About the PhD projects


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We are delighted to announce that all six TanDem students have now been awarded their PhDs. Congratulations to Dr Karen Gray, Dr Ruby Swift, Dr Amy Veale, Dr Emma Broome, Dr Emily Cousins and Dr Becky Dowson for making valuable contributions to the research evidence on the arts and dementia. You will find links to their dissertations on our Publications page.


Completed PhD projects

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. A 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 lie under the surface. Interviews with stakeholders and their analysis will explore such issues in greater depth. 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 in September 2015. She was awarded her PhD in 2020. 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. 

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 (formerly University of Worcester), and PhD advisor Amanda Griffiths (University of Nottingham). 

This project focuses 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 in September 2016. She was awarded her PhD in 2021. 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. 

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 in September 2015. She was awarded her PhD in 2020. 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.

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 (formerly University of Worcester). 

The CHORD manual 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 was awarded her Phd in 2020. 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. 

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 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. Emily was awarded her PhD in 2019.

Emma Broome

We are pleased to report that Emma Broome has successfully completed her PhD viva, held on 26th March 2019. Emma’s research explored the role of care staff in creative arts interventions in residential care homes, and involved working with artists and care homes in Nottingham who were taking part in the Baring Foundation-Arts Council funded Imagine Arts programme. The research has led to five published papers and Emma has presented her work at several conferences in the UK and in Europe. We wish to thank Emma’s examiners who were Dr Hannah Zeilig (University of the Arts London) and Dr Adam Gordon (University of Nottingham).  The examiners praised Emma for defending her thesis well and for her obvious engagement with and passion for her work. Emma has to complete some corrections to the thesis in the next three months and hopes to graduate in the summer.

Emma is the second student to pass her PhD Viva, Emily Cousins who passed her examination on 25th October 2018.  We would like to express our thanks to her two examiners, Professors Gill Windle (University of Bangor) and Amanda Griffiths (Nottingham), who complimented Emily on the excellent scholarship of her thesis. Emily’s research aimed to develop a taxonomy (or a way of classifying) of the ways in which arts interventions for people with dementia work: in other words, what factors operate to make arts activities such a valuable aspect of life with dementia. Her studentship has taken her on academic visits to the US and Denmark, and her findings have been published in one journal paper with another submitted for publication.

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.



Supervisory Team



The logos for the Alzheimer's Society, The University of Nottingham and the University of Worcester

TAnDem (The Arts and Dementia) was a joint doctoral training centre between the University of Nottingham and the University of Worcester. Each PhD student had a supervisory team consisting of three people drawn from the expertise of both universities. The team consisted of the Director of Studies (the university of the Director of Studies determined which university the PhD student was registered at), a co-supervisor and a PhD advisor.


Professor Dawn Brooker

Professor Dawn Brooker PhD CPsychol (clin) AFBPsS was the Director of the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester until 2022, where she led a research team dedicated to developing evidence-based practical ways to enable those living with dementia to have the best possible quality of life. Dawn was the Worcester lead for TAnDem. She is internationally recognised for the development of person-centred dementia care and has a longstanding interest in the role of creativity in supporting personhood. Dawn is a practicing clinical psychologist and has led many applied research programmes over the past 30 years. Recent research includes developing practice in person-centred approaches for people living with dementia at home, in care homes, hospitals and housing; Care Fit for VIPS and Stand by Me toolkits; understanding the role of care culture and how to impact change; providing alternatives to anti-psychotic medications; timely diagnosis and dementia friendly communities. Dawn is the UK lead on a JPND funded Meeting Centres Support Programme. Her most recent research involves improving care and support for people in advanced stages of dementia. She has long established working relationships with practitioners and scholars worldwide and has recently spearheaded an international movement Global Action on Personhood (GAP) in Dementia Care.

Dr Simon Evans

Dr Simon Evans was Principal Research Fellow and Head of Research with the Association for Dementia Studies. He has over 20 years’ experience of researching quality of life for older people, including those with dementia, across housing, health and social care. His recent projects include two NIHR funded studies of extra care housing, an exploration of services for people with dementia and sight loss, an EU Cost action on ageism, and an evaluation of an Alzheimer’s Society musical reminiscence programme. Simon’s other interests include research ethics and public engagement with research. He has been published on a range of topics including end of life care, older people living in rural areas, retirement communities, and dementia friendly environments.

