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PRESS RELEASE: Sing Up Foundation appoints a team of researchers from University of Limerick

Updated: May 20, 2023


5 December 2022

Sing Up Foundation appoints a team of researchers from the University of Limerick's Irish World Academy of Music and Dance to conduct a research review on singing with young refugees

Young singers from the British Council’s World Voice project in Greece performing in a celebration concert.
Young singers from the British Council’s World Voice project in Greece performing in a celebration concert.

Sing Up Foundation has appointed Dr Hala Jaber, Dr Fran Garry and Professor Helen Phelan from the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance to conduct research on the impact that singing has on the mental health and wellbeing of young refugee children and unaccompanied minors. Inspired by the British Council’s World Voice projects in Greece and Palestine working with young refugees, this research is supported by the British Council funding received by the Foundation to continue the legacy of World Voice.

As part of this work, the research team, headed up by Dr Hala Jaber, will conduct a literature review and evaluation of the benefits of singing on the mental health of young refugees and unaccompanied minors; develop recommendations on how to set up and run sessions and projects in future; and build a repository of research and evaluations in this field for the benefit of organisations looking to develop their practice in this area.

The research considers that political and other types of refugees form a group with added vulnerability to developing mental illness, thought to be due to a complex interaction of social, biological and psychological factors, playing out over the lifespan and across communities. Anecdotal reports from teachers working every day with young refugees in their classrooms and from music organisations and World Voice projects overseas, suggests that prioritising singing can help. However, the evidence base for arts interventions in the refugee community is still in development and there is need for a comprehensive, clear collection of effective and evidence-based practice to support the development of this work. With this research project, the Foundation hopes to help inform work in this area and improve outcomes for these young people.

Researchers Dr Hala Jaber, Dr Fran Garry and Professor Helen Phelan said, “We are very happy to be working with the Sing Up Foundation on this important research project. As a group of music facilitators and researchers, we recognise the power of music to engage people, and enable the sharing of lived experience. Much of our work focuses on the role of music in supporting the inclusion, health and wellbeing of refugees, particularly in post-conflict contexts. We believe that the best learning comes from combining practice with research and are looking forward to uncovering and sharing, through this project, the knowledge and experiences of excellent music practices when working with refugees and unaccompanied minors.”

Celi Barberia, Head of Sing Up Foundation said, “We have been so inspired by the work we have seen with young refugees and wanted to support the sector with this research to help inform practice and promote the impact that it can have on the lives of these very vulnerable young people. We are passionate about the benefits of singing on health and wellbeing and hope that through this research review we can help support those working with young refugees and unaccompanied minors to use the most effective evidence-based singing strategies to help improve outcomes. We are excited to be working with Dr Jaber, Dr Garry and Prof Phelan who are experts in the field and excellent advocates for the work.”


Notes to editors

  1. Sing Up Foundation ( is the charitable arm of Sing Up. Sing Up has always been a champion of the wider benefits of singing – for education, social and health outcomes – and marked its 10th birthday in 2017 by launching the Sing Up Foundation, a charity with a commitment to a new charitable purpose supporting singing for health and wellbeing.

  2. Sing Up Foundation received a grant from the British Council in 2020 to continue the legacy of the British Council’s World Voice Programme. The World Voice programme worked in 23 countries across seven years training teachers overseas to use singing to develop musicality and as a tool for learning in the classroom. As part of this legacy, Sing Up Foundation has been consulting with partners overseas and working to create a new platform to continue this work which will feature this research. For more information on World Voice, visit:

  3. Sing Up ( is an award-winning organisation that provides resources, training and guidance to support singing and music in schools. Sing Up believes that all children and young people have a right to good quality singing provision, to deepen their understanding of music and singing, raise attainment and develop lasting tools to express themselves with confidence and creativity. With over 15 years of experience at the forefront of music education, Sing Up’s specially arranged songs, teaching tools and support put singing and music at the heart of learning.

  4. Dr Hala Jaber is an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, Limerick, Ireland with a decade of facilitation experience with young people in the Middle East and Ireland as a music educator and community music facilitator. Her PhD in Arts Practice engaged critically with the music-making experiences of Syrian migrants escaping the war in their homeland. Her Postdoctoral degree investigates the co-designing, delivering, and evaluation of a training program that is trauma-informed for arts facilitators working in the context of post-conflict migration.

  5. Dr Fran Garry currently works as a postdoctoral researcher with the Health Research Institute, PART-IM (Participatory and Arts-Based Methods for Involving Migrants in Health Research) cluster at the University of Limerick. She is a singer, songwriter, community music educator, and an arts-based and arts practice researcher. Her work in educational and community settings includes choral leadership, vocal tuition, facilitation of musical composition, and arts project management.

  6. Prof Helen Phelan is a Professor of Arts Practice and Director of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. She is the programme director of the PhD in Arts Practice and an Irish Research Council recipient for her work on music and migration. She is the founder of the Singing and Social Inclusion research group and Chair of IMBAS, a support network for artistic research in Ireland. She is PI of the PART-IM research cluster on arts-based methods in migrant health research, bringing together NGO partners with researchers in medicine, nursing & midwifery and the performing arts.

For further information, please contact Celi Barberia,

Research Review Press Release (Dec 2022)
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