Music in the Round


Sheffield's classical music scene is vibrant, hopeful and creative

15th Mar 2018 16:18
Sheffield's classical music scene is vibrant, hopeful and creative

Sheffield's classical music scene is 'vibrant, hopeful and creative and full of opportunities for young people', says new report

On Friday 16 February, Music in the Round and the University of Sheffield launched an exciting new report about the city's thriving classical music scene. You'll find a copy of the report to read here.


Below is the speech that our Executive Director, Deborah Chadbourn gave at the offical launch.

"Thanks to Vanessa and the City and Culture team at University of Sheffield for commissioning the report to sit alongside your four other reports, and for organising the launch this evening.

I’m Deborah Chadbourn, Executive Director of Music in the Round and Chair of Classical Sheffield and it’s exciting to be here this evening launching this Classical Music report, written by Simon Seligman.

What Simon’s research for the report shows us is what classical music-makers in Sheffield know instinctively, that there is a thriving scene here.

  • In 2015/16 nearly 150,000 people attended classical music concerts in Sheffield and the sector contributed an estimated £4m to the economy.
  • The first two Classical Weekend festivals, delivered on a shoestring, attracted over 13,000 people, other Classical Sheffield events in the period 2015-2017 push that figure to nearly 20,000, many first-time attenders.

(The support of University, City Council, Trusts and Foundations, Arts Council and Sheffield Business Improvement District were vital achieving that level of engagement.)

  • There are over 200 people employed in the sector that we know about. But there are more that we don’t know about and there are thousands involved in amateur music-making, and they contribute significantly (not to mention the well-being aspect).
  • The Halle, Ensemble 360, the University Concert Series and Music in the Round, all have well-deserved national reputations for the quality and breadth of music they perform and promote. There are festivals such as St Andrew’s and Bradfield and newer initiatives all the time.
  • Sheffield has one of the most pioneering Music Education Hubs in the country, and an excellent Centre for Advanced Training in Sheffield Music Academy, teaching and nurturing the musicians of the future; we have at least two of those young musicians with us this evening, one who you’ve just heard, and another in the audience and I’m sure they will go far but wouldn’t it be great if they were able to come back and work here professionally.

The case studies in the report show the breadth of classical music activity from the Up North Session Orchestra to music for babies, young children and families by Polly Ives, from Yellow Arch Studios to Opera on Location. It demonstrates the wealth of talent, enterprise, commitment and vision in the city.

Classical Sheffield, which is at the heart of the report, demonstrates also the fantastic spirit of collaboration and resourcefulness in Sheffield. Where once there was good but disjointed activity, now there is a sense of critical mass, of a wealth of things for audiences to choose from, and for people to participate in, of a joined up offer, of musical vitality, range and appeal that can’t be ignored or thought of as niche.

Because, classical music is not niche; here are some national indicators of its growing popularity:

  • For 2015/16 the Association of British Orchestras recorded 4.8m attenders at concerts and orchestral performances in the UK, a 3% rise on attendances in 2012/13.
  • Audiences for Classic FM are growing, with over 5.7m listeners a week recorded in last week’s RAJAR figures.
  • The Proms is the largest classical music festival in the world, last year was attended by 300,000.

What the report and Classical Sheffield both show is the potential for Sheffield to benefit even more from the skills and talents of its classical music-makers, it shows what can be achieved without a fully resident orchestra, or an up to date, medium-sized concert hall. (Sheffield City Hall is great for orchestras, and the Crucible Studio Theatre is great for chamber music, but we don’t have an in-between space.)

The recommendations in the report came through the conversations, data and interviews that informed it, and they suggest the ways in which our economy could be even further boosted by the classical music sector. We have the capacity to create more jobs across the performing, recording and teaching parts of the sector, (indeed there is more demand than supply in teaching), to build audiences and make Sheffield even more of a magnet city for visitors. &Co’s report on attendance at 5 significant festivals in Sheffield from 2014-2016, show that many people are enthusiastic about their experiences when they come here and are prepared to travel quite some distances to visit.

Imagine what we could achieve for the city with a music centre for its young musicians, or a venue like Stoller Hall in Manchester, which was built to provide a suitable space for that city’s ‘prodigious talent’. Imagine if we could have a chamber orchestra resident here as well as the Halle visiting and programming at City Hall and Ensemble 360 performing in the Studio. Imagine if we could have a recording studio in Sheffield that was THE recording studio for large orchestral sessions in the North.

In 1984, when the late, visionary Peter Cropper started a two-week chamber music festival in Sheffield, with the Lindsay String Quartet, people said it wouldn’t work. Well 34 years later, Music in the Round, which grew out of that festival is flourishing. When Stewart Campbell at University Concerts Series and Music in the Round first got together and said, let’s bring the classical music-makers together in 2013, we didn’t envisage that we would have engaged nearly 20,000 people 4 years later or set up an exciting biennial festival, but we have.

If we put the first recommendation of Simon’s report into effect, and if out of that, we commissioned a feasibility study into a venue or a music centre for the city, who knows what we would achieve, but it would probably be more than we can possibly imagine – and think how the city, and all the people who live, work, grow-up and visit here would benefit.



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