The Beyond Words project

The Beyond Words project was a collaborative project between Plymouth Institute of Education and Plymouth Music Zone. It was one of only eight funded nationally in 2015 by an Arts Council England Research Grant. 

The two-year project was an ethnographic study exploring how learning music helps people whose communication is non-verbal, such as those with dementia, autism and stroke, and how music workers use the unspoken in their practice. As part of the study, carers and families were interviewed, it also involved teachers, social workers and health practitioners. In addition, participants were invited to participate in visual arts workshop to express their thoughts and feelings about the music sessions.

During the life of the project, there were two dissemination events: a participative seminar (image gallery below) (27 May 2016) and a final international conference (March 2017). The participative seminar presented interim results to a cross-sectoral audience (practitioners, social workers, educator and participants’ families) and it aimed to get cross-sectoral feedback to illuminate results, explore research transferability and share effective inclusion practices across disciplines. The final international conference titled: Privileging the Unspoken in Arts Practice for a Post-human World, focused on how academics and practitioners can explore the unspoken across all the Arts, using post-human theory. The conference highlighted practical and theoretical innovations derived from the project and how they can be used across sectors. There are travel bursaries available for both events, please contact Claudia Blandon for more details. 

The Beyond Words Project Final Report

"We are proud to launch the final report of our Beyond Words Project, conducted in partnership with Plymouth Music Zone and funded by Arts Council England. It is a landmark study in the lives of post-verbal people and their families and shows how their lives are enriched by music. It has been an honour and a pleasure working with them and we trust that the report does them justice."

Professor Jocey Quinn, Plymouth Institute of Education

Download the Beyond Words Project Final Report*

*Please note, the recommended browser to view this PDF report is Google Chrome. However, if you are a Mac user viewing this report in Safari and are experiencing display issues reading the report, please save the file and view in the Preview - the default app for viewing images and PDF files on a Mac. You can also view the report on ISSUU.

Beyond Words conference 2017

Thanks to all who attended, supported and participated in the Beyond Words Conference for making it such a vibrant and powerful event. Professor Jocey Quinn, from the Plymouth Institute of Education, who is leading the Beyond Words project said: 

“The whole ethos of Beyond Words has been to find ways to give those who are regularly excluded from society a voice. This conference focused on that goal, generating a creative and collaborative atmosphere that fostered a series of innovative ideas aimed at helping those people. There are millions of post-verbal people living in the UK, and we hope that developing a better understanding of how they communicate will have a positive impact on them and on society as a whole.”


Beyond Words

Our research partner, Plymouth Music Zone has produced a beautiful short film about the Beyond Words project, directed by award-winning film-maker Amanda Bluglass.

The Beyond Words Project research team

From left to right: Debbie Geraghty - Plymouth Music Zone Executive Director; Karen Abadie, visual artist; Professor Jocey Quinn, Plymouth University Institute of Education; Anna Batson, Plymouth Music Zone, Training and Research Manager; Claudia Blandon, Research Assistant Plymouth University.

We would be delighted to hear from you, feel free to contact us at any time: 

Jocey Quinn
Claudia Blandon

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Participative seminar videos

Our research methodology experimented using music and visual art to capture people’s thoughts and feelings about the music sessions.

Watch the videos