Event Report: NUMI Conference 2013

Ian MacDonald reports from the November 2013 conference of NUMI (Norsk Underholdningsmedisinsk Institutt), Namsos, Norway. 

It was a great privilege to be in Norway representing both BAPAM and University College London (UCL), at the second Norwegian Music Medicine conference. The setting for the event was the picturesque city of Namsos, nestling on the water’s edge in the heart of Norway. Namsos boasts an impressive percentage of performers for a place of only 14,000 inhabitants, with over 700 dancers, over a thousand singers and literally dozens (somebody said 63) of professional or semi-professional rock bands….incredible! This year’s NUMI coincided with the international festival, ‘Singing Cities Project’, involving many hundreds of performances from the very famous to the just starting out.

NUMI’s founder and main instigator is Dr Terje Tranaas, a former dentist and keyboard player for the Norwegian equivalent of the Rolling Stones. He has around him an impressive team of multi-talented individuals all keen to see the development of performing arts medicine in Norway.

The second conference brought together an impressive but select group of thinkers involved in the cutting edge of performing arts medicine development. A roundtable day, with presentations from Oslo, Denmark, Sweden and the UK, discussing the structuring of a service that would accommodate Norway’s population of 5 million, dotted throughout its mountainous terrain of 45,000 islands and 25,000 km of wild coastline.

They have had an eye on the UK and USA for some time and in fact, Terje’s wife attended some modules of the Performance Science MSc at RCM a few years ago and was impressed. This led to discussions regarding the MSc in Performing Arts Medicine at UCL. One proposal now being explored would be to send a Norwegian medic to London on a yearly basis as an envoy and future educator and practitioner specialising in care for the performer.

Recent developments in Scandinavia include the creation of the first Danish Performing Arts Medicine Clinic (which opened in June and has specialist facilities for ENT) and the second music medicine conference in Pieta, northern Sweden.

There are some obvious issues regarding transportation and logistics in Scandinavia and there are some legal difficulties regarding insurance and funding for Skype and telephone assessments. However, any services being provided, where there have been none before will undoubtedly be met with enthusiasm by performers all over the region. The desire of the NUMI team to emulate the ‘hub’ style operation we have at BAPAM was very evident and by far the most popular model being presented at the weekend.

We have promised to keep supporting Terje and NUMI in their start-up over the next few years and will continue communicating with the team there.  A second potential visit to lecture next February has already been muted. Watch this space for NUMI News.

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