Cumbria Calling

Cumbria Calling is a partnership project with Cumbria Music Education Hub that aims to develop young composers across Cumbria giving them the unique opportunity to compose alongside a professional composer and orchestra and to have their collective work performed by the Cumbria Youth Orchestra.

The programme developed out of two previous young producer focused projects including the award-winning FLAME project where young people produced their own orchestral concerts for primary schools in north Cumbria.

Cumbria Calling, 2017

From the outset Cumbria Calling has sought to reach and involve young people either as participants or audience in some of the remotest areas of Cumbria. Young people are recruited from schools to join a young composers group who then work with composer Andy Smith and a team of musicians from Manchester Camerata to compose music for the Cumbria Youth Orchestra (CYO). The programme in 2017 was centered on Carlisle and in 2018 on the Eden Valley drawing young people from town such as Ullswater, Appleby and Penrith as well as several very remote lakeland villages such as Lowther, Milburn and Asby.

A key element of the programme is a residential weekend where the composer, musicians and teachers from the music service gather to create the new work. There they learnt how to compose, socialised with young people outside of their school and friendship groups and spend time with professional musicians. 

“[My daughter] has had an amazing time, and the compositions that us parents heard at the pick up were just fantastic!  She is still buzzing and is really looking forward to the next meet up now!” Parent comment

Further workshops then took place with CYO to workshop the music and form it into a new piece. In 2017, Tales of Cumberland was composed for the CYO and singers, conducted by Alice Farnham at The Sands Centre, Carlisle.

“Tales of Cumberland – a piece worthy of performance anywhere in the country.” Simon Yeo, Head of Service, Cumbria Music Education Hub



Tales of Eden – Cumbria Calling 2, 2018

This year the young composers were recruited from secondary schools in the Eden Valley with 4 composers from year one becoming mentors. They composed Tales of Eden for primary school choirs and CYO which was performed at Sand Centre this month.

The project has developed a mentoring programme where young composers mentor others and signposts further education and career pathways in the creative industries. In fact, one of the composers has secured a place at Birmingham Conservatoire to study composition this year and others are considering careers in music and teaching.

The project had a significant impact on young people not usually engaged with mainstream music activities leading to new skills acquired, increased confidence and skills in composing and the desire to continue as a young composers group in the county.

The opportunity to work with a live orchestra to explore composition ideas and have their work performed by an orchestra was highly rated by the young people. The young composers were also part of the performance; some of them had never having performed with so many other players before.

“It was great. I’ve really enjoyed all aspects of the project. I have made new friends and learnt so much about writing music and how an orchestra works.” Participant


Coastal Connections – Cumbria Calling 3

‘Coastal Connections’ is well underway. With support from an Arts Council England National Lottery Project grant, Cumbria Music Education Hub (MEH), Orchestras Live and Cumbria County Council Community funds from Copeland and Allerdale, a week of workshops with composer Andy Smith and musicians from Manchester Camerata took place in January 2019 and 21 young people drawn from secondary schools in Millom, Egremont, Whitehaven and Workington signed up to join the project. In addition to these workshops, Manchester Camerata musicians and Cumbria MEH hosted informal ‘come and play’ sessions for local musicians at libraries in west Cumbria. Composition remains at the heart of the project, but this year the group gets to work with the orchestra not only composing new music for two primary schools concerts at Lakes College, Lillyhall, near Workington, but also choosing the repertoire for the whole concert. Young composers from years one and two are acting as mentors to the new recruits who have now completed a further one day workshop and two day residential weekend at Rosehill Theatre, Whitehaven with the Cumbria MEH and Manchester Camerata teams. One further workshop in March will see the composition finalised leaving Andy Smith with the task of orchestrating the new piece for performance by Cumbria Youth Orchestra and Manchester Camerata in July 2019.

Read about Emma and Ombretta’s experience of composing for Cumbria Calling 3 here.