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Enriching lives in Leeds: new Community Partners for Opera North


Enriching lives through opera is a key part of Opera North's work as it connects with diverse audiences across the city through its community engagement programme. As part of the initiative, the Company chooses six groups each year to be its Community Partners.

For 2017/18, these will be Angel of Youths who help 16 to 30-year-olds, particularly from BME communities, to explore their passions and fulfil their potential; Aspire for people who are experiencing early signs of psychosis; Bahar AFG Women’s Association which assists Afghan women and other new arrivals, refugees and asylum seekers in Leeds; BID Services which provides support for deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind, partially-sighted and deafblind adults; LS14 Trust, a community-run organisation which contributes to the positive development of Seacroft; and Peer Support Service which offers a range of services to people with dementia.

The Partnership will be a fantastic opportunity for our service users to be involved in aspects of social recovery which might not otherwise be available to them.

— Natalie Ellis, Aspire

This is the fourth year that the scheme has been running with the aim of increasing accessibility to Opera North’s work among people who have barriers that may prevent them from engaging fully with the arts.  

As Opera North Community Partners, the groups can enjoy opera and other live performances at the Leeds Grand Theatre and the Howard Assembly Room, attend exclusive pre-show talks, discover what happens behind-the-scenes on backstage tours and make use of Opera North’s rehearsal spaces. In addition, they can choose to host bespoke workshops and interactive performances at the place where their group meets or at another venue of their choice. In the past, these have included pubs, community centres and church halls.

We are looking forward to new contact and new network opportunities, and we are most looking forward to co-working with Opera North to give our service users the opportunity to participate in this new experience and learn more about opera.

— Dorota Norkiewicz, BID Services

This year's Community Partners have been selected from the Opera North Encore Scheme which currently numbers almost one hundred groups whose work embraces a wide and complex range of social issues. By removing any obstacles that might prevent their members from accessing live opera and music, the scheme has resulted in over 8,400 attendances to date at performances in Leeds Grand Theatre and the Howard Assembly Room, and a further 2,900 attendances at special taster performances and workshops. 

It is a fantastic scheme which opens up the theatre to marginalised groups who would usually be excluded from such events. It is an absolute pleasure and delight to see the emotional wellbeing of attendees improve so much after experiencing a performance, and for this to continue for days and weeks after the event. Long may it continue. 

— Meeting Point, Encore member

Individuals who are interested in accessing Opera North’s work but might otherwise struggle to do so are encouraged to join the Company’s Bravo Scheme. Last year Bravo members were invited to a wide range of events, including being given the chance to be part of a special Community Choir which performed in the Emerald Grand Hall prior to a Winter Wonderland concert, and being invited to attend An Introduction to Billy Budd and Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel and Gretel taster performances, an insight into a Mozart Unwrapped rehearsal, a special pre-show talk ahead of The Snow Maiden, and a Hansel and Gretel singing and drama workshop.

The scheme has certainly had a positive impact on my health and well-being. You literally have the feel-good factor afterwards. I came out singing the songs!

— Bravo Scheme member

Alongside its work with individuals and community groups, Opera North offers a selection of accessible performances both in Leeds and on tour to enhance the experience of blind, partially-sighted, deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members. These include signed, audio-described and captioned performances, together with touch tours each season. During The Little Greats season, there will be accessible performances of both Trouble in Tahiti and Trial by Jury at every venue with captioned performances in Leeds and Salford Quays.


Sat 21 October Leeds Grand Theatre 2.15pm
Fri 27 October Hull New Theatre 7.15pm
Fri 3 November Nottingham Theatre Royal 7.15pm
Fri 10 November Newcastle Theatre Royal 7.15pm
Fri 17 November The Lowry, Salford Quays 7.15pm


Sat 21 October Leeds Grand Theatre 2.15pm
Fri 17 November The Lowry, Salford Quays 7.15pm

Opera North’s Community Engagement Programme is funded by an award from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which is giving £500,000 to Opera North over five years to widen audiences and build sustainable relationships with community partners. The ‘Paul Hamlyn Club’ award is part of £2.5 million shared amongst five performing arts venues across the UK.

Photo Credits:
Sawan Vihar enjoy An Introduction to Billy Budd - Tom Arber
An Introduction to Billy Budd performed for Cloth Cat in The Chemic - Tom Arber
PHF Annual Party - Tom Arber
Christmas Twilight Concert Workshop - Jonny Walton
Alice Gilmour audio-describing a performance - Opera North 


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