Hear and Now, our intergenerational community project with the Philharmonia Orchestra, celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.
Senior Creative Producer, Stuart Bruce, shares his thoughts on how organisations can build sustainable long-term partnerships, which have real impact for their participants.
Hear and Now started life as a project to explore primarily the relevance of an international symphony orchestra to people living in Bedford, and has evolved into an award-winning community initiative that unites young people, older people living with dementia and carers in shared music-making, with profound benefits for all.
Whilst one-off events can be enjoyable, even inspirational, they are unlikely to bring about any real long-lasting change. Only by taking a long-term approach can a relationship take shape and find its path. And it does take time for trust to be built and the partnership to become confident.
Sustaining a project over ten years takes a lot of resourcing. In the case of Hear and Now, it has been achieved by Orchestras Live and the Philharmonia jointly undertaking a rolling fundraising strategy. Of course, with an international schedule the orchestral musicians cannot be in Bedford all the time, so it was essential to include the core groups’ own music leaders in the artistic delivery team, harnessing their invaluable experience and contributing to their professional development. We have also encouraged some of the young and older project participants to develop their own leadership skills, learning alongside the professional leaders, to help increase local cultural capacity.
A collaborative way of working is familiar to many artists and orchestras but it can at first be scary for people who have always thought of music in a particular way, especially for older people who might be disconcerted by the fluid, open-ended way in which the music work is created. It took a couple of projects for the Hear and Now participants to get a feel for the process and step out of their comfort zone. Over time the project has become increasingly transformative, with music-making providing the key to unlocking greater participation and confidence.
From my perspective, the reason Hear and Now has thrived for ten years is because it has been a constant evolution. It has never stood still. Not simply repeating a tried and tested formula because it worked in the past. What it has been is something rooted in the unique contribution that disparate individuals can bring to a collective endeavour, becoming a true celebration of all our skills and talents, life experiences, energy and the joy and wonder that comes from creating music together.