The healing power of singing has been at the heart of the Bromley by Bow Centre’s partnership with English National Opera over the last three years. So, it’s no surprise to learn that the ENO’s latest venture is called Breathe and focuses on how singing can support people recovering from coronavirus.

This highly innovative project brings together medical and musical expertise to deliver an integrated rehabilitation programme to support and empower those recovering from the long-term impact of the virus. The programme offers tools for self-management, particularly for those patients who are suffering from breathlessness and the high anxiety this produces.

The genesis of the project was in a zoom call hosted by our good friend Dr Michael Dixon from the College of Medicine and involving Dr Harry Brunjes (Chair of the ENO and London Coliseum), Professor Ajit Lalvani (Chair of the Bromley by Bow Centre & Chair of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College) and Sir Sam Everington (one of our GP Partners & Vice-President of the College of Medicine).

The call focused on the symptoms of patients who are recovering from COVID-19 and the particular issues around breathlessness and the potential value of singing, including techniques to maximise oxygen input from breathing and enhance their convalescence. From that first conversation ENO Breathe was born and combines the forces of St Mary’s Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and English National Opera. It is a nationwide initiative and is the first partnership of its kind between a leading arts organisation and an NHS Trust.

Find out more about the ENO Breathe Project.

We are very conscious of the challenges that our Arts partners are facing at the moment. As theatres and opera houses have closed their doors, so their ability to support innovative community arts projects is diminished too. Yet despite the challenges of COVID-19, we see common cause between our approach at the Bromley by Bow Centre and the resilience and creativity adopted by our friends in the arts.

In his role as Chair of English National Opera, Dr Harry Brunjes, has deep insight into the challenges faced by the Arts sector at this time and we are pleased to share his reflections here. In April 2021, he also had an article published in the Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine, ‘The art of medicine and the science of the arts’.