Day in the Life: Rosie Dow

A picture of Rosie Dow
Ellie Grace Photography

What have you been doing today?

Planning our next webinar workshop for a group of arts and health professionals in Wales.  We are working on a small innovation 'Sprint' to experiment with some new models of arts and health delivery during the pandemic.  I've also had a meeting with colleagues across Nesta about how to embed arts and health learning into our wider innovation strategies.  And I'm writing a communications briefing for a key government partner on the programme I'm running (the Y Lab 'HARP' - Health, Arts, Research, People - programme).

Is that a typical day for you?

Yes, it's very varied.  I've been with Nesta since January 2020, so am still on a steep learning curve about what innovation means and how it can support the arts and health sector, particularly with regard to scale and sustainability.  It's really interesting - very cerebral, but with the potential to help facilitate meaningful and lasting impact across the sector. 

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

About 9 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 last job was an interim role with the amazing Breathe Arts Health Research.  The team there 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.  Until Dec 2019 she was Interim 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. She has now returned to her native Wales to run a major arts and health innovation programme with Nesta, Cardiff University, the Arts Council of Wales and all the Welsh Health Boards.  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. Her book 'Sing' was released in Jan 2020, an accessible guide to singing for wellbeing. In her spare time, Rosie sings, jogs, plays the ukulele rather badly, attends loads of gigs and spends a lot of time enjoying life with friends and family.