Who We Are

Team member
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 designs, delivers, and facilitates several OSM projects: her first project, Silver Strings, is now in its fifth year, providing a lively and supportive atmosphere for people of all abilities to play stringed instruments together. She delivers primarily in community OSM projects: dementia and mental health projects. She is also responsible for planning and evaluating the impact of OSM’s work.

Bela also works with Rhythmix’s Wishing Well – 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 third-year medical students in using music in healthcare settings at Royal Sussex County Hospital.

Bela will be delivering music for dementia training at Goldsmiths University of London throughout 2018.

Bela has been a trustee of community music organisation Sound Sense since her election in 2013 and re-election in 2016. She is also a mentor on the Community Works mentoring programme, as well as Wishing Well’s mentoring programme. She is a School for Social Entrepreneurs’ Fellow, and is currently training on their Trade Up learning programme, supported by Lloyds Bank and the Big Lottery. She is DBS-checked and has PLI of up to £10m.

As a performer, Bela has played professionally worldwide, playing residencies at Sydney Opera House, 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. Her most recent performance was playing Wonderwall with Liam Gallagher at Birmingham Arena.

Team member
Emma trained as a counsellor at the Re-Vision Centre for Integrative Psychosynthesis and on music in healthcare settings training with Opus Music. She 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.

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 with a wide range of community groups, including LGBT young people, adults with disabilities, the Jewish community and people with dementia and their carers.

Emma plays guitar and teaches ukulele; she is DBS checked and has public liability insurance cover of up to £10m.

Team member
Ruth has worked as a university researcher for over 20 years and has experience in evaluation and impact, project management, governance and strategic development. Ruth is now a part-time freelance researcher and consultant, as well as a governor at a Brighton primary school and a volunteer with Age UK Brighton & Hove. She is also a cello player with Silver Strings, one of Open Strings Music’s longest-running projects.

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

Advisory Group

Team member
Team member
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 Open Strings Music 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!

Team member
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 Open Strings Advisory Committee where I am now the Chairperson.

We currently have a vacancy on our Advisory Group – please contact us for more details

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 Brighton & Hove Clinical Commissioning Group, and work in partnership with many organisations such as Chichester Dementia Action Alliance, Brighton & Hove City Council, and residential settings throughout Brighton and Hove. See Our Partners for further information.


Open Strings is the trading name of Open Strings Music CIC.


Contact Us




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