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Thursday 18 Jan 2018

The Philharmonia announces a new flagship audience development project

The Philharmonia announces a new flagship audience development project in four of its residency centres, made possible by three major Foundation grants.

  • The Virtual Orchestra will take the Philharmonia’s renowned walk-through digital installations; Virtual Reality experiences; a workshop and fringe programme; and specially programmed live performances to 75,000 people in Bedford (2018), Leicester (2018), Canterbury (2019) and Basingstoke (2019)
  • Taking the Orchestra – both digitally and live – into city centres and target communities, the project aims to broaden and deepen engagement with orchestral music, the success of which will be tracked over four years
  • The £610,000 project is supported by three foundations: Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (£255,180), Paul Hamlyn Foundation (£235,000) and John Ellerman Foundation (£80,000)
  • The Virtual Orchestra was piloted at Southbank Centre in 2016 and is the successor to iOrchestra, the Philharmonia’s award-winning audience development project in South-West England in 2014-5

The Philharmonia Orchestra will embark upon its second deep-level audience development project in 2018 with The Virtual Orchestra, a digital, live music and outreach initiative to be delivered across its UK residencies programme.

The concept at the heart of the ambitious project is to engage people through digital experiences – and associated outreach programme and live performances – outside of the concert hall in public spaces and local communities, all in partnership with local arts organisations and charities.

In Bedford and Leicester (2018), and Canterbury and Basingstoke (2019), the Philharmonia will present one of its award-winning digital installations (Universe of Sound and re-rite) in town centre locations for six weeks. Around this central hub of activity, the Orchestra will deliver a series of schools, family and community workshops, a fringe programme and a culminating live concert.

The Philharmonia is committed to bring about long-term change in the size and make-up of its audiences in its residencies, developing a wider and more diverse audience base.

Helen Sprott, Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “This new project demonstrates the Philharmonia Orchestra’s commitment to its residency communities throughout England. It is a potentially transformative project, for the Orchestra, arts audiences in the four centres, and partners in each location. The iOrchestra project proved that orchestral music can speak to people outside the concert hall and build new audiences, and we are aiming to make a deeper and more sustained commitment with this project.

“To have been awarded this investment from three top-tier foundations, amidst increasing competition for funding, is testament to the strength of our plans. We are hugely grateful to the Esmée Fairbairn, Paul Hamlyn and John Ellerman Foundations for their support, without which this scale of work would simply not be possible.”


For further information, please contact:

Tim Woodall
Marketing Director
[email protected]


Further details:

  • Full details of the The Virtual Orchestra programme will be announced in due course
  • For details about The Virtual Orchestra pilot and its results, click here
  • For details about the iOrchestra project and its results, click here



Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. The Foundation does this by funding the charitable work of organisations who are building an inclusive, creative and sustainable society.

The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK. In 2016 it made grants of £42.4 million towards a wide range of work within the arts, children and young people, the environment, food and social change. The Foundation also has a £45 million allocation to social investments for organisations with the aim of creating social impact.

Paul Hamlyn Foundation was established by Paul Hamlyn in 1987. Upon his death in 2001, he left most of his estate to the Foundation, creating one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK.

The Foundation’s mission is to help people overcome disadvantage and lack of opportunity, so that they can realise their potential and enjoy fulfilling and creative lives. It has a particular interest in supporting young people and a strong belief in the importance of the arts.

John Ellerman Foundation is an independent grant-making foundation, supporting charities that make a practical difference to people, society and the natural world. The Foundation supports charities working in the Arts, Environment and Welfare, and whose work has reach and significance across the UK. In 2016/17 the Foundation made grants with a total value of £5.4m.

The John Ellerman Foundations believes that art has the potential to enrich and transform lives. The Foundation supports arts organisations that represent excellence in their field at a national level across dance, music and theatre.