In December 2017, the Wiltshire Music Centre (WMC) in Bradford on Avon launched its 20th Anniversary year and with it an ambitious appeal to raise £100,000 to support the Centre’s future. This spring it has reached its target with the help of thousands of local supporters.
Originally founded in 1997 as a rehearsal space for young musicians, over the last 20 years the Centre has blossomed into a professional concert hall of national repute, presenting over 160 performances every year from some of the world’s finest classical, jazz, folk and world musicians, alongside rising stars and local talent. The Centre has also developed into a Creative Learning powerhouse, delivering c.30 community projects every year across the county, including its flagship Zone Club for young learning disabled adults, in-schools workshops led by visiting artists and the regional youth symphony and jazz orchestras: The West of England Youth Orchestra and Wiltshire Youth Jazz Orchestra.
“When we opened back in 1997 we had incredible hopes and dreams for the Centre. I am really proud to say that the Centre has exceeded all of them.” - Keith Nimmo, Founding Artistic Director
The Centre's programmes have grown considerably over the last 20 years and, in 2017, the Centre set out its plans to invest further in its future. Throughout its 20th Anniversary year and into 2019, WMC has been fundraising towards an exceptional £100,000 appeal to support its Artistic and Creative Learning programmes and a major auditorium lighting upgrade to help to radically improve the Centre’s energy efficiency and sustainability.
In order to realise this ambitious target, the Centre has been rallying the support of its committed audiences, volunteers and stakeholders through a range of fundraising activities, including special concerts and events, a charity auction, written appeals and participation in the M&S Energy Fund competition, in which 1,964 supporters voted to help to win the Centre £12,000 in funding towards the lighting upgrade as part of the appeal. This week the Centre has announced that it has reached its target and, with the generous support of its donors, including sponsorship from The Doric Group, grant support from The Roper Foundation, Climate Friendly Bradford on Avon and match-funding of £25,000 from the Coles-Medlock Foundation, over £101,700 has been raised (including Gift Aid).
This incredible support has enabled the Centre to embark on a string of new projects over the last year, including the launch of a new Young String Quartet Fellowship in association with the Royal Academy of Music and the Doric String Quartet, providing a year of mentoring and performance opportunities for young chamber musicians at the start of their careers; and a ‘Big Family Music Day’ which in 2018 attracted over 300 children, parents and grandparents for a jam-packed interactive creative day including instrumental taster-sessions, workshops and performances. The Big Family Music Day returns this summer on Saturday 22nd June 2019 – tickets are on sale now and are available from wiltshiremusic.org.uk or from the WMC Box Office on 01225 860100.
In August 2018, funds raised through the appeal helped to support a week-long tour to the South of France for 76 young musicians from the West of England Youth Orchestra and Wiltshire Youth Jazz Orchestra, providing an exceptional opportunity for these talented young musicians to experience first-hand the thrills and demands of an international performing career.
Whilst in November 2018, the appeal also supported the Centre to host national disability arts festival, Fast Forward, in partnership with Bristol Music Trust, to celebrate and share its award-winning disability arts practice developed through Zone Club, and launch a new artistic residency for sensational jazz pianist Derek Paravicini who is blind and autistic.
However, perhaps the most significant investment supported through the appeal was the major upgrade of the Centre’s auditorium lighting in August 2018. Through this essential work, the Centre has been able to replace 20 year-old halogen lamps with a brand new LED system and install new state-of-the-art lighting software, helping not only to significantly improve the Centre’s energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint by a massive 84%, but also to provide a breadth of new lighting capabilities, supporting a more diverse range of performances and opportunities for community use. It’s even funded a shiny new disco ball, much to the appreciation of audiences of the Centre’s jazz and folk music programme!
Speaking to this incredible achievement, Chief Executive Maud Saint-Sardos said:
“This appeal marked a significant step-up in WMC’s fundraising activities and an opportunity to share our story far and wide, recognising the Centre’s rich history but also its potential to be even more extraordinary in the years to come. We are so very grateful to all those who have supported this appeal and given us the confidence, in spite of a highly competitive and uncertain arts-funding environment, to continue to be bold and ambitious with our programming. We can’t wait to see what the next 20 years brings. Thank you!”