Encountering Wordsworth

Encountering Wordsworth celebrated the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth through an inclusive large-scale music, poetry and multi-media partnership project, bringing together primary schools and young composers to create a new composition inspired by Wordsworth and his relationship with nature.

What we wanted to achieve

Encountering Wordsworth is the fourth in the annual Cumbria Calling projects produced in collaboration with Cumbria Music Service and Manchester Camerata, which have been developing a cohort of local young composers to create new music inspired by their local community. The project began life as a series of discussions between Wordsworth Grasmere, Cumbria Music Hub and Orchestras Live about how to involve the wider community in Cumbria in an exploration of Wordsworth’s work and philosophy through music and visual arts, before settling on the final concept in early 2019.

It's really been a great experience for me. I love the feeling that you get when you can hear your ideas in this beautiful piece of music played by a professional orchestra.

~ Young composer

What we did

Creative work began with inspiration days with Wordsworth Grasmere during autumn 2019. The young composers and schools explored Dove cottage, learnt about Wordsworth’s life and poetry, wrote their own poems, went on a soundwalk to take field recordings of the environment in Grasmere and began to create their own music with Manchester Camerata. A series of workshops with each group followed focusing on different aspects of the creative work. These different elements would be brought together to form a large-scale piece by composer and arranger Laura Bowler, sound artist Dan Fox and musicians from Manchester Camerata.

  • Cumbria Calling young composers explored the Duddon Sonnets (first published 200 years ago) and ideas about the river as well as the environmental field recordings to begin to create their central ideas. You can listen to a field recording of the Wordsworth drinking fountain by Dan Fox here. They were also joined by students from Sandgate School where they shared their musical ideas and improvised together, listening and learning about how to respond to each other musically in the moment.
  • Students at Sandgate School and music therapist Annie Ruscillo worked with Dan Fox and staff from Cumbria Music Hub in creative sessions exploring the responses of young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties to the environmental field recordings.
  • Primary schools from Cockermouth, Windermere and Grasmere created their own poetry with poet Polly Atkins. They also explored their responses to and how to think about the environment they live in with Cumbria Development Education Centre.

The final creative workshop and performance in March/April 2020 were postponed due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Project partners moved the final creative workshop online so that the new piece could be completed. As part of this process, the team worked with the Cumbria Calling Young Composers to plan and produce a short film, edited by Dan Fox, to showcase their work. The young people contributed to the film storyboard, identified creative content to use and recorded their own contributions.

A group of musicians sat in a circle playing instruments

Creative workshops with the Cumbria Calling young composers.

Credit: Becky West

Composer Laura Bowler and Manchester Camerata musicians in workshops with Sandgate School.

Credit: Becky West

The project has helped me improve my confidence and make new friends.

~ Young composer

Outcomes

  • A new composition created collaboratively, bringing together creative input from young composers, SEND students and primary school students, engaging 205 participants in total.
  • A short film produced to celebrate Wordsworth's birthday and showcase the music and poetry created by the young people during the project.
  • An extended interview with BBC Radio Cumbria reached a new audience for the project. The broadcast included excerpts from the short film and explored the project with the creative team, resulting in a significant increase in views of the film that week.
  • A performance film was recorded at Ambleside Parish Church in April 2021 to enable the young composers' new piece, Reflections on Wordsworth, to be premiered online.

It’s been such a joy to work on the Encountering Wordsworth young composer’s material because it is so rich, my job was just to orchestrate it.

~ Laura Bowler, composer/arranger

Future plans

The Reflections on Wordsworth film is being premiered on 28 July at an online event with Wordsworth Grasmere celebrating the Still Glides the Stream exhibition and will be available to view on YouTube.

Reflections on Wordsworth will be screened across Cumbria in summer 2021, with a schools broadcast through Connect:Resound on 30 September.

It is currently showing at the new Wordsworth Grasmere Museum in their special re-opening exhibition Still Glides the Stream, exploring the Duddon Sonnets.

Partners, performers and supporters

Encountering Wordsworth is an inclusive large-scale music, poetry & multi-media project celebrating Wordsworth's 250th birthday featuring:
Cumbria Calling Young Composers
Sandgate School
Fairfield, Grasmere and St Cuthbert’s Windermere Primary Schools
Composer: Laura Bowler
Sound Artist: Dan Fox
Manchester Camerata

Co-produced by Cumbria Music Hub and Orchestras Live in partnership with Wordsworth Grasmere and Cumbria Development Education Centre. We are grateful for funding from Arts Council England, Cumbria County Council Community Grant for South Lakeland and the Scops Arts Trust.