Postgraduate study helped me to make an impact within dementia research and develop my business

Helen Vincent decided to pursue postgraduate study to deepen her understanding of Arts, Health and Wellbeing. She now has a growing business and talks at dementia conferences all over the country. Here she tells us how she uses a combination of art forms in her practice and how the course provided her with the knowledge to succeed and help others.

"At the time of applying I had been working as a musician in the field of Arts, Health and Wellbeing, primarily with people living with dementia, for 6 years. I had had no initial training, except for a half-day dementia awareness course, I wanted something more robust and long-term in my particular field. There are not many Arts, Health and Wellbeing MA courses in the country and I was lucky that the USW one was on my doorstep.

Completing my MA provided me with a professional framework against which to place my work. It made me think more deeply about the human element of the work I do. Because two of my projects focused on individuals living with dementia, I came to know them as people with histories, families, careers and personalities; this is now the first thing I think about when working with people living with dementia.

It took some persuading from the course tutors that I should include an element of visual art in my assessments. It was definitely the right decision and rather than making the work more difficult, it gave me a freedom and a sense of flow between disciplines which enabled me to tell my story more effectively. My first installation was a combination of music, video and sculptural installation and marked a turning point in my self-regard as ‘an artist’.

Since finishing the MA, I have been asked to speak at dementia conferences and to lead dementia singing group demonstrations at events such as Wells Dementia Conference, the National Primary Care Conference in Newport, and an Open University 'Singing for Dementia' conference. The knowledge I have acquired and the academic processes with which I engaged throughout the course lent me a sense of authority which was absent previously. The website, which I built as part of the Professional Practice module, has led to more development of my business than I could have imagined. I also run community choirs and to now have the majority of our back catalogue of sheet music and sound files available to choir members online is a huge positive."

Study MA Arts Practice, Arts, Health and Wellbeing at USW.