Viva leads the way in arts for families project

Jack Ross
Jack Ross

Derby-based regional orchestra Sinfonia Viva is taking the lead on a special collaboration in the city aimed at encouraging more young families to enjoy the arts – a project that is winning national acclaim.

Viva, which has a national reputation for its education work across the East Midlands, is working with fellow arts organisations across Derby to launch a Family Ambassador Scheme as part of the national Family Arts Festival (October 17 to

November 2).

Work is underway to recruit ambassador families from a range of local communities and backgrounds including inner city areas and families who have children with a disability.

They will be invited to various performances and will feedback their views on how events and venues can be made more appealing to families. Then, armed with more knowledge and materials, they will be supported to become ambassadors for the arts amongst their family, friends and local communities.

Other organisations in the scheme include Déda, QUAD, Derby LIVE, Derby Museums and Derby City Council.

Sinfonia Viva Chief Executive Peter Helps is a member of the national Family Arts Festival committee, representing the Association of British Orchestras.

He said: “The Family Ambassador Scheme in Derby is creating a lot of interest nationally in recognition that we are all working together to break down any barriers that families face in participating in the city’s thriving arts and culture scene.

“The kind of areas that we will be looking at with the ambassadors includes transport issues, break out areas in a concert environment for children and the information that they need before and during a performance.

“Events are taking place across Derby and indeed the whole of the UK throughout October and early November as part of the Family Arts Festival and we will be sharing our work with other areas to help them follow our lead.”

National Family Arts Campaign Manager Mari O’Neill added: “Derby’s Family Ambassador Scheme is a leading example of organisations working together as a Family Arts Network, enabling them to achieve more than they can working alone.

“Encouraging more families to experience high quality arts activities is at the core of the Family Arts Campaign’s aims, and we’re really excited to see and share the learning from the Family Ambassador Scheme with organisations across the UK.”

Among the events that the family ambassadors can attend as part of the Festival is Sinfonia Viva’s pioneering ‘Flutter and Fly’ project which will culminate in a family concert at the Rolls-Royce Heritage Centre in Wilmore Road, Derby on Sunday October 26 in conjunction with Derby LIVE.

Viva have commissioned award-winning composer Jack Ross and acclaimed animator Eleanor Meredith to create a story, music and songs about the adventure of Rowan, the paper aeroplane who meets a host of friends in the sky from a bee to a rocket.

As well as telling the story through music, Eleanor will add the visual element through animations and live drawings

Before the performance, the families are being invited to look around the Heritage Exhibition which contains a selection of Rolls-Royce aero-engines and parts from the formation of the company to the present day, including the Merlin and RB211 engines, where they will also be able to meet Viva musicians.

As part of the project Viva are holding a taster workshop at Beckett Children’s Centre and Play and Learn Nursery in the city. Many of the children were involved in Viva’s Family Arts Festival project ‘I Have To Leave My House’ last year which was a story about a mouse who leaves home to escape a hungry cat.

Sinfonia Viva Education Manager Marianne Barraclough explained: “We piloted the project with pre-school children as part of last year’s Family Arts Festival and it was a huge success.

“The workshops are designed to introduce the pre-school children to the story and music and also to help the staff there feel more confident about incorporating music into their play and education sessions.

“The children love learning about the story and making their own music and they will again be invited to the concert alongside the general public.

“Last year’s concert was a sell-out and proved that there was a gap in the market for a high quality performance with elements that can be enjoyed by the whole family.”

The project is supported by Rolls-Royce plc, Derby City Council, Tom Carey Fund via the Derbyshire Community Foundation and Orchestras Live. Sinfonia Viva is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Tickets for Flutter and Fly are available from the Derby LIVE, Tel: 01332 255800;