Good News in Focus: Manchester Camerata
Northern Soul and People’s Powerhouse are continuing our partnership to share good news stories about businesses, people and communities coming together in the North of England during the COVID-19 crisis.
This week, we chat to Manchester Camerata, a registered charity focusing on the transformative and connecting nature of music. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Manchester Camerata’s team of specialist musicians and therapists created Music in Mind: Remote to deliver an online music-making activity to care workers looking after people with dementia.
Northern Soul: Can you tell us a little bit about Manchester Camerata and Music in Mind: Remote?
Manchester Camerata: Music in Mind: Remote is our online version of Music in Mind: Live, an improvised music-making group activity delivered by our resident team of specialist musicians and therapists to people living with dementia and their carers in residential settings. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve not been able to visit care homes to do the workshops, so we’re creating an online version for care workers instead and starting a community of Camerata Champions to help deliver the benefits that music gives to people living with dementia.
NS: What has the response to the project been like?
MC: The carers looking after people with dementia have been grateful for new activities and resources to try, and the support we’re giving them during the pandemic. Some care workers say they often feel overlooked and frustrated that they can’t help the people they are caring for, so these new resources, musical instruments and CD tracks are really helping them to make a positive new contribution to care home life.
NS: What challenges has Manchester Camerata faced during the COVID-19 pandemic?
MC: Like all live arts organisations, our greatest challenge has been how to survive both creatively and financially at a time when live performance has been prohibited, thus drastically affecting our income stream. Subsequently, this has raised another challenge of how we care for our community and our musicians at this time.
MC: Again, the lack of performance opportunities has greatly affected our musicians and freelance contributors who have not been able to perform.
NS: And how have they come together?
MC: To counter this challenge, we were proud to have launched our first foray into film creating the Untold film series earlier this year (the first of which streamed online in October). This is the first in a series of digital films fusing music, film and performance and offering creative opportunities for our freelance community to create brand new work for a digital platform, so that we can still reach and perform for our audiences and wider community.
This wasn’t about putting a concert online, we wanted to meaningfully connect with audiences through their devices and recreate the feeling you get at a live show. To do this, we teamed up with award-winning filmmaker Paul Sapin (Silent Witness, Happy Valley, Clocking Off) to help us recreate that feeling of connection and intimacy through a combination of music, film and spoken word.
NS: Have you been surprised by the reaction?
MC: The feedback from the first Untold film via social media was fantastic and we were thrilled that audiences applauded our creative response to COVID-19 and accessed us online for the first time.
MC: Much like our fellow arts organisations, it means that instead of preparing for festive concerts and planning our live shows for early 2021, we are in limbo and unsure of when we will be able to perform live and come together as an orchestra. But we continue to reach out to the community with our continued work on Music in Mind and funding for our second in the Untold film series which we hope to stream on a new platform early next year.
NS: What’s the most positive moment/thing you’ve experienced during the crisis?
MC: We have been blown away by the support of our loyal fans who have backed our charity during this time. We’d like to say a massive ‘thank you’ to HM Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, Arts Council England and the individuals, trusts and businesses who have supported our recovery plan. We will be using these funds to continue making profound impact for and with our communities and freelance musicians during the pandemic.
NS: What does the ‘new normal’ mean to you?
MC: It means finding new and more creative ways to engage with our audiences. And lots of Zoom meetings.
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