Callum Given leads the team which runs Britten Pears Arts' work with local people. The team aims to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, increasing opportunities to connect and build relationships, and ensuring people feel included. They work with families, schools, young people, older people and those in criminal justice settings, using music and heritage as tools to make a difference to people’s lives. We caught up with him in March to hear how alongside their regular weekly activity, the team delivered Celebration, an annual music festival celebrating the diverse music-making in schools and community groups for young people.

Children arriving at Snape

Children arrived at Snape Maltings by the coachload

Our work in the community is year-round and every week includes special activity and moments which bring joy to people from all walks of life, but occasionally it feels important to take stock of the impact of our work.

This week, activity has taken place within every strand of our Community programme. We have:

  • Engaged with 1500 people across Suffolk, including those who are isolated, people living with Parkinson’s and their companions, residents at HMP Warren Hill, schools, young people aged 0 – 18
  • Delivered our first session in HMP Warren Hill this year, owing to Covid restrictions meaning our project was paused on 6 December. This followed a planning day with the creative team for next week’s recording project
  • Had 3 new referrals to our projects and activities from local social prescribers
  • Recorded 12 rehearsal tracks for this year’s set of Friday Afternoons songs
  • Hosted 3 days of curriculum linked sessions at The Red House with local schools
  • Brought together under 5’s and their families for a Mini Music Makers session
  • Run 56 rehearsals at Snape Maltings with 37 schools and music groups leading to 6 Celebration shows
  • Employed 32 freelancers, two thirds of whom live in East Anglia
  • Held one observation day with Charly Jolly, our Trainee Music Leader in partnership with Spitalfields Music
Coming here today and seeing the reaction of the children when they first stood on the stage was fantastic. Celebration has been really special – from having their own dressing room to the fabulous band and singing with other schools.

Primary teacher

Children singing

Children rehearsed all day for their evening performances

Though of course it’s not just about numbers – behind all of this sits uncapturable moments: interactions and collaborations between people which have the potential to create new connections, evoke new feelings, inspire creativity and build toward positive change. Whether it’s singing ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite’ whilst making ribbon wands dance in the air during our East Suffolk Skylarks rehearsal, composing new songs with local people at risk of isolation using poetry by Wordsworth, or delivering music and sound inspired experiments with year 4 children, our team engage joyfully with a huge range of local people each week.

The Celebration evening was wonderfully organised, presenters spot on. I was so proud my son was part of this.

Parent and audience member

Snape artists guided the sessions

This week feels especially significant because Celebration has returned, our annual music festival celebrating the diverse music-making which takes place across schools and community groups for young people. In 2020, this was the penultimate event to take place in Snape Maltings Concert Hall before restrictions stopped our activity. Amongst all our regular projects that have taken place across Suffolk this week, young people returning in force this year in the midst of a time that continues to be turbulent has reminded me of so many things. Overarchingly I have witness generosity and kindness in swathes:

The relentless support that this week’s performers have shown to groups from other schools. Team members and those of our visitors becoming unwell and others leaping to help. The ferocious dedication of teachers and support staff who have worked tirelessly to prepare their students for this week. Old colleagues returning to support this week’s schools through nothing but care. The concern that artists have shown for the wellbeing of their peers when working in challenging environments. The ability to listen and comfort at times of stress and challenge. Open and honest reflection when things haven’t gone well, and the supportive response it gets. The welcome, care and attention that each school has received from our production colleagues. The cheeriness of our housekeeping team despite rooms being a little messier than usual.

All of this adds up, and on a slightly indulgent note, it’s a real privilege to work alongside colleagues who focus so much on creating the best possible opportunities for those we work with, through nurture and support of others.

The finale number for this week’s project, composed by Emily Barden alongside young people from Group A asks how can we heal, after all that we’ve been through? It might be cliché, but a sense of togetherness goes a long way.

There are lots of ways you can get involved with what we do, whether you’re a local musician who would like to help us deliver our activity, or someone who would like to take part in one of our programmes. Take a look, get in touch, and get involved – we’d love to welcome you.

Celebration has put music on the map in our school.

Primary teacher

Young singers rehearse their Celebration song