BCU’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Composition Cluster is diversifying and broadening the participation of communities with contemporary music. The research has had an impact on the co-creation of new works between composer, academics, and a range of public groups in Birmingham.
Summary of Research
“for-Wards” reached an audience of over 40,000 through the participation of diverse community groups in a city-wide compositional collaboration. The research has changed working practices and developed careers of music creators in jazz, classical and popular music styles, leading to national and international performances, critical acclaim, and industry awards. Influence beyond the field of music can be found in public art, language preservation and science communication for children and young people.
How research was carried out
The “for-Wards” project presented a city-wide ‘musical ode to Birmingham’ project working with diverse community groups to co-create compositions reflecting the cultural identities of individual localities in Birmingham, leading to ten live performance events. This research was co-created with public and private partners and funding from external groups such as Birmingham City Council and partnering arts organisations.
Research also blurred the lines between composer and performer, involving audiences in music-making, challenging the traditions of what a musical and choreographic performance can be described as, by engaging different audiences and working with spaces such as the IKON gallery, Eastside Projects, and venues in Germany and the Netherlands.
The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Composition Cluster’s (CCC) work has developed interdisciplinary and cross-collaborative research. This has supported the development of public engagement with groups in the visual arts, poetry, languages and musicians from different genres.
Outcomes and impact
The impact of this research can be seen through participation of contemporary music and public engagement. By bringing musical experimentation to musical genres, communities created new ways of understanding the world.
The flagship “for-Wards” project, developed by Professor Joe Cutler and Dr Bobbie-Jane Gardner in collaboration with nine leading music organisations, directly involved 837 Birmingham residents in the compositional process itself. This included ten professional composers and 40 diverse community groups. The performative outcomes of the project reached an audience of 42,297 (live and online).
Birmingham Live newspaper summarised the project and its impact: “Now more than 500 Birmingham residents are to have their own recorded sounds broadcast at six world premieres… when music created across the city and then intertwined with the sounds that make it tick will be heard in public for the first time. Named after Birmingham’s 19th century motto Forward, the for-Wards project links community groups from across 40 different city wards.”
The “for-Wards” methodology now underpins Eastside Projects’ Twelve Tones, the community participation strand of Station Clock, a large-scale aural clock and £2 million public artwork by Turner Prize-winning artist, Susan Philipsz, to be located at the new HS2 Curzon Street Station.
The impacts have also been translated into diverse fields such as public art, science communication, and language preservation. For example, Andrew Hamilton's three musical works for the Irish Language Art Song Project contributed to tackling the lack of art song in Irish/Gaeilge, raising awareness in the professional singing community and wider society.