Dr Claire Garabedian

Dr Claire Garabedian, formerly an Associate Researcher at the Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester. Claire is a professional cellist specialising in historical performance, a Certified Music Practitioner (trained in playing music for people nearing the end of life), and an experienced research assistant. She completed her PhD at the University of Stirling, which focused on the impacts of individualised live and recorded music for care home residents with dementia nearing the end of life, and their carer. Claire’s unique combination of qualifications provides for an understanding of both practice and research aspects regarding the rewards and challenges involved in working within these populations as well as within the creative art practitioner diaspora. Claire has been invited to present and join round-table panels regarding her research work throughout the UK, as well as in Europe and the USA. She is currently conducting evaluations of several projects focusing on the use of creative arts for people who are living with dementia.

Professor Eleanor Bradley

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Qualifications: BSc (Hons) Human Psychology, MSc Counselling Psychology, PhD in Health Psychology, CPsychol, AFBPsS 

Eleanor joined the University of Worcester in August 2013 as Professor of Health Psychology. She maintains close relationships with the NHS and is the Associate Director for Research and Development (South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust). Her research focusses on the application of health psychology theory to understand the experience of severe and enduring mental illness and mental health practice, with a particular interest in communication and medicine-taking. She has published widely across healthcare, with a large body of publications focussing on the application of new roles across mental healthcare practice (e.g non-medical prescribing). Eleanor is an active and experienced PhD supervisor and contributes to a range of doctoral level teaching and support activities, including expert workshops, particularly in the area of contemporary qualitative research methods and methodologies.

Professor Justine Schneider

Professor Justine Schneider, University of Nottingham. A Fellow of the NIHR School for Social Care Research, Justine has extensive experience in applied health research using a wide range of methodologies and approaches. Her current work focuses primarily on dementia and workforce development, and she is exploring innovative approaches to knowledge exchange in dementia care, particularly through the arts. With Meeting Ground Theatre Company and Nottingham Lakeside Arts, she led the development of Inside Out of Mind a research-based play about dementia-carers, which toured England in 2015. Before moving to the Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham in 2004, Justine’s posts included Senior Lecturer at the University of Durham, Research Fellow at the Personal Social Services Research Unit, University of Kent, two years of voluntary work in Lima, Peru, and several years of social work research and practice in London and the South East.

Professor Tom Dening

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Professor Tom Dening, MA MD FRCPsych, was appointed in October 2012 as Professor of Dementia Research at the Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham; and Honorary Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust. He studied Medicine at Newcastle University and trained in Psychiatry in Cambridge and Oxford. From 1991 to 2012, he was a Consultant Psychiatrist in Old Age Psychiatry in Cambridge. From 2002 to 2011, he was the Medical Director of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust. His interests include the epidemiology of mental disorders in older people, treatment of dementia and depression in older people, psychiatric services, dementia and technology, care homes and other clinical topics. He is one of the editors of the Oxford Textbook of Old Age Psychiatry, the leading international work in this field.

Professor Amanda Griffiths

Professor Amanda Griffiths, PhD MSc PGCE CPsychol AFBPsS FAcSS

Amanda is a UK Health and Care Professions Council registered health psychologist and registered occupational psychologist, and a Fellow of the UK’s Academy of Social Sciences. She joined the Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology in the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham in 2013. She is a member of the Institute of Mental Health’s Centre for Dementia. Amanda’s early research as a developmental psychologist focused on cognitive development and communication skills of young people with learning difficulties and hearing impairment. Following further qualification and a career change, she specialised in work-related mental health and wellbeing and, more recently, in the mental health and wellbeing of older age populations, particularly women. Her current interests include working age dementia; communication between healthcare staff and people with dementia; healthcare workforce development and wellbeing, and implementation science.

Dr Orii McDermott

Dr Orii McDermott, PhD MMT Dip-MT ARCM BA

Orii McDermott is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham and the Doctoral Programme in Music Therapy, Aalborg University, Denmark. She specialises in dementia psychosocial research: particularly in music therapy and music-based interventions, outcome measure development and evaluation. The Music in Dementia Assessment Scales (MiDAS) that she developed as a doctoral study is currently being translated into five different languages and is now used in over ten countries. She is a HCPC registered music therapist and continues to work as a clinician in Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. Orii is a member of INTERDEM (Early detection and timely intervention in dementia).

Dr Victoria Tischler

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Dr Victoria Tischler, PhD MSocSc BSW PGCHE CPsychol AFBPsS 

Victoria is a chartered psychologist and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society. She is Honorary Associate Professor in the Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology in the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham where she worked 2002-2014. She is a member of the Institute of Mental Health’s Centre for Dementia. Victoria is Senior Teaching Fellow at Queen Mary University of London Wolfson Institute for Preventive Medicine, Centre for Psychiatry. She works as a research consultant for the arts charity’s Daily Life Ltd and Paintings in Hospitals. Her research interests are in psychosocial interventions in dementia care with a focus on arts and creativity.