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About Paraorchestra and Friends

In this section

Taken from behind a packed, standing audience, an orchestra on stage, warehouse setting, smokey purple and blue hues

Our mission

Re-inventing the orchestra for the 21st century

Our mission is to redefine what an orchestra can be. We see it as an extraordinary and perfectly synchronised body of instruments that draws on the tradition of centuries but is enriched and expanded by the talents, the instruments and the zeitgeist of the 21st century.

At our core is The British Paraorchestra, the world’s only large-scale ensemble for professional disabled musicians. This boundary-breaking group sets a new template for music-making, either on its own or in collaboration with its two partner ensembles the ‘Friends’ of The British Paraorchestra. These are the Army of Generals; an electrifying ensemble of non-disabled orchestral musicians that has built an enthusiastic following and is famed for its dynamic energy-fuelled performances, and, Charles Hazlewood’s All Star Collective; an electronica band comprising some of the big names of pop and rock world.

A male french horn player plays amongst an audience on stage. A partially obscured femal dancer takes the weight of his wheelchair, tipping him back so that he is on two wheels.

(The Nature of Why at Queen Elizabeth Hall, September 2018, Credit Paul Blakemore)

The visible participation of talented disabled musicians playing old and new repertoire, that includes digital or assistive instruments alongside traditional ones, is a step-change in the world of orchestral music. This new ‘breed’ of orchestra belongs at rock festivals just as much as in a concert hall; creating the potential of reaching a whole new audience for orchestral music.

Bringing together musicians from all three ensembles along with many other, high-profile artists, results in an extensive repertoire of musical excellence. It not only raises the profile of the individuals’ work but also supports a crucial exchange of understanding and abilities between disabled and non-disabled musicians.

This unique collaboration and approach to high-octane music-making is challenging worldwide perceptions of both disabled musicians, and of classical music. And the result is spectacular.

Charles Hazlewood

The Paraorchestra and Friends channels the artistic vision of Charles Hazlewood, the award-winning British conductor and our Artistic Director.

Charles Hazxlewood conducts, arms outstretched, animated face, three string musicians watch and play, a darkened audience in the background

(Charles Hazlewood conducting kraftwerk re:werk at The Marble Factory. Credit Antoine Schroetter)


“Orchestral music is my absolute passion, its ability to uplift, enhance and unite has been a continual revelation since I was a boy. When I started as a young conductor I was frustrated by the narrow confines of ‘classical music’. I wanted to take it out of the concert hall and bring the sheer awesome joy of orchestral performance to all music lovers wherever they are. To prove that you can love rap, folk, and Sibelius! And so started an unconventional conducting career that took a new turn in 2012 when I began working with the British Paraorchestra. These incredible musicians opened my mind to a whole new set of musical possibilities. My work expanded from developing a new audience for orchestral music to re-imagining what an orchestra is.”
Charles Hazlewood

Charles Hazlewood regularly conducts many of the world’s greatest orchestras and collaborates with a huge spectrum of fellow artists from Professor Green to Steve Reich to Nigel Kennedy to Goldie. His fresh performances of music across genres break new ground and excite audiences wherever he performs, but his goal is always the same: exposing the deep, always-modern joy of orchestral music.

The staff

Charles Hazlewood

Artistic Director

Lloyd Coleman

Associate Music Director

Photo of Jonathan Harper, smiling, looking off to the right

Jonathan Harper

CEO / Executive Producer

Hannah Williams Walton, Artistic Prod

Hannah Williams Walton

Artistic Producer

Nicci Bailey

Company Co-ordinator

Laura Evans

Marketing Consultant


Giles Gibbons, Chair

Giles Gibbons is one of Europe’s leading thinkers on the evolving role of organisations in creating a stronger society for us all. For two decades, he has inspired and advised some of the world’s biggest names, to understand, innovate and act on the opportunity to spark social change. Giles is the Founder and CEO of Good Business, a strategy consultancy that works with organisations to be more progressive, and is working with some of the world’s most innovative foundations in delivering their programmes globally.

Clarence Adoo

Clarence’s career spans several decades and all forms of music, working with Royal Northern Sinfonia, Scottish Opera, City of London Sinfonia, London Sinfonietta and Bournemouth Sinfonietta and Symphony Orchestra. Despite a car accident which has left him paralysed from the shoulders down, Clarence retains a role with the Royal Northern Sinfonia as Education Animateur. He is a founder member of the British Paraorchestra and a member of the Headspace quartet.

Mark Cosgrove

Mark Cosgrove has worked in independent film exhibition for over 20 years. He is Cinema Curator at Watershed, sharing, developing and showcasing exemplary cultural ideas and talent. In recent years he has worked with musicians on live music performances to silent film including Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Will Gregory’s (Goldfrapp) new score to The Passion of Joan of Arc, and co-curates Filmic. Mark chairs the Film Hub SWWM and is Director of Film Culture at the University of the West of England.

Jane Jones

Jane was Director of Communications and Marketing for the British Paralympic Association from 2007 – 2015. In this time, she led the successful commercial and communications strategy for the British Paralympic team at the London 2012 Games and first encountered Charles Hazlewood and The British Paraorchestra. Jane is currently consulting for a number of organisations and is a member of the IOC Communications Commission.

Louise Mitchell

Louise Mitchell was appointed in 2011 as Chief Executive of the Bristol Music Trust, an independent charitable trust set up that year to drive forward music in Bristol and to manage Colston Hall, helping secure a sustainable future for the venue. Louise is also a Board member of the Association of British Orchestras and Destination Bristol; a Trustee of the Royal Philharmonic Society; a Royal Society of Arts Fellow and a director of the British Association of Concert Halls.

Anna Starkey

Anna is Creative Director of We The Curious. She’s worked across science and the arts as a BAFTA nominated children’s animation writer, UK Particle Physics Outreach Officer, Director of Impossible Projects at a multidisciplinary public neuroscience lab and producer of televised BBC Proms, as well as live Royal Opera House global cinema broadcasts and the first series of BBC Young Dancer. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce.


The Paraorchestra and Friends is a registered charity (no: 1163725), based in Bristol. We are grateful to receive funding from Arts Council England, The Mark Leonard Trust, The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Garfield Weston, and Hauser & Wirth, all of which enables us to continue with our unique and pioneering work. But, we will always need further support. If you like what we are doing please consider donating via our fundraising channel, or contact us for more information regarding one-off or ongoing support.

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As a registered charity, Paraorchestra and Friends gratefully acknowledges funding from: