Who We Are


Bela Emerson is a highly experienced CTLLS-qualified Goldsmiths University of London -trained community musician, cellist, and trainer. Bela is passionate about enabling the remarkable effects of participatory music on wellbeing, and active in the field of promoting creative engagement using music.

Bela founded BHMC’s forerunner Open Strings Music in 2014, after a 12-month learning programme with London School for Social Entrepreneurs’ Start Up 2013-14 (and Trade Up 2017-18). As a programme manager Bela leads in designing, facilitating, and evaluating several BHMC projects: her first project, Silver Strings, is now in its ninth year, providing a lively and supportive atmosphere for older people of all abilities to play stringed instruments together. Her work with Silver Strings earned BHMC a Brighton & Hove City Council Covid19 Community Champion award.

Since 2018, Bela has delivered regular music for dementia training for Goldsmiths University of London, including an online programme. She is also a mentor and Action Learning Set facilitator.

Bela also works with Wishing Well Music For Health – bedside music for connection and wellbeing, with young patients at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, and in acute dementia settings and community hospitals throughout Sussex. As part of this role, she trains medical students in using music in healthcare settings at Royal Sussex County Hospital.

As a performer, Bela has played professionally worldwide, including residencies at Sydney Opera House / Royal Festival Hall, recording four John Peel sessions for BBC Radio 1, composing for acrobats Mimbre, soundtracking films for Tereza Buskova, and playing for Radio 4 with Tamsin Greig, Rory Bremner, Sarah Angliss and Stephen Hiscock. One of her most notable recent performances was playing Wonderwall with Liam Gallagher at Birmingham Arena.


Emma is a qualified Integrative Psychosynthesis counsellor, an experienced community musician, group facilitator and trainer, and a specialist mental health mentor. She trained as a counsellor at the Re-Vision Centre for Integrative Psychosynthesis and on a Music in Healthcare Settings training with Opus Music.

Emma believes that music and the creative arts have a key role to play in humanising healthcare, due to the profound positive impact that creativity can have on the health and wellbeing of individuals, relationships and communities.

Emma co-designs, delivers and facilitates several BHMC projects, and leads on the BHMC dementia projects. She is responsible for evaluating the impact of NHS Brighton and Hove CCG’s funded work, delivered from 2020 as part of the Ageing Well partnership. 

She is passionate about using music as a tool for connection and communication with people living with dementia, and supporting carers though training to integrate music and sound-making into their care. She is particularly interested in the connection between music-making and memory, and using voice and bodywork to build confidence and promote inclusivity.

Emma has facilitated creative projects using music and art for a number of years, with a wide range of community groups, including LGBT young people, adults with disabilities, the Jewish community and people with dementia and their carers. She has worked as an LGBTQ inclusion trainer, with a particular interest in issues of multiple-marginalisation and neurodiversity.

Emma plays the guitar and teaches ukulele. She is DBS checked and has public liability insurance cover of up to £10m. She is a member of several professional bodies including the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the National Alliance of Musicians in Healthcare and Sound Sense.


Ruth started her career in the health sector, in community health management and administration. She then moved into higher education where she worked as a university researcher for over 20  years managing and undertaking projects both within the UK and across Europe. Her areas of expertise include evaluation and impact, quality assurance, governance and strategic development.

Ruth is now a part-time freelance researcher and consultant, and a volunteer with Age UK West Sussex, Brighton & Hove (and was previously a governor at a Brighton primary school for seven years).

Ruth’s association with Music for Connection started in 2013 when she joined Silver Strings, now Music for Connection’s longest-running project. Never having played a musical instrument before or been able to read music, she now plays the cello and reads music!

Having joined the Advisory Group in 2014, she then became a director in 2017.

Ruth’s work with older (and younger) people, and her association with Music for Connection, has shown her the powerful impact that music-making and creativity can have on people’s lives.


I started my working life as a secondary school Rural and Agricultural Science teacher. I taught for a total of 12 years. I have also worked in Sales and Hotel Management. 

I started my own Catering business around 1984 and then set up a Coffee House in Brighton, in 1988, that I ran for nearly 9 years. On selling the business I moved to the South West of France for a years sabbatical and ended up staying for 11 years. While there I joined two local choirs and voluntarily taught English as a second language to both children in the local primary school and adults.

I returned to Brighton early in 2013 and have settled in by having various volunteering roles, e.g. Mentoring young vulnerable adults with the YMCA, training for the Red Cross and Guide Dogs for the Blind, and working in the One to One Literacy at The Bridge Community Learning Centre.

In 2014 I joined Silver Strings, the late learners string group and started to learn how to play the cello, my first musical instrument. In 2016 I became a volunteer on the BHMC Advisory Group where I am now the Chairperson.


Member of Silver Strings (late starters) music group.

Retired BHCC City Councillor and Health & Wellbeing Board member

Advisory Group



I have lived in Brighton for the last 25 years and in my work career spent many years working in local government and more recently at the University of Brighton. I retired from my Research Fellow post at the University of Brighton in the summer of 2016 to spend more time with my elderly mum who has Alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home in Kent. My research area was age and aging and my last six years at the university were spent researching into and teaching on the lived experience of dementia. 

Whilst at the university I was introduced to Isabel and started my connection with Music For Connection and particularly the Sing Healthy Play Happy project for which I have been a volunteer since it started. I was invited to join the Advisory Group last year. I am a keen singer and play the piano but have really enjoyed the opportunity in the SHPH project to have a go at all sorts of percussion instruments!


Sarah has worked in television production for over 30 years, working freelance for the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV here in the UK and MTV, Disney and Fox in the USA.

She began in children’s TV and now shoots and edits mini documentaries as westcreative.org.  At the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Sarah discovered an award-winning documentary called Alive Inside about the impact of music for people living with dementia. She worked with Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust to bring the documentary to Brighton for free screenings across the county, helping families and carers, doctors and nurses talk about dementia and introducing music as a communication tool.

At one of the screenings at St George’s Church in Kemptown, she was introduced to Bela and has since enjoyed working with Open Strings/BHMC making several short videos and training films for them, hoping to bring their message to a wider audience. Sarah has also worked with the Centre for Dementia Studies at Sussex University, documenting their award winning Time for Dementia Programme, and also Sussex Community Foundation NHS Trust as filmmaker and research team member on a Feasibility Study into the Effectiveness of Music for People Living with Dementia. 


Yvette is an experienced Project Manager with skills in coaching and development, plus planning and control, governance and stakeholder management.

Yvette met Bela at the London School for Social Entrepreneurs, mentoring her Trade Up programme involvement 2017-18 as part of the sponsorship by Lloyds Bank. Their relationship continued and in 2019 she joined the AG group where Yvette, although not involved in any form of music, supports the team with her project experience.

Sessional Workers

We work with a range of highly-experienced community musicians, all of whom are DBS-checked and have public liability insurance cover. 


We work with a range of volunteers: from experienced musicians to health & social care professionals, carers, and others from all walks of life. We have various volunteer roles, both in sessions and behind the scenes – please visit our Volunteering page for more details.


We are currently commissioned by NHS Brighton & Hove CCG and funded by BHCC. We work in partnership with many other local and regional organisations – see Our Partners for further information.

Music for Connection is the trading name of Brighton and Hove Music for Connection CIC.