Developing audiences and influencing creative practice through Lear Settings and Hull Sinfonietta

Submitting Institution

University of Hull

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Specialist Studies In Education
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media

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Summary of the impact

The research has resulted in positive impacts for cultural life, civil society and education by: (1) generating new ways of thinking that influence creative practice beyond the academy; (2) creating, inspiring and supporting new forms of (primarily) artistic and social expression beyond the academy; (3) contributing to continuing personal and professional development; and (4) preserving, conserving, and interpreting cultural heritage for audiences external to the academy. A `spin-out' performing organisation — Hull Sinfonietta — has been formed, and several creative works have been produced including a music-film (Lear Settings) made in collaboration with local primary and secondary schools and freelance animators and film editors. The main non-academic beneficiaries of the research are the music professionals of Hull Sinfonietta, the school children, their teachers, freelance practitioners, and concertgoers.

Underpinning research

The underpinning research consisted of two compositions by Alastair Borthwick: The Jumblies and The Dong With a Luminous Nose. (Ref 3.1)

The rationale for these linked compositions was `To explore the expressive effects and narrative perspectives derived from stylistic and technical juxtapositions within an overarching pitch-space concept from the perspective of the Dong in Edward Lear's The Dong with a luminous nose'.

The events at which these compositions were premiered attracted external public funding for Hull Sinfonietta (Lee Tsang) subject to these new musical works being written to incorporate participatory elements that would engage young people from disadvantaged communities: £11260 in total was awarded from Arts Council England (Yorkshire), Hull City Arts, Humber Mouth Literature Festival and Artists in Schools (Nov 2004-June 2005).

The premiere performance of The Dong, involved children from Chiltern Primary School, who participated by providing a musical and narrative bridge between The Jumblies and The Dong (May/June 2005). Reception of this approach to audience engagement with the work was divergent according to audience demographic. It led to questions about the contrasting natures of audiences, how we communicate the `expressive effects and narrative perspectives' of Borthwick's music and how we develop future audiences for contemporary music more generally.

As a means of finding practical solutions to the questions raised, this underpinning research subsequently led to:

  1. Hull Sinfonietta becoming fully established as a professional musical collective dedicated to research and engagement projects.
  2. The development of the animated music-film Lear Settings, Hull Sinfonietta's flagship work. (Ref 3.2)

Lear Settings is a Hull Sinfonietta/Creative Partnerships film, co-produced with Andrew Marvell Business and Enterprise College and the Northern Film School. It attracted external public funding (£24786 from Arts Council England Yorkshire Lottery Fund [01/2006-03/2009]), much of it under an earlier title — A Jumbly Girl. Lear Settings incorporates the underpinning research by design. Borthwick's The Jumblies and Dong not only provide the music for the film, they profoundly influenced the screenplay, images, creation of additional soundtrack material and the film's presentation. Whilst the film project was initially part of an engagement strategy to increase the dissemination and impact of Borthwick's music, it developed into a research project in its own right and has had numerous impacts.

The research for Lear Settings was conducted over the period 2004 to 2013, and the key researchers were: Dr Lee Tsang, Lecturer in Music, University of Hull, 2004 to present (Principal Investigator); Dr Alastair Borthwick, Senior Lecturer in Music, University of Hull, 2004 to present; Michael Fletcher, PhD student in Music and Technician, University of Hull, 2006 to 2011; Rozi Fuller, Freelance Animator; Will Docherty, Freelance Animation/Film Editor, Studio Mejo; Katariina Paakki, Freelance Animation Assistant, Compositor; Zane Whittingham, Freelance Animator.

The project was collaborative in nature. The primary research contribution of the animators related to the illustration styles of Edward Lear and their use in a contemporary context using the latest Flash technology. All other research areas were driven by UoH, though workshop activity that fed into the research process included contributions by numerous non-academics, including children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The project investigated and provided new insights into:(i) the process of making an animated music-film that bridges the gap between `high art' music and hard-to-reach audiences; (ii) the overall artistic and educational concept; and (iii) dissemination that encourages active engagement/interaction.

