Prior to the concert, Connaught Opera were given rare and privileged access to the Georgian Exhibition at Hampton Court to headline their concerts in the Clore Centre for 300 older people from all the London Boroughs. Entitled "A Georgian Odyssey", all three concerts were supported by The Worshipful Company of Mercers. (picture www.helenjonesphotography.co.uk).
Among our proudest achievements, we have received grants from several of the Twelve Great Livery Companies in the City of London. The Worshipful Companies of the Mercers, Drapers, Goldsmiths, Merchant Taylors, Haberdashers, Fishmongers, Leathersellers, Saddlers, Carmen, Stationers and Newspaper Makers.
We greatly value our association with these companies who have each funded concerts for older people and in addition, some have hosted concerts in their Livery Halls.
The first of these was the Premier Livery Company, The Mercers’ (picture below). These are rare opportunities for older people in London to have access to events in these magnificent settings and, from the feedback we have received, are truly appreciated by them.
ABOVE: On stage for Magna Carta, knights and damsels, Connaught Opera, Glenn, Maria and Nick. Right, Maria and Glenn, in the shadow of the stunning gold statue of St. Dunstan, Patron Saint of the Goldsmiths and Silversmiths.
BOROUGH WIDE SUPPORT IN LB RICHMOND UPON THAMES
Our special thanks go to the fine charities that support our work in Richmond. Notably, we recently received a grant from the Hampton Fuel Allotment Charity (HFAC) which supports local people on low income with the costs of gas and electricity and funds the work of local charities. They have funded 10 concerts in their area of benefit. The Richmond Parish Lands Charity (RPLC) supporting people and charities in Richmond since1786, has also awarded us funding for 10 concerts for older people in care in their area of benefit. With this support we are able to cover the entire Borough, with 20 concerts in care homes and day centres in 2016.
At a splendid tea party at York House, The Mayor of Richmond entertained 90 year olds in the Borough who shared her Majesty's Birthday! ( Picture Darren Baker).
City Bridge Trust - The City of London Corporation's Charity.
As a very small Charity we are honoured that the City Bridge Trust has recognised the merit of our work and awarded us three years of funding.
This will enable us to perform 33 free concerts a year, for older people, in all the Greater London Boroughs over the next three years.
Silver Sunday. A wonderful initiative started in 2012 by current Lord Mayor of Westminster, Cllr. The Lady Christabel Flight. Held on the first Sunday of October through the Sir Simon Milton Foundation, Silver Sunday is a national celebration of older people and their contribution to communities. Through a variety of free activities Silver Sunday is offering people over 65 a chance to keep active in body and spirit, try new things, meet their neighbours and, ultimately, overcome loneliness. City Bridge Trust supported Connaught Opera for this concert, hosted at The Abbey Centre in Westminster on 4th October 2015.
In the picture left to right are:
Councillor Iain Bott, City of Westminster Council; Mary Payne, Vice-Chair, The Abbey Centre; Lainya Offside-Keivani, CEO, The Abbey Centre; Glenn Wilson, singer (Connaught Opera); Carol Wells, pianist,(Connaught Opera); Maria Arakie, singer (Connaught Opera); The Lord Mayor of Westminster, The Lady Flight; Billy Dove, OBE, Chief Commoner of the City of London Corporation; Simon Hopkins, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Abbey Centre; The Lord (Howard) Flight.
Our latest grant from the Arts Council England, Grants for the Arts, has a major focus on caring.
This will be a long-term programme, over a one year period, to deliver a varying and appropriate repertoire, matched by stunning costume changes, to develop a focussed engagement with a small number of locations.
The grant is for Connaught Opera to perform 42 themed concerts in 6 selected Quantum Care Homes
In Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex. The project will be monitored and evaluated to measure the impact of a sustained intervention in one place and link the outcomes to health and the arts.
Two additional Christmas concerts at the Quantum homes were sponsored by The Thomas Wall Trust at Courtlands and Tye Green Homes.
Ongoing support from individual Councils has been invaluable to our work. In 2012/2013 we have been awarded grants in LB Harrow; LBRUT(London Borough of Richmond); RBKUT (Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, through their Neighbourhood Funds)and LB Merton.
Merton Council have given Connaught tremendous support and in 2013 commissioned 5 additional
concerts in centres in the Borough.
"I am always keen to support the work of Connaught Opera who bring much needed entertainment in a buoyant and honest fashion to their core audiences (who are often ignored). As Arts Development Officer, I have issued grants to Connaught to provide specific activities in care homes and day centres across the London Borough of Merton. I have also attended performances, and met with Maria Arakie who I know always has the interests of her audience at heart. Connaught are a fine example of community arts, combining elements of music hall and theatricality as only they can. I look forward to working with them during the course of Merton's Commemorations of The Great War."
Arts Development Officer,
Leisure and Culture,
Environment and Regeneration,
We are grateful to the Trusts and Foundations, whose regular donations are invaluable. The Tower Hill Trust, Hampstead Wells and Campden Trust, Chapman Charitable Trust, The Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation, The Foyle Foundation and Heron International have given us their support in 2014.
AWARDS FOR ALL
In consultation with the Trustees, we have developed our audience-base. Awards for All have given us Lottery funding to perform a series of concert/workshops for young migrant families in all the London Boroughs.
The project is entitled Creating Closer Communities. A truly multicultural event, after a performance by Connaught Opera, the audience are invited to give the wider community a taste of their cultural roots.
“You radiated joie de vivre in abundance! Your absolute professionalism was another joy to behold. Awards for All need to know how wisely their money is being spent.” Michael Cleere, Community Cohesion Co-Ordinator, Southwark Council.
“Just wanted to say a big thank you to yourself, Glenn and Nick for your wonderful display last night. It was a memorable experience enjoyed by everyone, and the mix between your repertoire and the Tamil dancers was very successful.” Martin Garnar, Equalities Officer, Corporate Improvement Division, Enfield Council.
“Thank you... for indulging us all in a wonderful evening of entertainment. All the young people present have told their friends who wished they had shown up... they all thought it was very good.”
Freda Ritchie, Project Manager, Hillingdon Refugee Support Group.
“The London Borough of Hounslow supported Summer Concert attracted a wide range of audience members including residents from Feltham, which has been identified as one of our Central government's Lower Super Output Areas. It engaged with newly emerging communities such as the Gurkha Nepalese residents; and given the broad age spectrum there was also an intergenerational outcome with age ranges from 5 years old to 80+. In addition the project managed to engage with some of our harder to reach Muslim groups. Overall evaluation of the project provided through feedback forms suggests it was a real success and I am pleased to say it has whetted the appetites of our residents for a repeat performance. It is safe to suggest that the views of attendees have been encapsulated beautifully by one of our residents who wrote: ‘I don't have enough money to go to London and see an Opera. I really enjoyed myself tonight, and to have someone so talented sing to me and even hold my hand made me feel very special.’ ”
Mrs Joan Conlon, Community Cohesion Officer, The London Borough of Hounslow.
THE ARTS COUNCIL (LONDON) - Grants for the Arts
The greatest champion in support of our work with the elderly over the past few years has been the Arts Council. 2009 is no exception. We have been funded to present Concerts for Carers in all 33 London Boroughs. By offering a concert for Carers and their cared-for through support networks, like the Princess Royal Trust, we aim to offer a musical ‘respite’ that will enhance their general well-being and morale. One strategy was to persuade some of the most glamorous and desirable venues in London to host concerts, at no charge for the carers.
We were overwhelmed by the generosity of The Leathersellers Company; The Foundling Museum; Forty Hall, Enfield; Boston Manor House, Hounslow; Leighton House; All Saints Church, Lambeth; the Orleans Gallery, Richmond, and The Wigmore Hall, who were prepared to throw open their doors and welcome in the carers.
The crowning glory a concert in May 2009 at the Goldsmiths’ Livery Hall, Goldsmiths’ Company to which all the Boroughs in Greater London were invited.
ABOVE: Glenn, Maria and Nick with the audience after the Goldsmiths’ concert.
ABOVE: The Mayor of Harrow, The Chairman of Three Rivers DC and the Mayor of Hammersmith & Fulham, on the steps of the Banqueting House throne with Maria, Glenn, Nick and the Vocal Group from the Merchant Taylors' School with their Director of Music and Conductor.
ABOVE: Councillor Jan Prendergast, The Lord Mayor Locum Tenens, City of Westminster, gave the address to the Carers who attended The Wigmore Hall concert. Carers Network Westminster leads a thriving Carers community with a lively website: www.carers-network.co.uk. On stage with Glenn, Maria and Nick, Cllr. Prendergast.
ABOVE: The Arab Hall at the remarkable Leighton House Museum in Holland Park.Pictured against the 1,000 precious Syrian tiles are Glenn Wilson, Maria Arakie and Nicholas Bosworth.
Patients and relatives following the last concert in the series. Standing at the back, Glenn Wilson, Maria Arakie, Caroline Thomas (Project Manager), Debbie Gilard (Communications Manager, Quantum Care),
Mandy Pickersgill (Activities Officer, Courtlands) Nicholas Bosworth.
THE ROYAL BOROUGH OF KENSINGTON AND CHELSEA
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, under the Arts Grants Scheme, awarded Connaught Opera financial support for six concerts in partnership with Open Age.
Open Age exists to open doors to active leisure for people over 50. They are a user-led charity who help retirees to fulfil their potential as well as encourage and support social interaction and reduce loneliness, isolation and depression. We are always delighted to expand our activities for older people, to reach new and different audiences.
Open Age members are generally independent and keen to remain active and interested in life. We found their energy stimulating.
“A huge thank you to you and your colleagues for the wonderful concert. You made it so special and turned it into a truly memorable event... You left a lasting impression - you converted a few people that are not normally opera enthusiasts.” CREMORNE CLUBROOM, CHELSEA.
