Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford on Avon, have launched a major community fundraising appeal to help the Centre to reopen and deliver a transformational community programme from the Autumn.
On 18th March 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, the Centre was forced to close, putting an abrupt end to the Centre’s world class concert programme and extensive community engagement work: concerts were postponed, projects paused and all activities at the Centre were cancelled until further notice. For the 65,000 people a year that the Centre supports, including audiences, artists, music teachers, pupils, participants, community groups and volunteers, this was a devastating blow. With the loss of almost all earned income overnight, the closure also presented a significant financial challenge.
Undeterred, as the lockdown began, a reduced staff team set about finding new ways to reach out to the community to provide support for the most vulnerable and maintain essential progression routes for young people.
The Centre launched virtual monthly sessions for its award-winning Zone Club, providing young learning-disabled adults with the opportunity to socialise and be creative. During their April session, the Clubbers wrote ‘Take That Ride’, a song reflecting on life in lockdown and a love for the NHS. Watch the video for Take That Ride here:
Meanwhile, online concerts and a special VE Day broadcast on BBC Wiltshire as part of the Celebrating Age Wiltshire project were enjoyed by isolated older people across the county.
In April, a virtual West of England Youth Orchestra (WEYO) day brought together 44 young musicians from home to learn, rehearse and record themes from popular video games Pokémon and Skyrim V: Dragonbourne. Watch the WEYO performance videos of Pokémon and Skyrim V: Dragonbourne on Wiltshire Music Centre’s YouTube Channel.
In June, the Centre launched the Wiltshire Jazz Academy in partnership with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, which provides virtual monthly sessions helping young jazz musicians to take their next steps, as well as delivering free online singing and song writing workshops for national Make Music Day.
Wiltshire Music Centre’s Chief Executive, Maud Saint-Sardos, said, “When the Centre closed, we knew that there would be a great many things that we could no longer do. But if the last few months have taught us anything, its that creativity is the best response to these challenging circumstances and we began turning our attention to what we could do to support our community through this difficult time. We believe in the power of live music to enrich, inspire and transform people’s lives. Now, more than ever before, we need music to bring us back together and help us heal.”
Wiltshire Music Centre aims to raise £60,000 to continue putting the community centre stage through three key strands of activity from the Autumn:
In the community – working with Wiltshire schools to support musical provision for pupils returning in September after months away; leading Phase 2 of the Celebrating Age Wiltshire project, delivering further online events, 1:1 support and outdoor performances to support the wellbeing of thousands of vulnerable older people including those living with dementia and their carers; and extending support for young learning-disabled adults through Zone Club monthly creative sessions and performance opportunities.
At the Centre – providing a safe space for community groups to come together and rehearse once again; reopening teaching and practice rooms for the 2,700 instrumental lessons that place at WMC each year; and supporting regional progressions opportunities for talented young musicians as home to the county youth symphony and jazz orchestras, and a new county youth choir.
From the stage – from Autumn 2020 the Centre plans to gradually and safely welcome back a smaller live audiences for a micro concert season that will showcase some of its most exciting artists; the Centre is also exploring the potential to livestream events directly from the hall in order to maximise community participation.
However, in order to deliver this ambitious programme, Wiltshire Music Centre needs your support.
Despite support through government schemes, tickets donations and an additional Retail and Hospitality grant from Wiltshire Council, since closing the Centre has made a substantial financial loss. The Centre’s full operating costs (excluding concert specific costs) are approximately £45,000 per month. As such, even with the prospect of further government support and further lockdown easing, there is still an enormous task ahead to ensure that the Centre can reopen and reprise its vital role within the community.
As part of the appeal, ‘community heroes’ are invited to join the fundraising team by taking on a personal challenge to raise money in support of the appeal. Skydive? Danceathon? Learn a new instrument? What could you do to support Wiltshire Music Centre?
The Centre is delighted to have received a match-funding grant from the Medlock Charitable Trust as well as a personal pledge by its own Board of Trustees, which will help to increase the value of any donations made to the appeal.