Song of Contagion

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, Song of Contagion is a very substantial project combining debate, discussion, workshops, and public performance. Launched in April 2016, and developed through workshops during the autumn and winter, it culminates in a week-long run of events in June 2017 at Wilton's Music Hall.

Why do some diseases around the world attract media attention and generous funding for effective treatment, while others equally devastating are virtually ignored? Is it because they are only found in distant parts of the world, or affect mainly poor or marginalised groups? How can this be expressed in musical and dramatic form?

The project is the brainchild of distinguished epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani, who approached Tony Haynes with the idea after seeing Undream'd Shores at the Hackney Empire (Tony describes the background on his blog here). She suggested they team up to provide an answer to the challenge of how the general public could be made aware of this inequality in our approach to health.

To do this through music, statistics relating to various factors in the profiling of diseases are matched to musical elements (melody, rhythm, tempo and so on). Then, with the help of the Grand Union Orchestra and East London’s equally diverse communities (including the GU Youth Orchestra and World Choir), these cold statistics are brought vividly and emotionally to life on stage in a spectacular show.

A launch workshop in spring 2016 was followed by two inaugural music workshops leading in turn to a comprehensive development programme throughout the year. Full details of performances at Wilton's Music Hall in June are on our Events page.

For fascinating information on the scientific background of this extraordinary project, go to the Song of Contagion website.


One Saturday evening in late autumn 2014, an epidemiologist found herself at a loose end in Hackney. On a whim, she decided to drop into a show at the Hackney Empire that looked intriguing. The show was Undream'd Shores, and a few days later I received this email:


It was from Elizabeth Pisani, and she went on “I am constantly frustrated by 1) the mismatch between health needs and health spending and 2) the public health establishment’s unshakeable belief that this mismatch will be solved simply by generating more (epidemiological) evidence. For a while now, I’ve been thinking about using music to look at these issues… It’s a very long shot, but I wondered if you might be interested in collaborating on such a project, or at least having a coffee or pint and discussing the possibilities.”

For a lifelong addict of long shots – not just on the turf, but having virtually founded a professional career on backing long shots! – it was impossible to resist. A few days before Christmas, I met Elizabeth for a coffee in the Empire café, and I was very taken with her ideas...        (read more here)                           

Stay In Touch