Classically Yours

In 2018, Orchestras Live won the RPS (Royal Philharmonic Society) Music Award for Audiences and Engagement, with our partner East Riding of Yorkshire Council, for our flagship project, Classically Yours.

What we wanted to achieve

Originally conceived for Hull UK City of Culture in 2017, Classically Yours aims to engage new audiences by addressing the inequalities of opportunity to access high quality live orchestral music in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Many people in the region are unable to access world-class orchestral music due to living in geographically dispersed communities with limited public transport and minimal cultural infrastructure. There is a belief that culture happens elsewhere with cultural engagement in the region currently in the lowest third nationally (Active Lives Survey 2018).

We set out to work with local communities and Manchester Camerata and Sinfonia Viva, to start to offer opportunities to engage with orchestral music, and to begin to transform people's perceptions of classical music.

In its first three years, Classically Yours has engaged over 1,000 people across the East Riding.

Small groups of dancers perform between round tables of audience members with an orchestra behind on stage

Viennese Gala with Sinfonia Viva and East Riding Youth Dance in 2017

Credit: Jan Ford

Thank you for letting my music makers be part of this amazing project. It has rekindled my desire to get music out to communities and made me realise that what I do in my corner of the county is valuable and essential in bringing people together.

~ Project participant group leader

What we did

The target project audience is young people, families, older people, people with disabilities and voluntary music-making groups living in isolated coastal and rural areas; communities where aspirations have been undermined by lack of opportunity and a belief that culture happens elsewhere.

We want to transform these long held beliefs. Working collaboratively with Manchester Camerata and Sinfonia Viva, we initially devised an interconnected programme of participatory and concert activities in consultation with local music organisations. Activities have engaged older people in care homes, community and school choirs, pre-school aged children, a learning disability theatre group and the County Youth Orchestra; activities ranged from regular creative workshops to performance opportunities.

Public concerts took place in small to mid-scale venues, often first-time orchestral music promoters, but chosen for their familiarity to local people. Classically Yours has helped develop the promoters' skills and expertise through testing new concert formats, involving audiences in programming and promoting a varied orchestral series. Consequently, a critical mass of audiences for the longer term has been established.

Keep doing [Classically Yours concerts]! I don't want to have to travel to Hull City Hall to see an orchestra.

~ Audience Member, Bridlington Spa

Outcomes

At the end of our first two-year phase, our partnerships have:

  • Developed and sustained new audiences in the East Riding, where new audiences rose from a previous 4% to 25% in Year 1. In Year 2 repeat mailing list bookers rose from 7% to 17%.
  • Supported wider audience development for events outside the Classically Yours programme with evidence of an increase in new bookers.
  • Stimulated live music audiences in Withernsea, a small 6,000-strong community with no previous track record of concert-going, sustained into Year 3 with 22% new bookers for concerts.
  • Discovered large latent demand for orchestral music with families with younger children.
  • Increased the number of concerts and orchestras programmed in East Riding each year, and substantially improved the range and quality of the classical music offer.
  • Seen positive impact on community cohesion and artistic ambition.
People dancing in front of an orchestra on a stage.

The Hallé performing at Bridlington Spa as part of Classically Yours.

Credit: Jan Ford

We believe our RPS win was a watershed moment for community engagement. The RPS Music Awards are the highest recognition for live classical music in this country – the Oscars of the music sector – and our win placed projects truly driven by their local participants alongside the most prestigious orchestral venues and programmes in the UK.

That was brilliant. Would like more of this local to Withernsea. Inclusion of the primary school class was a lovely touch.

~ Audience Member, 'At Home' concert in Withernsea

Future plans

  • The next stage of Classically Yours will culminate with two large-scale events in Bridlington and Withernsea in March 2020, with workshops beginning in autumn 2019.
  • Additional support has been secured from East Riding Council’s Public Health department to support the continuation of the 'At Home' element of Classically Yours with Manchester Camerata in up to 8 residential care homes in Withernsea and Holderness areas.
  • We will continue to work with partners to develop spaces that can accommodate bigger audiences and larger-scale music events in Withernsea.
  • We will be working with East Riding Council Adult Services to develop a music and dance programme for older people and producing more events for families.
  • We will be linking in to county health and wellbeing initiatives such as Active Withernsea and seeking further investment to continue the programme beyond 2020.

Partners, performers and venues

Orchestras Live, East Riding of Yorkshire Council (Arts, Community and Public Health), East Riding Music Education Hub, ReMarkable Arts, Manchester Camerata, Sinfonia Viva, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, The Hallé, The Multi-Story Orchestra, James Redwood, Richard Taylor, Tim Steiner, Bridlington Spa, Toll Gavel Church Beverley, Meridian Centre Withernsea, Pocklington Arts Centre, Arts Council England, Foyle Foundation.