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Welcoming our Encore Plus Partners

Six community groups in and around Leeds have been announced as the new 2022 Opera North Encore Plus Partners, giving their members access to a wealth of opera, music, live performance and workshops throughout the coming year.

The new partners include Lychee Red, part of Health for All, which runs a singing group and social club for older people from the Chinese community; Pyramid of Arts which offers art activities and artist development schemes for adults living with a disability; Richmond Hill Elderly Action which provides support and activities for older adults; and VISC (Visually Impaired Social Club), which collectively organises social activities by and for blind people and people living with a visual impairment.

Reflecting Opera North’s position as the only opera company in the UK to have been awarded Theatre of Sanctuary status for its work with refugees and sanctuary seekers, the other two partners are the Resettlement Team of The Refugee Council which supports people seeking asylum who have just arrived in the UK, and PAFRAS (Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) which supports people in Leeds seeking asylum or appealing a refusal.

“Thank you so much, the performance at the drop-in was so lovely and has certainly inspired people to say they would be interested in attending performances.”

– Sharon Browne, Mental Health Support Worker, PAFRAS

The Men of the Chorus of Opera North performing at PAFRAS © Tom Arber

This is the ninth year that the scheme has been running. As Opera North Encore Plus Partners, the groups are invited to enjoy opera at Leeds Grand Theatre and a variety of musical and spoken word performances at the newly-reopened Howard Assembly Room. In addition, they can attend exclusive talks, discover what happens behind-the-scenes on backstage tours, make use of Opera North’s recently redeveloped spaces at the Howard Opera Centre, and benefit from bespoke workshops and interactive performances at their own venues.

The organisations invited to be Encore Plus Partners are selected from the Opera North Encore Scheme which numbers over 70 groups handling a wide and complex range of social issues. Together with the Bravo Scheme for individuals who have gained sufficient confidence to attend by themselves, Encore seeks to remove any obstacles that might prevent their members from accessing live opera and music, opening a door for them onto the cultural life of the city.

“The performance was magical; it was just what l really needed to experience. I still think about it with a smile”

– Member of The Bravo Club on The Shape of Sound

Taking a community group behind the scenes at Leeds Grand Theatre © Tom Arber

Alongside its work with individuals and community groups, Opera North offers a growing selection of accessible performances to enhance the experience of blind, partially-sighted, D/deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members. These include sign interpreted performances for BSL users, and audio-described performances both in Leeds and at touring venues, with touch tours beforehand.

Following its two previous dementia-friendly performances. the company recently held its first relaxed concert in the Howard Assembly Room and its 2022-23 season will include a relaxed/ dementia friendly performance of Verdi’s La traviata at Leeds Grand Theatre. During these events, there is a completely relaxed approach to spontaneous noise, reaction and movement, house lights are kept on low, a quiet space is provided for anyone who might need it, and extra front of house are on hand to help.

“We are really proud to continue to increase the number of accessible performances we offer so that people can still appreciate opera and live music whatever their requirements.  With relaxed performances in both our Howard Assembly Room and Leeds Grand Theatre for people who require a more welcoming and informal environment, we are making sure that anyone and everyone can come along and enjoy an ‘extraordinary’ experience.”

– Alice Gilmour, Access Manager, Opera North


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