Performing arts

The power of live performance brings anxiety levels down and sends smiles soaring.

Watching a flamenco dancer spin as you wait for test results. Listening to a poet while you’re visiting a loved one. These aren’t part of the usual hospital experience, but we want them to be.

Our Performing Arts Programme is a suite of participatory music, dance, poetry and other arts projects that improve NHS staff, patients’ and local communities health and wellbeing. We do this through a diverse range of evidence-based Performing Arts Programmes, co-created with clinicians in order to deliver specific health outcomes.

See below how music transforms the experience for staff, patients and visitors.

How it helps

Research by Nilsson (2008) found that music significantly reduces anxiety levels. To give an effect of relaxation and pain relief, music should be listened to for at least 30 minutes – which is the minimum duration of any of our performances.


of audience members at our lunchtime performances and 83% of those from our inpatient and outpatient performances said the music made them feel happy, calm or relaxed.*

It changes your attitude towards a hospital, so it’s not just a place where you come when you are ill, but somewhere where you can come for something that is joyful and inspiring and does you good!

Anita Jackson – Patient


Live performances

We run a varied programme of regular performances at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Based on research that the arts can significantly reduce anxiety levels, encourage relaxation and help with pain relief, our free performances including music, dance, theatre, poetry, puppetry and magic invite you to enjoy a Breathing Space and are run in all areas of the Trust. From our weekly Public Performances to surprise innovative mini pop-up performances, we contribute to a more welcoming environment, offering experiences you don’t usually have in hospital.

The programme is delivered by Breathe Arts Health Research and made possible with support from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.

You read me an amazing poem about London today. I was on the 10th floor of the north wing and it was an awesome way to escape the busy work day for a moment.

Dr Hannah Nathan - Junior Doctor, Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Breathing Spaces Resident Musicians

Alongside our weekly Public Performances and surprise pop-ups we bring live music to inpatients and outpatients in clinical units, wards and waiting areas. Our musicians’ sessions help calm and cheer patients pre/post-op and during treatments such as dialysis. You can find out about our current resident musicians below.

We find that patients' blood pressure and heart rates are lower when the musicians are here.

Jennifer Riordan, Staff Nurse, Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust


Bespoke Arts-in-Healthcare

Projects that creatively integrate and use Performing Arts in clinical and therapeutic programmes, tailored to specific patient and staff groups. Designed to improve clinical outcomes and create new ways of working. Our team of artists includes filmmakers, writers, poets and puppeteers, each bringing unique stories and approaches to meet very specific healthcare needs. Find out more about our Participatory Projects below.


Are you a musician, dancer, poet or other performing artist? Interested in working with us to make hospitals brighter places to be? Glad to hear it. Please click for details.


If you’re interested in bringing any elements of the Breathe Performing Arts programme to your hospital or NHS trust, we’d love to get involved.

* Evaluation Report 2013, Annabel Jackson Associates Ltd