'The power to heal us with a smile and a song': Senior well-being, music-based participatory arts and the value of qualitative evidence

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Journal Article
Journal of Arts and Communities, 2009, 1 (1), pp. 25 - 44
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Sweet Tonic is a singing-based participatory arts initiative based in the southwest of Sydney, Australia. This paper reports on a qualitative evaluation of the thirty-week workshop series. It provides qualitative evidence of the outcomes of the programme, linking these to recent debates about `evidence-based policy approaches. It argues that, although Sweet Tonic is undoubtedly a beneficiary of the instrumentalist turn in arts policy, this framing also traps the programme into defining its success or failure in instrumentalist terms. It is suggested that, although such accounts are often dismissed as `anecdotal, in fact the most powerful evidence of the impact of a programme like Sweet Tonic is contained in the accounts of personal experience of participants in the programme. It is therefore necessary to understand the complexities of evidence in cultural policy, and to develop new language to talk about evidence that doesn't unnecessarily privilege quantitative or statistical forms at the expense of qualitative evidence.
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