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Hull’s year as UK City of Culture may be over, but a partnership between the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the University of Hull will continue to harness the benefits of culture for local people, says James Williams.

Photo of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Alexander Shelley at Cadogan

© Nick Rutter

Throughout 2017, the eyes of the UK settled upon Hull for an incredible year of cultural events that truly embraced the city’s cultural heritage, while trailblazing new platforms for creating new art and engaging the widest possible audiences with culture in their own city.

This partnership will provide a range of benefits to music students at the university, with our musicians leading masterclasses and offering career insight

Resident orchestra

Before all that - since 2014 - the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has been the resident orchestra at Hull’s magnificent City Hall, a Grade II-listed building in the Baroque revival style with one of the finest acoustics for orchestral music in the UK. We curate a season of six concerts per year here, complementing our own concerts with invitations to other British and international orchestras. Alongside the core symphonic repertoire, we have presented concerts featuring an eclectic mix of repertoire, including a sell-out concert of film music by John Williams.

Our core mission is to enrich people’s lives through the power of orchestral music. STROKESTRA® is our collaboration with the Hull and East Riding Community Stroke Service. The initiative has pioneered the use of group creative music-making alongside professional musicians and clinicians to drive patient-led recovery in stroke patients and their carers.

Since we launched, 86% of patients involved with the initiative have reported relief of disability symptoms, citing improved sleeping, reduced anxiety, fewer dizzy spells and reduced epilepsy symptoms. We will continue the project over the next three years in both hospital and community settings, supported by a research initiative led by the University of Hull, which will measure the impact of the project from a health and wellbeing perspective.

University partnership

Last September, we signed a new five-year partnership agreement with the University of Hull to deepen the impact of the work we are both doing on campus and within the city, and to widen access to culture among Hull’s communities.

While classical music has traditionally been associated with older listeners, research conducted by YouGov last year discovered a fast-growing interest in the genre from under 25-year-olds - especially those in full-time education - who have a keen desire to learn more about orchestral music. This partnership will provide a range of benefits to music students at the university, with our musicians leading masterclasses and offering career insight, advice and support along with ensemble coaching, one-to-one tuition and opportunities to gain practical orchestral recording experiences at our rehearsals and concerts.

University staff will also lead pre-concert talks prior to our performances at Hull City Hall. These talks have been running for a few years now (attendance has increased with each concert), and they provide an informal and invaluable insight into the music that we perform and the composers behind the scores.

This month we will be also delivering a series of keynote speeches and workshops to students as part of the university’s Futures Week. Presentations and a roundtable discussion with leading industry professionals will set out a vision for orchestras, including the use of technology and experimenting with new genres. The workshops will cover practical skills such as music production, creative learning and managing portfolio careers.

Cultural programming

The university hosted a large number of events as part of City of Culture 2017 and played a key role leading evaluation and data acquisition. As one of the city’s cultural anchor institutions, and a promoter of an increasing number of music events, it will work more collaboratively with us on artistic programming, ensuring a joined-up classical music offer for the city’s citizens. The partnership will have a wider positive impact on external bodies such as the Cultural Education Partnership, Hull Culture and Leisure and Hull Music Hub.

This partnership will provide concrete opportunities to build on the legacy of Hull UK City of Culture 2017, which increased the city’s cultural appetite. The challenge now is to present a richer and deeper experience for audiences.

James Williams is Managing Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

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Photo of James Williams