On Tuesday 1st September, the Wiltshire Music Centre reopened its doors and brought live music back to Wiltshire. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wiltshire Music Centre has lain dormant for over six months. On 18th March, all events and activities at the Centre were suspended until further notice and the enormous financial challenge that this brought about threatened its very return.
In July the Centre launched a £60,000 Community Fundraising Appeal to help to reopen the venue and deliver an exciting Autumn Winter programme that puts the community centre stage. With the closure impacting over 65,000 people who regularly play, teach, learn, listen and enjoy music through WMC programmes, the aim was to get back to business as soon as possible: to continue delivering vital creative community projects, reopen the Centre for community use, and deliver a mini concert series with opportunities for live and digital audiences.
With over £32,871 raised to date, Wiltshire Music Centre is now able to take its first steps into turning these bold plans into reality. Funds raised through the appeal will enable the Centre to reprise its role as a vibrant and busy community centre, welcoming back teachers, students, choirs, ensembles and community groups for activities in the Centre’s nine teaching and practice spaces. New measures have been put in place across the venue to keep visitors, musicians and staff members safe, including new room layouts and a one-way system, clear signage and hand sanitiser across the building, and the wearing of a face covering is highly recommended.
“As a base for baby and toddler groups, a rehearsal space for local choirs and bands, a meeting place for invaluable support groups and with over 2,700 music lessons every year, WMC is almost never quiet! We’ve missed the bustle of people coming into the building every day to enjoy music together, the hubbub of activity from young musicians and conversations in corridors between artists and teachers lending professional support to one another. The exceptional past six months have demonstrated just how important our role is as a community centre first and foremost.”
- Maud Saint-Sardos, Chief Executive
To celebrate its reopening, on Saturday 26th September the Centre plans to host a FREE community concert, featuring performances by many of the local groups who work out of the Centre – including Wiltshire Young Musicians, the Zone Club and many more – followed by an energetic performance by local folk stars the Carrivick Sisters. Bring the family, a picnic and the sunshine if you can for this fantastic outdoor concert on the lawn, which marks the start of WMC’s return to live events.
From October to December, funds raised through the appeal will also enable WMC to deliver a dynamic mini concert series by world class jazz, classical and folk artists. Kicking off with a sensational night of jazz cabaret with star singer Claire Martin and Nikki Iles, and featuring our resident artists the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Tom Poster and the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective, as well as award-winning folk group Leveret, the series will comprise 15 concerts performed live from the WMC stage.
Priority booking for the new season will open for Friends in late September, with shows on sale to the general public from the beginning of October. News about booking will be released on the website and social media in the coming weeks.
With social distancing in place, live audience capacity will be limited for these events. However, during September, WMC’s recording studio will be transformed into a new state-of-the-art broadcast suite, following a major digital investment to enable high quality livestreaming from the WMC auditorium funded through a government Bounce Back loan and donations from generous benefactors. Audiences will be able to tune in from home to experience the quality and joy of WMC’s visiting artists performing live from the WMC auditorium, which boasts one of the finest acoustics outside of London. Eight concerts are planned to be broadcast, with ticket income from digital audiences together with funds raised through the Appeal helping to underpin the Centre’s community programmes.
“We are very proud to be able to present a mini season of live and online events in the coming months, and the opportunity to “get back to normal” by inviting some of our regular artists to perform again on the WMC stage feels very special. We also look forward to developing our online offer and to provide new opportunities to engage in music making for both our concert audiences and wider community. The transformational impact of our new live stream broadcast capabilities is very exciting and we will make sure that the online experience is as rich and interactive as the live one. We look forward to sharing the new season with you and to welcoming you back to the Centre very soon.”
- James Slater, Artistic Director.
From September, WMC will lead the second phase of the Celebrating Age Wiltshire project in partnership with Age UK, Community First and arts and cultural organisations across the county. Livestreamed and pre-recorded concerts, one-to-one support and outdoor performances will support the wellbeing of thousands of vulnerable older people including those living with dementia and their carers. Meanwhile, monthly Zone Club creative sessions for young learning-disabled adults are set to continue, together with progression opportunities for young musicians through the West of England Youth Orchestra, Wiltshire Youth Jazz Orchestra and Wiltshire Jazz Academy, alongside new projects working with Wiltshire schools to provide additional music activities and support for pupils when they return.
Reopening the Centre, gradually reintroducing live events and committing to vital community projects would not be possible without early donations to the Centre’s Community Fundraising Appeal and the generosity of its Friends, sponsors and supporters. While the Centre has explored all financial avenues to continue its work, with the current uncertainty surrounding the arts and creative industries every pound helps, so please help us to reach our £60,000 target and put the community centre stage.
To find out more about the appeal and how you can get involved, click here.