Business

An orchestral focus on wellbeing . . .

Michelle Baird, director of marketing & communications at the Ulster Orchestra, which is one of the new business partners in this year's Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards

THE Ulster Orchestra is delighted to be the new ‘wellbeing' partner for the 2019 Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards - in the year the award-winning ensemble celebrates its 53rd season.

With research proving for many years that classical music has a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing, this partnership will also see the ‘Employer of the Year' winner receive a special, wellbeing engagement workshop with Northern Ireland's most highly regarded group of professional musicians.

The Ulster Orchestra currently employs 63 full-time musicians and 21 administrative staff and provides symphonic music across a number of platforms – concerts, BBC music events, popular music and special events, education workshops in schools and across the community, and commercial activities such as hired engagements and recordings.

One of Northern Ireland's cultural leaders and a contributor to the local economy, the Ulster Orchestra has demonstrated a progressive period of growth over the last three years, with raised artistic performances, increased audience numbers and a profile that demonstrates high confidence in the organisation's future.

A new business model was instigated in 2016/17, aiming to generate additional income to support all orchestral activities, while continually enhancing the orchestra's artistic reputation and serving audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Key drivers are commitments to the highest standards of artistic and operational practice, social inclusion, learning and engagement, creative collaborations and partnerships and maximising commercial opportunities.

Managing director Richard Wigley said: “Innovation is now the basic premise of the Ulster Orchestra's activity. We need to be consistently creative and innovative in everything we do, in order to maintain the confidence of the people of Northern Ireland, but also to give back to the community and to audiences who have been, and who continue to be, supportive of our work.

“This isn't something that will happen overnight, but the extent of our recent changes and achievements is definitely having a positive impact and putting us on the right track. On an artistic level, we have created more diverse programming which appeals across a broader audience base.

"We have also successfully attracted top international soloists to share the stage with us and 'Learning and Community Engagement' is now a central part of our activity.”

"Unique partnerships have also had an impact on the orchestra's profile and, in October 2016 the orchestra teamed with LUSH! Nightclub to stage what is now regarded as one of the most significant events in the Northern Ireland music calendar."

Meanwhile, another new initiative, ‘On your Doorstep', sees the full orchestra move out of Belfast to play in a diverse a range of venues across Northern Ireland.

“All this work is vital to the success of the Ulster Orchestra,” Richard continued.

“However, we can't deliver everything we aspire to, if we don't have the necessary funding in place.

“Like any other charity, we rely on a mix of income from ticket sales, grants, donations, legacies, advertising and sponsorship.

“Our Corporate Membership Scheme and sponsorship packages are starting to prove fruitful and we are also working to develop additional offerings such as team-building workshops where we can invite businesses, for example, to take '50 seats' located within the orchestra during a rehearsal at the Ulster Hall, to experience how we work as a team.”

The Ulster Orchestra is going "from strength to strength”, he added, and under new chief conductor Daniele Rustioni everyone is excited for the future.

:: Entries for the 2019 Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards will remain open until Friday May 3, with the finalists being announced on Thursday May 16. More details at www.irishnews.com/wea. Follow us on Twitter at @irishnewsWEA

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