Merit with an MSc in Mental Health: Psychological Therapies from Queen Mary University London. Her MSc project was a systematic review of the effectiveness of music therapy in dementia care. Previously, Emma has volunteered at a long term care facility for residents with dementia and regularly assisted and implemented a weekly music group. Emma currently volunteers at a local Memory Café supporting people with dementia together with their family carers.

Emily Cousins

An International Taxonomy of Arts Interventions for People Living with Dementia

Director of Studies Tom Dening (University of Nottingham), co-supervisor Victoria Tischler (University of Nottingham/Surrey), PhD advisor Claire Garabedian (University of Worcester).

Arts interventions are employed widely and successfully around the world to enhance the care and wellbeing of those living with dementia. Examples include singing groups, craft and drawing sessions, dance classes and shared reading. However, there is currently no consensus on the definition and description of these interventions. Developing a common language of classification will illustrate the rationale for different creative approaches and priorities, support the evaluation and improvement of arts interventions, and enable their benefits and impact to be communicated more effectively.

Taxonomy – the classification of species – is a term borrowed from the world of Biology. As a taxonomist might trek through a jungle in search of common or rare specimens, this PhD project will similarly attempt to collect, name and make sense of the many types of arts activity that exist around the world for people with dementia.

This study is an iterative enquiry using elements of Realist methodology. It includes a series of stakeholder focus groups, Nominal Group Technique workshops and a Delphi Study to incorporate the lived expert experience of carers, artists, practitioners and care staff.

Emily was awarded a scholarship to attend the 2016 Memory Bridge dementia care training retreat in Indiana, USA, and she has been awarded an INTERDEM Academy fellowship to undertake a music therapy case study in Denmark at Aalborg University in 2017.

Emily has a BA in English Literature from the University of York and an MA in Contemporary European Studies awarded by the University of Bath following study at Universities in Seattle, Vancouver and Paris. She is an alumni of the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme having completed placements at a large Acute Trust, the Department of Health and a Clinical Commissioning Group. Emily has an MSc in Leadership and Service Improvement. Before starting the PhD, she was working as a service improvement manager in the area of primary care transformation. Emily is a Grade 8 singer and enjoys volunteering for her local ‘Singing for the Brain’ group.

Ruby Swift

Engagement with personally significant music within the caring relationships of people with moderate dementia who are living at home: a phenomenological study

Director of Studies Eleanor Bradley (University of Worcester), Co-supervisor Claire Garabedian (University of Worcester), and PhD advisor Amanda Griffiths (University of Nottingham). 

This project focusses on the nature and role of personally significant music (PSM) for people with moderate dementia who are living at home. Using a qualitative approach, this study will critically and creatively explore the experiences of engagement with music for individuals within this population to provide an in-depth understanding of what can constitute PSM for individuals and the role of PSM within their caring relationships. This research aims to provide insight into the various forms PSM can take, how PSMs can be engaged with, the processes through which PSMs can be identified and utilised by the carer, and the potential for these processes to promote human flourishing (i.e. growth, development, thriving). 

Ruby Swift is based at the University of Worcester and commenced on September 28th 2016. She has worked as a singing for health and wellbeing practitioner for over three years, primarily as a trained Singing for the Brain leader for the Alzheimer’s Society, but also independently in care home and clinical settings for people with dementia, for Parkinson’s UK, as a Singing for Lung Health leader trained by the British Lung Foundation, and for the prison and probation services. Ruby holds a first degree and an MA in Musicology from Wolverhampton University.

Becky Dowson

The Contribution of Music Therapy to Choral Singing in Dementia Care

Director of Studies Justine Schneider (University of Nottingham), co-supervisor Orii McDermott (University of Nottingham), PhD advisor Claire Garabedian (University of Worcester). 

The CHORD manual is has been developed by Orii McDermott as a guide for those wishing to run singing groups for people with dementia. It intends to provide a replicable and evidence-based intervention, and to skill-share some music therapy techniques with singing group facilitators. The focus for this PhD project is to evaluate the CHORD manual, which will involve testing it in a “real-world” situation with someone who does not have prior experience facilitating the singing group. The project raises questions about whether music therapy techniques can be successfully shared with people who are not music therapists, and whether this approach is beneficial both for the facilitators and for those who attend the groups. 

Becky Dowson is based at the University of Nottingham and began her PhD studies in October 2016. She has a BA in Music and an MSt in Musicology from St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford. She completed her MA in Music Therapy at Anglia Ruskin University in 2012, graduating with distinction. Prior to commencing her PhD she worked as a freelance music therapist in Oxfordshire, mainly working with older adults with dementia and young people with learning disabilities. She is a keen cellist, pianist and singer, and enjoys playing cello in an orchestra and volunteering with a local community choir.