Bristol Music Trust, the Barbican and Sage Gateshead team up

Bristol Music Trust and the award-winning music education hub, Bristol Plays Music, is forming a partnership with the Barbican and Sage Gateshead to promote excellence, inclusion and accessibility in music education and the music industry.

The partnership will focus on providing high quality music opportunities for young people who have fewer chances to take part in music education, including those with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Though the National Plan for Music Education came into force in 2012, there remain significant barriers to musicians with special educational needs and disabilities and from Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds accessing high-quality training and progression opportunities. Government statistics show that disabled people and members of the BAME community have much lower levels of engagement with arts and culture (see below).

The partnership will work together to explore how modern concert halls and performing arts centres can create change through greater social connections with communities and by taking a joined up approach to cultural infrastructure and practice. It will explore increasing the diversity of audiences, leadership and the role of orchestras in our cultural venues with the three venues sharing best practice, resources and expertise.

The partnership will be announced at a reception in the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday 21 November, where cross-party MPs and Government representatives will speak in support of the initiative. The event will also feature a performance from Ellen O’Brien, an award-winning principal French Horn player in the Bristol Youth Orchestra and the South West Open Youth Orchestra, and a speech from Dr Clarence Adoo MBE, Orchestral and Health Programme Leader at Sage Gateshead.

Launching the partnership, Louise Mitchell, Chief Executive of Bristol Music Trust, said:

“It is exciting to be able to announce our strategic partnership with two of the most dynamic arts centres in the UK. Together we will pool our strengths to ensure concert halls are squarely addressing community need and proving their worth on a local and national scale.”

Backing the partnership, Bristol Music Trust’s MP and once a cellist in the National Youth Orchestra herself, Thangam Debbonaire said:

“I was trained as a classical musician and I certainly noticed that I was usually the only non-white person in the orchestra. I also know it was difficult for musicians with disabilities to take part easily. Music brings great joy, it belongs to everyone and should not be the preserve of a small group. I am proud that Bristol Music Trust and their partners are helping to make music truly accessible for all, a huge leap forward in my lifetime.”

The three members of the partnership will share with each other their particular areas of expertise in a bid to open up more opportunities for diverse musicians to progress:

  • The Bristol Music Trust, which this month announced a creative partnership with The Paraorchestra and Friends, will focus on working with its partners to deliver high-quality, accessible arts and music training for people with SEND at its iconic Colston Hall venue.
  • The Barbican runs a joint Creative Learning division with the Guildhall School of Music & Drama to support people of all ages and backgrounds to access and engage with world-class arts. Creative Learning programmes and events reached almost 80,000 people last year with projects including Interlock: Friends Pictured Within, which involved 150 local community members collaborating to create a multimedia installation to welcome Sir Simon Rattle to the London Symphony Orchestra.
  • Sage Gateshead delivers a wide programme of artist development, supporting young artists in challenging circumstances, with special educational needs and disabilities.

Sean Gregory, Director of Learning & Engagement for the Barbican and Guildhall School of Music & Drama, said:

“The Barbican believes that the arts should be accessible to all and we are delighted to be collaborating with Bristol Music Trust and Sage Gateshead. We share a collective desire to achieve sustainable social impact through the arts and we are looking forward to working together to further promote inclusion and accessibility in music-making.”

Dr Clarence Adoo MBE, Orchestral and Health Programme Leader at Sage Gateshead, said:

“At Sage Gateshead we believe all people should have equal opportunities to engage with music. We could not be more pleased to share a vision of musical inclusion with our partners. Collectively we can increase social connection with our communities and demonstrate how music can contribute to addressing some of the most significant health and social problems.”