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Building Community through Culture

An innovative new residency has been launched which will see Opera North engaging with a community in Leeds to explore how boosting participation in cultural activities can benefit people’s lives.

Working with community leaders and other stakeholders in Burmantofts and Richmond Hill Ward, the company plans to create a programme of activities and events which directly meet the needs, interests and aspirations of the residents. The community will influence and shape the creative process and programme of activity themselves in the hope that it will boost mental health and wellbeing, as well as increase participation in music and creative activity.

Meeting residents at the Jubilee Party held by RHEA. Photo credit Justin Slee

Events held so far to introduce people to Opera North’s musicians and the Company’s work have included participation in the community’s Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, performances of the pop-up opera A Tale of Orpheus & Eurydice at a school and community venue, and a special summer concert with the Chorus of Opera North.

Future plans include Little ONes music and movement sessions for pre-schoolers, Sing ON for adults who would like to meet and sing with others, and a series of creative drop-in sessions for all ages. Additional funding for the residency programme has been secured to enable Opera North to deliver activity throughout the year, with a grant of £10,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund Awards for All. Working with the Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North, the community will stage their own celebratory performance in East End Park during Leeds 2023’s Year of Culture

The Richmond Hill Residency Steering Group meet to discuss next steps in East End Park at the centre of the Ward. Photo credit Justin Slee

Father Darren Percival BEM, Parish Priest of Saint Hilda’s Cross Green and Saint Saviour’s in Richmond Hill, who sits on the Richmond Hill Residency Steering Group, said:

“This new project has the potential to bring hope through building confidence to a community that most definitely deserves and needs it. Community involvement through music, no matter what your age or background, involving professional musicians working alongside us – the most deprived Ward in Leeds – will enable us ordinary folk to actively embrace and become part of the tapestry of cultural change through music and diversity. We are thrilled that this can happen in the here and now of Richmond Hill and Cross Green.”

Opera North already has a presence in the area though its work at Richmond Hill Academy where the award-winning In Harmony Opera North programme has been running since 2018. Earlier this year, Richmond Hill Elderly Action became one of the company’s 2022 Encore Plus Partners increasing access to opera and live performance for more senior members in the community. The Richmond Hill Residency seeks to build on these foundations by working with more community services and groups to create events, workshops and performances which place the residents at their heart.

Richmond Hill Academy pupils meet the Orchestra of Opera North. Photo credit Tom Arber

Anna Mackenzie, Principal, Richmond Hill Academy, who is also a member of the Steering Group, commented:

“Ever since Richmond Hill Academy became an In Harmony Opera North school, music has brought everyone together. We are delighted therefore to know that Opera North has chosen this area for its residency in 2022/23.

“Our community deserves this investment and I know will embrace the opportunities it presents for adults and children alike. Our recent Ofsted report described the respect that RHA children have for their peers and their community as “breathtaking” and yet this area does not always receive the positive affirmations and investments it deserves. We cannot wait to see how Opera North will bring the people of LS9 together and we believe that this project, together with the work of local organisations, has the potential to leave a lasting legacy for the children and their families.”

Ongoing consultation and feedback will be built into the year to create a truly collaborative process throughout.


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