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Reflecting on Year 1 as an NPO

A selection of photos of OPUS in action

A reflection on our first year as an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation

The 4 November 2022 marked a pivotal moment in OPUS Music CIC’s history. As our Artistic Team and Board members conducted interviews for the new role of Communications and Marketing Manager, we received a crucial email: our application to join Arts Council England’s National Portfolio was successful.

The National Portfolio comprises arts organisations that receive core funding from Arts Council England (ACE), sourced from treasury and lottery funds. ACE describes National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) as leaders with a collective responsibility to protect and develop the national arts and cultural landscape. Becoming an NPO is a competitive process, typically occurring every three years, with financial support provided for the subsequent three-year period.

Our investment from ACE began on 1 April 2023, and as we embark on the second year of our journey as an NPO, it’s a perfect time to reflect on our progress so far.

For many years, we have recognised the immense potential of our organisation, largely driven by a small group of dedicated individuals. This talented team of Healthcare Musicians and Trainers, supported by our committed Board, has achieved so much over the past 24 years. However, the constraints of time and project-based funding limited our capabilities. Joining the NPO program has been our first step toward unlocking this potential.

New roles were created to form our Co-Production Team, alongside the newly appointed Communications and Marketing Manager and myself, the Chief Executive. Co-Production is central to OPUS’s mission. Whether collaborating with healthcare professionals, patients, families, or communities in music-making, or developing training programs and new partnerships, we thrive on the process of listening, learning, and developing together. Molly Davies joined us as Communications and Marketing Manager, and Ben Armstrong and Gerry De Carlo were appointed as Co-Producer/Project Manager and Finance Manager, respectively. Their extensive experience and passion for our work have been invaluable. Our team was further strengthened by Training and Learning Manager Genny Cotroneo, who brought her expertise in co-production and training.

We also expanded our Board, adding valuable experience in Health and Social Care, Training, Arts Education, Research, and Academia to our diverse portfolio.

We have been determined to explore the potential of our music-making practice within community settings. We initiated a program to develop community-based music-making in Bolsover, Ashfield, and Nottingham, working alongside local partners, including Social Prescribing Link Workers. This program has reached individuals living with dementia, brain injury, and mental health issues, as well as their families and caregivers. Much of this impactful work continues in these communities with OPUS’s ongoing support.

In addition to community programs, we have supported local music-makers in developing their skills as facilitators of music-making for health and wellbeing. Recognising the lack of diversity in Music in Healthcare practice, we developed a training program for music-makers from diverse cultural backgrounds. This program has enriched our practices and helped us grow as a relevant and inclusive organisation. Many participants from our training programs have continued to engage with our Healthcare Musician Development Program, supporting the next generation of Healthcare Musicians and the creation of new regional programs.

We have also expanded our Music Care Training to Bolsover, Ashfield, and Nottingham communities, teaching caregivers how to use music as part of their practices. Music Care, delivered with our international partners Room 217 Foundation in Canada, is vital to our vision of integrating music-making into health and social care.

Additionally, we have taken the time to understand our environmental impact as an organisation, incorporating this learning into our artistic programs and championing environmental action.

Our regular Healthcare Music-Making practice continues through deepening partnerships with Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Leicester, and Sherwood Forest Hospital Trusts. We provide the health and wellbeing benefits of music to people of all ages, from neonatal intensive care to end of life, embedding music-making into care practices.

Core funding from ACE has enabled us to engage with numerous partners and networks. Participation in health and wellbeing forums, Social Prescribing, and local government initiatives has allowed us to address hyperlocal issues. Our involvement in Voluntary, Community, and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Alliances alongside Integrated Care Boards in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and Leicestershire facilitates our engagement with the healthcare system at a regional level. We also contribute to national development programs and conferences delivered by ACE and others, such as the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance.

Our journey as an NPO has begun with great momentum, and we eagerly anticipate the future. We are committed to realising and extending our potential and ambition, benefiting all those who experience improved health and wellbeing through music and music-making.