Each day, millions of people perform. Whether in the boardroom, classroom, courtroom, laboratory, operating theatre, or on stage, performances are almost invariably dynamic and, in some cases, extremely rewarding. Nonetheless, each performance also brings challenges, real and perceived, that may lead to patterns of negative thinking, avoidance behaviour, and debilitating injury that can have serious consequences for success and for health. A rigorous and detailed understanding of how to meet the physical and mental demands of performance is needed in order to enable performers to make the most of their educational and professional opportunities.
The CPS is developing a clearer picture of the status of performers’ health and identifying strategies that can meaningfully enhance performers’ physical and mental wellbeing. Recognising the complex interaction between health and performance, we are interrogating attitudes, behaviours, and indicators of well- and ill-being with the aim of fostering positive approaches to training and performance both within single disciplines and, where appropriate, across them.
Our research shows that specific stressors and demands that performers face in their training and work can manifest in performance-related pain and discomfort, performance anxiety, and occupational stress, all of which can be detrimental to wellbeing and pose significant barriers to delivering effective performances. However, our work is also identifying myriad ways in which performers can cope successfully with these demands and thrive in their chosen activities, both in immediate settings and over sustained careers.
The CPS plays an active role in facilitating dialogue and carrying out applied research in this field. For instance, we lead the Conservatoires UK project Musical Impact, and arising from this, we have seen a strong desire – from musicians themselves, as well as those who train and employ them – for closer collaboration in supporting and enhancing the health of performing artists. We have consequently worked with partners across the arts to constitute the Healthy Conservatoires Network, an ambitious initiative bringing together key stakeholders to share information, research, and best practice for advocating and advising on health in educational and professional contexts. Beyond the arts, we seek to shape wider public health agendas, particularly as they relate to the challenges and demands that people face each day when they perform.