The COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on both rural communities in Wales and the creative industries. It has decimated the tourist income on which many communities rely and wiped out work for most performers for up to a year.
Both MWO and Ensemble Cymru are dedicated to bringing high quality live music to communities across Wales. We can’t wait to get back to live touring when the time is right, but for now COVID-19 has forced us to refocus. We want to find new ways to support singers, musicians and composers – and help them to support their own communities.
We want to try out new ways for artists to support their communities to tell their stories and the stories of rural Wales’ landscape and history. This will involve a number of unique projects between artists and communities, with a move towards a hybrid model of performance – digital and live – and the flexibility to adapt to constantly changing conditions and social distancing constraints.
We want artists to engage with adults and children of any age who are local to them and would not normally have the opportunity of sharing their story through opera or chamber music. This could mean individual projects with primary schools; with young musicians working with professionals; with choirs and other music groups; and with the general public and existing MWO/EC audiences. Each project should respond differently to local partners, resources and circumstances.
We are particularly interested in engaging with people and children from under-represented, disabled or disadvantaged communities.
While Milltir Sgwâr will be delivered jointly by MWO and EC, MWO will support certain individual projects through an open commissioning programme. We will put a call out to musicians, singers and composers for opera, vocal or chamber-scale instrumental projects. These should be delivered between November 2020 and March 2021.
To simplify the process for artists not used to running projects, we will start with an Expression of Interest stage, asking for just one page of A4/300 words in English or Welsh (or a very short film – 3 minutes maximum if that is better for you) explaining the idea behind the proposal and why you want to do this work in your community. We will then select projects which we will help develop to a fuller (but still simple) second and final round of the application process.
Each project can cost from £500 up to £5000 inclusive of community engagement, digital delivery costs and all fees. Our maximum budget for the whole commissioning programme is £15,000. We can support applicants with advice on performance and technical aspects of the work and help with all areas of marketing.
The work could be as small as a digitally delivered singing project with a local school or as big as can be managed within the budget. Whatever its size, the focus needs to be on work developed through a genuine partnership with communities and a real sense of place and local connection.