Partner Post is a series of blog posts written by our project partners, showcasing the impact of collaborative co-producing. Here Catherine Bullough, Community and Outreach Manager at the Philharmonia Orchestra, shares her experiences of working in partnership with Orchestras Live to produce Hear and Now.
Like arts organisations across the country, the Philharmonia, Orchestras Live and our community partners ventured into the virtual world to deliver an online Hear and Now project in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Initial conversations began in April, bringing the partners together to discuss ways we could use our shared resources and enthusiasm to connect with participants, young and old, to create the same sense of connection, openness and artistic quality of work that makes Hear and Now so special when we meet face-to-face.
Our partnership with Orchestras Live has been incredibly valuable in shaping this new phase of Hear and Now. Building on our 11-year partnership, we were able to carefully rethink and craft the way that we present our work for an online format. We had originally envisioned a small handful of Zoom workshops across spring to reconnect with and uplift participants until we were able to meet with the group again in person. Through initial conversations with Orchestras Live, we were supported to explore the artistic potential of the project if we fully embraced the digital format. Following the success of our co-produced 10th anniversary performance and associated research project in 2019 we felt in a confident position to aspire to an artistically ambitious, multi-layered project that pushed the boundaries of what we thought might be possible.
What resulted was a two-phase project across 2020. A pilot project was delivered through spring/summer and Phase Two is being delivered in the autumn. In Phase Two, we’ll be working with a filmmaker and visual artist, who will enable us to make a virtual performance that builds on the emerging themes to share voices from across the generations. We hope that the film will have a national reach through Philharmonia and Orchestra’s Live’s platforms, reaching our shared ambition of placing participants at the core of our work and championing voices from across the country.
So far, some huge positives have emerged; for the first time, we have been able to unite two separate projects in Bedford and Leicester, with bonds forming between participants and group leaders from across the country; we have been able to widen the group of participants who would normally face barriers to attending workshops in person (e.g. transport, timing, illness) who can now join a workshop from home; and we have been able to maximise our budget without project costs like travel, hotels etc.
There have also been some challenges: the differences in the way that younger and older people interact with technology really come to the surface in a project such as this; young people tend to be able to multi-task, sometimes with their cameras off, and be really active on the chat function. Our task as the delivery team is to keep the pace of the session just right for both groups. We’ve made a conscious effort to balance moments of noise and unsynchronised sounds to a minimum, which can be uncomfortable and jarring on the ear, whilst also acknowledging that hearing others sing and make music is important to maintain the sense of togetherness.
The shared commitment of partnerships in Hear and Now is what makes a project like this possible. To date, the project has reached 75 participants and we hope to reach 100 by the end of Phase Two. To involve participants without internet access, we’re using Southbank Centre’s Art by Post booklets as inspiration for devising work so that their creative contributions can be included in the final film.
We hope to carry forward the learning from this virtual work beyond the pandemic, continuing to work in close partnership with Orchestras Live to maintain an element of online work to widen the reach Hear and Now in the Bedford and Leicester community.
Catherine BulloughCommunity and Outreach Manager, Philharmonia Orchestra
Partner Post is a series of blog posts written by our project partners, showcasing the impact of collaborative co-producing.
Catherine Bullough is Community and Outreach Manager at the Philharmonia Orchestra; a world-class symphony orchestra based in London at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, and with a network of residencies across the UK. The Philharmonia’s Learning & Engagement projects aim to inspire, excite, empower and engage a broad range of participants across the UK, co-created with partners in their residency communities.
Hear and Now is a unique musical collaboration between older people living with dementia and their carers; young singers and instrumentalists from grassroots community organisations and local primary schools; and members of the Philharmonia Orchestra. Read about Hear and Now on the Philharmonia's website.