“What a wonderful afternoon you gave us! It was so uplifting, the audience were rather depressed because several of our members were terminally ill, however they walked out a happy crowd singing your praises. You chose all the favourite songs and sang them with such beautiful voices and so expressively. We also loved your costumes.” POSITIVE AGE CENTRE.
CITY OF WESTMINSTER AND WESTMINSTER ARTS
A distressing aspect of ageing is the huge increase in elders with mental health issues - mainly dementia and Alzheimer's. It is comforting to know that music plays a vital role in temporarily reviving precious memories and helping to alleviate distress in sufferers. In addition, colourful costume changes also play a major role in maintaining attention and raising morale.
In Westminster, we have performed five concerts in specialist care homes and day centres, with funding from Westminster Arts and City of Wesminster.
“It is great to see people getting up to dance and singing along, a sign that it was truly enjoyed. There were many positive responses, particularly about your beautiful dresses, and the way in which you, Glenn and the wonderful man on the keyboard (Nick), encouraged everybody to join in and feel relaxed and comfortable. The song choices seemed to please everybody and we would love to see you back here very soon.” TRESHAM DAY CENTRE.
“The performers were personal and captured the attention of our residents, day centre users and staff members. One resident commented... ‘They were mature and had a good choice of music, comedy and acting... The jokes were spot on... The lady was beautiful.’ Another resident commented that she liked the dresses and how the presenters looked wonderful.”
CARLTON DENE RESIDENTAL HOME AND DAY CENTRE.
NORTHERN ROCK FOUNDATION/ARTS COUNCIL NORTH EAST
With an award of £9810 from the Northern Rock Foundation, Connaught Opera arranged and performed three tours (totalling 22 concerts) in the North East and Cumbria for older people in community care. This grant attracted match funding from the Arts Council North East for an additional 11 concerts. Together, these grants have been of tremendous benefit to Connaught Opera allowing expansion of our work from the South East of England to the more rural and isolated centres for elders in the North East and Cumbria.
Of particular significance in Cumbria, many of the Age Concern groups were celebrating their 30th anniversary and we were able to provide the entertainment for volunteers and service users. Two of the concerts were in the Carnegie Theatre (Wokington), one was in Shap Hotel and another was at the Riverside Hotel in Kendal. The use of these venues meant that 250-400 people could attend each of these concerts free. There was also considerable media coverage, from Border TV to local radio and newspapers.
The Dementia Care Partnership at the Bradbury Centre, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, said “We would like to give you a great big ‘Thank You’ for your performance... It was absolutely first rate, the quality of singing, the music, the costumes, your choice of material and most of all your lovely sensitive performances, which reached out in a personal way to our clients and delighted them. Our clients suffer severe mental health difficulties and/or dementia and so often are excluded from these kinds of performances. Given the opportunity, they can be as appreciative and uplifted by them as anyone else. They were full of it all day and several asked the staff if you could come again - whatever it cost!”
THE CITY BRIDGE TRUST
The City Bridge Trust opened a £2m programme in 2006 for small groups working with older people, awarding grants to just 33 groups who were “Improving Services for Older People”. They featured Connaught Opera in their Annual Report, as follows: “Connaught Opera is a not-for-profit organisation that provides concerts for older and disabled people and those with mental illness, in order to enhance their quality of life and self-esteem. Concerts take place in care homes, hospitals, sheltered housing and day centres for the elderly. One of our first organisations to receive a grant of £20,000 plus capacity building support, Connaught Opera was awarded a grant over two years to perform 80 concerts across London aimed primarily at older people, with over 2,000 people expected to attend. Demand for these concerts has been extremely high with very positive audience feedback. In addition, the capacity building support from the Trust has enabled them to ensure that they meet the governance requirements of not-for-profit organisations.”
TOWER HAMLETS PROJECT
For the past few years we have enjoyed a steady level of financial support within this go-ahead Borough. Our first sponsor was London Catalyst, who funded concerts borough-wide with an emphasis on their Sundial Centre, Bethnal Green. So popular did the concerts prove with the service users, that The Sundial Centre themselves took up the mantle the following year. In 2008/2009 we received renewed joint funding from London Catalyst and the Sundial Centre’s Link Age project. Among the groups we worked with on this project, all integrated under the Sundial umbrella, were Neighbours in Poplar, BME, Vietnamese, Bengali and Somali groups, St Hilda’s and Age Concern Tower Hamlets, as well as sheltered housing and care homes in the Borough.
Our initial anxiety about working with groups of older people who did not have English as their first language was quickly dispelled by the audiences who responded enthusiastically to the music, colourful costumes and our reaching out to them. Throughout this work we benefitted enormously from the expert advice of the dynamic team at the Sundial.
The initial funding attracted other funders to the project, including St Katharine & Shadwell Trust, and Tower Hamlets’ Commissioning Manager for Older People who booked a concert held at the Museum of London for Older People’s Day, with the theme ‘Full of Life’.
We are delighted that the Tower Hill Trust has awarded Connaught Opera funding for another 10 concerts in the Borough from April 2009.