Hundreds of Key Stage 1 children from across Somerset have experienced their first visit to a cultural venue and a taste of an orchestral playing thanks to a special partnership that has been developed between The Octagon Theatre and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
On Tuesday 25th April, 821 school pupils from across 13 Somerset schools were invited to Westlands Entertainment Venue in Yeovil to listen to a specially devised and curated programme entitled ‘Curious Creatures and Adventurous Animals’. The event was conducted by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Associate Patrick Bailey and scripted and presented by Zoe Palmer.
During the hour-long concert the children heard stories and learned more about elephants, bees, birds, bears, fire and water. Everyone also learned and performed a new song and enthusiastically engaged in body percussion. The music was varied and diverse from Rimsky Korsakov and Vaughan Williams to Grace Williams and Bjork.
Dougie Scarfe, Chief Executive of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra said: “We exist to bring music into people’s lives — and our schools performances are a huge celebration of this, where you feel the immediate effects of live music. We’re proud of our new partnership with The Octagon Theatre and of programmes like these, which tie in with key issues of the day, such as exploring the way in which humankind interacts with the natural world. We look forward to deepening our relationship with local people as we continue to develop new music-making experiences together.”
The event was made possible thanks to a new partnership that was announced in November 2022 which sees The Octagon Theatre become the “home in Somerset” for the internationally renowned Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra when it reopens following a major £29.01m transformation of the venue into a flagship cultural venue for the South West. Until that time, performances will take place at Westlands Entertainment which is the sister venue of The Octagon. It follows the news of the theatre joining the Arts Council’s National Portfolio alongside Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, both who will receive regular public funding from the Arts Council for the next three years.
The partnership will see a regular concert series at the venue from the Orchestra alongside an exciting and ambitious education and outreach programme designed to bring world-class musical opportunities to residents and visitors of Somerset.
Phil Gibby, Area Director, Arts Council England, South West, adds: “It’s fantastic to see Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Octagon Theatre come together for this exciting programme for the communities of Yeovil and Somerset. It helps us to achieve our strategy Let’s Create, by providing more opportunities for children and young people to engage with culture, no matter where they live or their background. We hope this collaboration will inspire the next generation of young talent across Somerset and beyond, and will watch the developments in this Arts Council priority place with interest.”
Katherine Hoskins, Arts Engagement & Outreach Manager at Octagon Theatre & Westlands Entertainment Venue, said: “It was delightful to see hundreds of children and their teachers come together to enjoy and participate in a concert of this scale. For many this was the first time they had stepped foot in Westlands Entertainment Venue and the first time they had seen a live orchestra perform. The feedback we received from students as they left the venue was that they “loved it!”, and I hope this experience inspires those students to take up a musical instrument and enriches their learning. This was a wonderful opportunity for us to begin our partnership with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and set a precedent for future activity and opportunities which will see high quality music provision brought to residents and visitors of all ages where they live.”
The Octagon Theatre development will see the 622-seat theatre increase to 900 seats with vastly improved acoustics in the main auditorium and additional performance and participatory spaces. The venue, which is owned and managed by Somerset Council, is also planning to develop an exciting new arts engagement outreach programme that will create more opportunities for people to engage and benefit from the creative arts through schools, performances, workshops, regular classes and special projects that will focus on those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Whilst the development project is being paid for by Somerset Council, £10m of the cost is being funded through a grant via the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – leaving £19.01m of additional funding to be sought. This funding will be generated through loaning the money from the council itself. This means income made from the venue will be paid back, at no additional cost to the taxpayer. Other funding streams will be through fundraising events, whilst other options explored from trusts and foundations that will bring national funding to support the project.
You can find out more about the plans for The Octagon Theatre and how it will become a flagship centre for the creative arts that will provide amazing opportunities for our residents and bring world class artists to Somerset by visiting the Octagon Theatre website.