The Paraorchestra and Friends are thrilled to announce a new artistic partnership with Bristol Music Trust, the operator of the South West’s leading concert venue Colston Hall and its award-winning music education hub Bristol Plays Music.

The Paraorchestra and Friends will become the Trust’s first Associate Artists, a partnership that will see both organisations joining forces to imagine and implement innovative approaches to live music programming, in particular focusing on ensuring a diverse range of creative voices are highlighted and heard.

The Paraorchestra and Friends was formed in late 2015 to support the development of a range of ambitious and captivating large-scale music experiences. At its core is The British Paraorchestra, the world’s only large-scale ensemble for disabled musicians. This boundary-breaking group sets a new template for music-making, either on its own or integrated with its two partner ensembles, Army of Generals, and, Charles Hazlewood’s All Star Collective.

Bristol Music Trust has been an important commissioning and venue partner in growth of The Paraorchestra and Friends. In 2016, BMT commissioned The British Paraorchestra to work with integrated circus company Extraordinary Bodies to present a thrilling re-imagining of Terry Riley’s In C. In the same year BMT was also a venue partner for the Celebration of David Bowie tour, performed by Army of Generals and The British Paraorchestra.  In 2015, BMT supported the sell-out Thunderbirds are Go! concert.

Now the two organisations are setting out a more formal collaborative agreement which will see the organisations working on:

  • Exploring the commissioning and subsequent touring of new large-scale events at Colston Hall
  • Giving prominence to developing contemporary music projects and ambitious work through this partnership
  • The formation of a nationally significant audience development partnership with other industry partners to explore building audiences with Special Education Needs and Disabilities
  • Encouraging the live music industry to embrace physical accessibility in order to attract disabled audiences and performers
  • Exploring opportunities between The Paraorchestra and Friends and Bristol Plays Music, with a focus on Paraorchestra performers inspiring and helping to develop new talent through BPM’s education programmes.

Louise Mitchell, Chief Executive of Bristol Music Trust, said of the partnership:

“I am delighted to be working more closely with the talented artists at The Paraorchestra and Friends. They are exciting and innovative musicians and there is no one with whom we would rather explore new ways of producing contemporary music. They are pioneering more inclusive ways of working throughout the sector, which is not only a good thing for music making but is really putting Bristol on the map for this pioneering work.”

Charles Hazlewood, Artistic Director of The Paraorchestra and Friends said,

“The mission of The Paraorchestra and Friends is to redefine what an orchestra can be.  We see it as an extraordinary, 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. In essence Bristol Music Trust are looking for Colston Hall to redefine what a concert hall can be, and who it can be for, and this feels in complete synergy with our ambitions. Bristol Music Trust’s expertise and ambition convince me that our partnership will be a major step change for orchestral music across the UK.”

The two organisations are working on a number of new projects to be announced in Spring 2018.