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In 1813, the Philharmonic Society was founded by a group of musicians who set out to establish a lasting performance culture and repertory, playing a central role in making the UK an essential destination for classical music. This award – first presented in 2019 – celebrates those who in unique and contemporary ways continue to break new ground in classical music. It is specially presented by the Board and Council of the RPS to an initiative, individual, group or organisation for their inspirational and transformative work. In 2024 we proudly presented this award to:

Sara Lee and the Irene Taylor Trust

Here is the full citation read by RPS Chairman John Gilhooly:

'All of us are here because we believe in, and have benefitted from, the power of music. From time to time, even we devotees can find ourselves newly awed and humbled by its effect. I certainly felt this, as many others have, on my first encounter with this year’s Gamechanger. I’ll tell you their name then permit me to share a little of their story.

Our Award this year goes to Sara Lee and the Irene Taylor Trust.

Sara has devoted her life to using music to help and empower those whose lives are impacted by the criminal justice system. In the 1980s, she was music coordinator at Wormwood Scrubs. Her work at the time was commended by Irene Taylor, wife of the Lord Chief Justice. Following Irene’s death in 1995, her family invited Sara to set up the trust in her name which ever since has been the UK’s leading force in this field.

The Irene Taylor Trust started in Sara’s front room and has bloomed thanks to her signature tenacity and optimism. The Trust not only leads creative projects in prisons, it’s having a powerful presence in communities, using music to fortify people who have found themselves cast to the fringes of society. The Trust also engages those who have been released from prison, and young people who have experienced challenging circumstances in their lives, harnessing their creativity to help them find their path toward positive futures. The Trust isn’t the only organisation doing such work but they have been a trailblazer for almost 30 years, challenging themselves to do better and do more, always eager to partner with and encourage others to join the cause, and being a catalyst for good in the lives of literally thousands.

To touch on just one of the Trust’s many inspirational ventures, The Lullaby Project helps people rebuild bonds after experiences in the criminal justice system and other marginalised settings. Collaborating with musicians from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, participants have found new creativity, confidence, and means of expression – writing, performing, and recording lullabies for their children – restoring trust and bringing families back together. This initiative and others have radiated internationally, with Chicago Symphony Orchestra inviting Sara and her colleagues to lead the projects with their musicians in their communities too. Politicians and policy-makers, pay heed: here is living proof of music helping society to heal. Here we see music as a gamechanger in itself.

Most humbling of all is the humanity with which it’s delivered. The Trust is a tiny organisation with very small resource but the biggest of hearts. It’s testament to how devoted Sara and her colleagues are that they cannot in fact be with us in person tonight. As I speak, they are in Chicago fulfilling their latest project there. Nonetheless, we’re so pleased to present a little picture of what they do, along with a special message from Sara and from Noble, a young man who has found his calling with support and encouragement from the Trust...

Please join me in showing our appreciation and admiration for this year’s Gamechanger: Sara Lee and the Irene Taylor Trust.'