Lost in Birmingham


Birmingham is changing by the week. With all the rebuilding going on at present, it’s unrecognisable to a longtime but irregular visitor like myself. My method of navigating via landmarks I could remember from the old days (such as St Martin in the Bullring, pictured) wasn’t much help while I searched for the new Conservatoire building, somewhere amidst a heap of new architecture, and arrived at Young Composers’ Project at least half an hour late.

This didn’t seem to worry the folks at laid-back YCP, where a high end professional string trio was preparing to workshop some interesting music by YCP graduate Natalie Roe (now at RWCMD). Kirsty Devaney set up this miraculous project almost seven years ago, and I’ve written about it before. School-age students with a creative interest in music are able to attend monthly Sunday sessions which include individual tuition and advice.

It’s a boon for state school students who may not otherwise have access to activities like this. A key feature is that YCP’s teachers are mostly students themselves, and are therefore good role models, being much closer to the issues their tutees are facing. Another successful aspect is that the group meets just every few weeks, which seems to be enough to whet the appetite. But how generous of those concerned (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire included) to make sure this lack in our national education system is being at least partially addressed. It did not surprise me to learn shortly after this visit that the RAM is planning to start a similar Sunday scheme, concerned by the lack of state school pupils amongst their composition applicants.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer