LOOKING BACK WITH LEARNING
Learning & Participation Director Chris Bell reflects on his first year at Britten Sinfonia and one year since the loss of regular funding from Arts Council England.
11:17am, Friday 4th November 2022
St. Pancras International, London
I'm due to begin working at Britten Sinfonia on Monday. I'm heading to Brussels for a long weekend away with a friend and take a moment to confirm whether Britten Sinfonia has been successful in its application to be a National Portfolio Organisation for 2023 - 2026. The unthinkable happens... I cannot find Britten Sinfonia on the spreadsheet. I press Control + F and search every possible name for Britten Sinfonia I can imagine... It's not there and I spot a message from my soon-to-be boss, Meurig Bowen asking whether he can give me a call in 15 minutes. In that moment, I thought I wouldn't have a job to go to on Monday...
1:45pm, Friday 3rd November 2023
Diamond Academy, Thetford
It's the final day of the Discovery Programme as part of Britten Sinfonia's Thetford Community Residency. Over the course of four days, the orchestra has delivered 14 concerts, workshops and coaching sessions across 10 nurseries, schools, community centres, care homes and museums. We successfully brought together 27 musicians and staff members and the beautiful voice of Elizabeth Watts singing to 180 pupils at Diamond Academy is propelling us towards the finish line.
The Rapture from Finzi's Dies Natalis kicks off the performance - The children's mouths are open on the floor as the sound of the ensemble fills their school hall. A young boy conducts the ensemble from his seat and copies every movement of the 1st Violins. Meanwhile, Julian and Clara hop-along to Bartók's Romanian Folk Dances whilst playing.
This time last year, I could never have imagined the bold and thriving position we are in today. Inevitably, with the ongoing loss of core ACE funding, Britten Sinfonia still faces significant challenges as we plan ahead for future seasons. But thanks to the dedication of our talented musicians and incredible staff team, there is plenty to celebrate about the learning and participation programme: what we’ve already achieved, what we’ve got planned in, and, crucially, the funding we’ve already secured to make all this happen.
There is so much to look forward to. Our five-month community residency in Thetford which is generously supported by Arts Council England's National Lottery Project Grant programme. We will be returning in January to create folksongs with pupils from Diamond Academy, Thetford Academy and communities at Ancient House Museum and Cloverfields Community Church. The pieces will be performed by Britten Sinfonia, Bury Friendly Orchestra and the Thetford Singers on Sunday 17th March at The Carnegie in Thetford.
And there is so much more Learning & Participation activity to look forward to - including our Musical Memories programme in Babergh and Mid-Suffolk, a project with Suffolk Archives and Orchestras Live inspired by the life of deaf photographer Walton Burrell, our upcoming schools and family concerts, our ongoing work at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the climax of our Magnum Opus composer development scheme.
It's a range of work we’re proud of at Britten Sinfonia, and it’s certainly not what I could have imagined when I checked the ACE NPO news at St Pancras just over a year ago!