Day in the Life: Rosie Dow

A picture of Rosie Dow
Ellie Grace Photography

What have you been doing today?

Preparing for a Board Meeting that’s happening this evening, so looking over papers, jotting down questions and key points.  Then I had a meeting with our team administrator to look at her objectives for the coming year and I’ve also been sorting out the logistics of how to film a young magician who’s performing for Breathe Magic at an awards ceremony on Thursday!  The usual happy, random selection.


Is that a typical day for you?

Yes, one of the things I love about working in Arts & Health is the huge variety of people, places and projects you encounter. One day I will be setting out chairs and making tea in a hospital for a singing for breathing group, the next I’ll be at an NHS research committee approving a physio dance project, then I’ll be at Soho House meeting a potential donor for lunch.  Then back to the chairs again.


When did you start working with culture, health and wellbeing, and how?

About 8 years ago when I saw the most amazing job advertised at Tenovus Cancer Care, setting up and managing a large Lottery-funded community choir programme for cancer patients and carers. I’d always sung in choirs but having recently lost my Dad at that time, I had realised how much having that creative outlet had meant to me, as well as seeing all the ways that arts could transform healthcare experiences for people even in their most difficult days.  The moment I saw that job ad I knew my life and my life’s work had changed forever: I’d found my calling.  Thankfully I got the job!  And it was the most incredible five years.


What was the last project you came across that inspired you?

My team are currently working in Guy’s Hospital with a group of elderly people who are at risk of falls.  Between them, a dance artist and some very amazing physiotherapists, they have created a 10-week course for people doing creative dance classes instead of usual strength & balance classes.  What’s particularly cool is that the dance artist shadowed the traditional classes for a few weeks before designing our workshops, so that she could incorporate things like weight transfer, reaching and bar work into the creative dance, as well as adding in storytelling, expression and group work.  Everybody is loving it, especially the physios who now have something new to work on, that could really help their patients to get the most from their physiotherapy sessions and gain much needed strength, but could also change the way they approach their practice.  My favourite story is that of the lady who now walks to the classes every week – rain or shine – on her own, despite being 86 and very unsteady on her feet at the beginning of the course.  She loves it and we love her!


Rosie has a background of senior leadership roles within the arts, health and community sectors. After an early career in fundraising and music, Rosie’s arts in health work began in 2012 when she took on leadership of Tenovus Cancer Care ‘Sing with Us’ service of 20 community choirs, for over 3,000 people affected by cancer in Wales.  In 2016 she become Director of the Military Wives Choirs Foundation, overseeing the charity’s network of 75 choirs across the UK.  Her current role is Director of Breathe Arts Health Research, an award-winning national organisation using performing arts in healthcare settings, including the award-winning Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Programme and the performing arts programme at Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospitals.  Rosie completed an MA in Anthropology & Community Arts in 2018 and has been directly involved in high-profile arts in health research, including working alongside Dr Daisy Fancourt on a biological study of the impact of group singing; she has also contributed to events and policy discussions at the Wellcome Collection, Royal Society for Public Health, the London Arts in Health Forum and many others.  In joining CHWA’s Board Rosie brings her skills in creative facilitation, community development, research, business planning and strategic leadership, with the clear aim of supporting the arts in health sector to grow and flourish.  In her spare time, Rosie leads a community choir in East London, plays the ukulele rather badly, attends gigs and spends a lot of time in her native Wales with friends and family.