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15 concerts. 5 days. 2,000 children, and 6 happy but very tired musicians.

That’s one way of summarising our recent tour of Peterborough primary schools with The Robot and The Bluebird, our brand new Key Stage 1 show by Raph Clarkson.

Based on the book by David Lucas, with newly commissioned animations by Vic Craven, the performance gave children the chance to experience live music by Britten Sinfonia in their school environment, to see the instruments up close, and to join in with singing, body percussion, and even a creaking, clanking Robot Dance. This was all led expertly by presenter Sheena Masson and our wonderful quintet, involving flute (& piccolo), clarinet (& bass clarinet), horn, percussion, and double bass.

This is now my third Peterborough schools’ tour, after Billy and the Beast and Izzy Gizmo (which were both fantastic), but this is the first time I have seen Britten Sinfonia develop something entirely from scratch in this way, with 30 minutes’ worth of original music and animations. Clearly, the children thought this was special too: they were amazed to see Raph, the composer – the person who wrote the music and the songs, when he was revealed to be in the same room as them!

I was also impressed to see how well the children had learnt the songs in advance, using the resource pack and videos we had produced and shared with teachers, through Peterborough Music Hub. It made such a difference to see this level of engagement and meant that the children were an integral part of the performance too.

“We were told by teachers who were close to tears that this child had up until this point been non-verbal and this was the first time they had heard them make a sound.”

One of the most special moments, however, took place in the final session, at Ormiston Meadows Academy. During the performance, I had noticed a child at the back of the hall continuing to sing the songs on their own, even after the music had moved on. We were then told at the end, by teachers who were close to tears, that this particular child had (up until this point) been non-verbal and this was the first time they had heard them make a sound.

I think this says a lot about the importance of live music in schools, and experiences like this, which we hope will inspire children and give them something "beyond" what they would usually have access to.

“This was for many their first experience of live theatre. It has certainly impacted their creativity, confidence, curiosity, and imagination in all the right ways.”
Teacher, West Town Primary Academy, Peterborough

We are glad to be continuing the project with follow-up weekly extension workshops in two schools this term, with support from Orchestras Live and Peterborough Music Hub, where the children will be creating their own music inspired by the Robot’s journey. And we are already underway with delivering our next two schools’ tours this month: Tiny Magic Orchestra with Charlotte Jolly in Essex schools, and Once Upon a Tune with James Mayhew in Peterborough and Fenland. It seems there's no stopping for the L&P team just yet!

Lauren Hill