The Nature of Why, Paraorchestra (c) Paul Blakemore

RPS Audience Fund recipients announced

04 Nov 2020

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the RPS Audience Fund, established last year to give classical music organisations the means to devise fresh ways to attract, engage and retain new audiences.

All of us working in classical music believe in its power to inspire and enrich people’s lives. While this is evident to those already acquainted, the challenge persists – arguably now more than ever, in the wake of the pandemic – in sharing that conviction with others, encouraging the population at large to discover classical music’s rewards for themselves.

The RPS Audience Fund is generously granted by the Rachel Baker Memorial Charity, with whom we are pleased to join forces in its delivery. It’s a particularly fitting initiative for us as the Philharmonic Society itself was – in essence – one of the first ever audience development initiatives in classical music: established in 1813 by a group of musicians who wanted to share their music with a wider public, seeking to rouse curiosity and patronage through regular concerts. Their endeavours not only built an audience but established a culture that others were then to emulate, that continues to this day.

Last Autumn, classical music organisations were invited to submit bold ideas for how they might entice new audiences to all that they do. In the Spring, the panel chose five applications to receive a share of the fund totalling £180,000. Over the Summer, those applicants have been addressing how they can still deliver their plans, in light of the pandemic. Some are getting started now, others will take flight when a greater level of concert-going resumes next year.

Scottish Ensemble - '20th-Century Perspectives: City Spaces & Strings' (c) Hugh Carswell

RPS Chief Executive James Murphy says: ‘In all the applications received, there was such an abundance of imagination. That’s heartening to see, given how inventive all organisations need to be now in finding ways to reconnect with audiences. At this time, we hope the five shortlisted initiatives prove particularly enticing and help make the case for how engaging and enlivening classical music can be. We’re very grateful to the Rachel Baker Memorial Charity for giving them the means to do this.’

Recipients of the RPS Audience Fund are:

Aurora Orchestra – Step Inside – a commitment to evolving Aurora’s celebrated memorised performances so audiences can experience performances from inside the orchestra, with a priority of encouraging first-time classical attendees.

City of London Sinfonia – a new approach that will involve audience members in each stage of the orchestra’s creative process over two years, directly involving them in planning meetings, interactively in concerts, and evolving new feedback models afterwards.

London Sinfonietta – Couch to Concert – an initiative to entice absolute beginners to contemporary classical concerts from mid-2021 onwards, emulating the spirit of popular fitness regimes with listening challenges, training podcasts, and visual ‘route maps’ to complex works.

Paraorchestra – the creation of a vital new digital toolkit and short series of online learning classes encouraging venues nationally to take simple steps to broaden access for disabled audiences.

Scottish Ensemble – Sound On – commissioning a series of filmmakers to collaborate with the Ensemble’s players in developing a fresh filmic / cinematic language for classical music, highly distinct from streamed concert footage, to be shared online and through special screen and gallery partnerships – increasing access and exposure amongst new audiences.

A key feature of the Audience Fund is that we will work with all five ensembles to share their progress and findings, from which other classical organisations can hopefully draw useful knowledge and insight to fuel endeavours of their own.