Tuesday 31 August 2010

Current Funding Situation

by Will Harriss, Development Director

Along with some 880 other arts organisations across England, Britten Sinfonia is an RFO – one of Arts Council England’s Regularly Funded Organisations. The funding, which for Britten Sinfonia is worth some £341,000 for the current financial year, enables the orchestra to plan and present its award-winning concerts and productions. It enables us to present guest artists of world-class calibre to audiences who may otherwise not get the opportunity to hear them live. It also gives us the ability to plan further ahead, a crucial factor when commissioning and engaging artists and composers who are much in demand by orchestras across the world.

The support we receive from Arts Council England is longstanding and important. It means much more than just money too; the Eastern region ACE office (through whom we are funded) provide advice, ideas, and support when we need it, and their core funding is the basis on which much other funding (for instance from trusts, foundations, and individual donors) can be leveraged.

Things are changing however. The spectre of public funding cuts is looming, and on 20 October, when the government’s spending review is announced, we (and every other RFO) will discover just what the future is likely to hold. Current forecasts differ depending on what you read, but cuts of around 25% could be on the cards for Arts Council England-funded organisations.

On the one hand this all sounds quite bleak, with funding cuts having the potential to do real damage to the culture of innovation and quality that has been fostered over the last decade. For Britten Sinfonia, the impact of such a cut would be significant, although we believe there are also many positives to take from the situation.

As an organisation one of our key principles has always been that we should be ‘fleet of foot’ – able to respond quickly, proactively, and innovatively to changes as they occur. The same principles apply to how we treat the new and emerging funding landscape. The reduction in public funding challenges us to do something different and to think creatively about how we respond to what is undoubtedly going to be a tough few months and years.

Despite the funding challenges our artistic vision and standards of world-class excellence remain undiluted. As we approach our 20th birthday in 2012 we’re planning ever more thrilling concert programmes, matched by an increasingly adventurous Creative Learning programme. We’ll be performing more concerts, in more venues than ever before. From chamber recitals to performances at the Royal Opera House, there’s a lot going on.

A compelling artistic programme needs resource to make it happen. We’re actively planning how to increase our financial support from individual givers (watch out for the fundraising campaign in the autumn, or click here to join us right now as a Friend, from just £50), as well as from trusts and foundations, and from corporate donors. We consider ourselves to be an efficient, well-governed organisation with great ideas and an important case for support.

What can you do to help? Well, please do consider joining us as a Friend, from just £50 per year. Whatever £4.16 a month means to you, it certainly means a whole lot to us. Come and establish your own musical legacy by supporting our groundbreaking commissioning programme, or even support the chairs of one of our virtuosic Principal Players.

If there’s ever a time that we need our Friends it’s now. Pledge your support and in return we will give you unforgettable performances, excellent new commissions, and the chance to meet some of the artists who are shaping the musical landscape of today.

It’s a brave new funding world, but we’re looking forward to the future. Come and be part of it and make a difference.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

A Continuing Relationship

by James MacMillan

This October Britten Sinfonia and Nicholas Daniel will premiere James MacMillan's new Oboe Concerto in a series of concerts (which he will also conduct) in Birmingham, London, Norwich and Cambridge. The orchestra will also be performing a number of his tribute pieces during the first concert in our At Lunch series. In this article James describes his ongoing relationship with Britten Sinfonia and how it has grown over the years.

As a composer and conductor it is wonderful to have an ongoing relationship with a particular orchestra like the one I have with Britten Sinfonia. It allows you to really get to the heart of an ensemble; to get to know the players well and what their strengths are, to understand their philosophy and vision, and to see an orchestra develop and grow.

Britten Sinfonia have performed my music since their inception but our relationship really took off when the orchestra performed (and I conducted) the world premiere of my opera, Parthenogenesis in 2000 in Cambridge and at the Edinburgh International Festival that same year. Last year we revived this at the Royal Opera House in a new version directed by Katie Mitchell which was particularly thrilling. There have been a number of other collaborations, notably a tour of the UK and Netherlands featuring the concert premiere of my Second Piano Concerto and I’m delighted to see is featured again in Britten Sinfonia’s 2010/11 season in May 2011.

This season I am closely involved in several exciting projects with Britten Sinfonia. Their award-winning Lunchtime series features a number of my ‘tribute’ pieces – these are a selection of short works that I have dedicated to people I have known or admired. I am incredibly touched that Peter Maxwell Davies is to write a new piece for this series of concerts. His influence has pervaded the UK and international music scene and I have admired his work for a number of years. I can’t wait to hear what he has written!

In October my new work, an Oboe Concerto for Britten Sinfonia and Nicholas Daniel will premiere at Birmingham Town Hall, who have also co-commissioned the work, before touring the UK. The concerto is written specifically for Nick, and is the result of a number of years knowing and working with him. The work will be a little over 20 minutes, and is in three movements. The really hard work on it has been in the last six months, and in the work are some allusions to another solo piece of mine – ‘In Augustiis’ – which is also in Nick’s repertoire. I will also be conducting this concert which includes music by two composers that are particularly close to my heart, Shostakovich and Beethoven.

I am sure these projects will only deepen already fruitful relationship with Britten Sinfonia and we are already planning some exciting collaborations for the future – watch this space!

James MacMillan