The key findings were that Lear Settings, as a film and research-engagement initiative: develops models for democratic authorship and ownership of 'high art'; articulates the concept of difference (challenging assumptions about sound and identity, race and 'otherness'); provides new structures for the presentation of aspects of memory, fragmentation and character psychology in musical and filmic contexts; and offers flexible models for education and group-learning contexts. (Ref 3.2-3.6)

Each stage of engagement generated new material and ideas that subsequently led to further research. Thus the research was in part drawn from experiences with: Creative Partnerships, government bodies and funding organisations 2004-2012; Chiltern Primary School, Hull, May/June 2005; Andrew Marvell Business and Enterprise College (AMBEC), 2006-2009; St Andrews Community Primary School, Kirkella, June/July 2009-2012; and audiences, including those surveyed in detail in 2012.

References to the research

1. Borthwick, Alastair (2004-5). The Jumblies and The Dong with a Luminous Nose for soprano and chamber orchestra. Duration: 25 minutes. Premiered by Hull Sinfonietta, Alison Bell (The Jumblies, November 2004) and Sarah Leonard (The Jumblies and The Dong, June 2005). Peer-reviewed as part of RAE 2008.

2. Tsang, Lee (2009). The Lear Settings Music-Film Project portfolio, including: Lear Settings, an animated music-film in three parts (40'); evaluative report on the animated A Jumbly Girl for Creative Partnerships (July 2009) 5pp. Reference: 7022094. URL: [Film also available on private link]

3. Tsang, Lee (2009): 'Practice and Outreach in Music Research: the Lear Settings Animation Project' (Sheffield University, February 2009; Hull University, March 2009)

4. Tsang, Lee (2010): `Finding a Voice: Authorship and Subjectivity in the Lear Settings Animation Project'. Paper presented at Song, Stage and Screen 5 — Interdisciplinary Approaches to 'Voice' in Music, Theatre and Film, University of Winchester, 3-5 Sept 2010.


5. Tsang, Lee (2012): 'Beyond Lear Settings: Implications for Communities'. Paper presented at Albemarle Music Centre, Hull, 4 July 2012

6. Tsang, Lee (2013): `New Approaches to Creativity: British Government Policy on Educating Communities and the Shaping of "High Art" — a Musical Case Study (Lear Settings)', Paper presented at the Research Colloquium, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 12 March 2013 URL:

Details of the impact

The composition and research described in section 2 led to the formation of Hull Sinfonietta (and, later, the Portumnus Ensemble) as a branded professional music collective for the Humber region. Since 2008 this collective's positive impacts on cultural life, civil society and education have included:

  1. providing opportunities for 30+ commissions/premieres by professional/emerging composers. Outcomes have included an anthology of new songs (UYMP, 2010-11), a published performing translation (Faber, 2012), and a work that was subsequently performed by Tokyo Philharmonic for the inaugural Asian Music Festival (2010), Israel Contemporary Players (2012) and the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (2012) (5.1)
  2. developing a programme of annual, research-informed Rehearsal Orchestra Days for schools in association with Excellence Hub (5.2) (over 14 schools, 240 pupils); a Young Artists Programme; cultural exchanges with 10 Chinese artists from overseas (5.1)
  3. providing occasional work for musicians from across the North of England and for local companies e.g. Since Jan 2008 the largest single investment to facilitate events was £47k from Hull City Council for `Music in the Gardens' in 2012. (5.1, 5.3). Other non UoH- distributed funding included over £19703 from PRS Foundation for Music, CASH Music Fund, the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust, Hull City Council, commercial/private donors.

Audience figures (live events) were c.2,500-3,000. Media coverage included Hull Daily Mail, Yorkshire Post, Viking FM, Radio Humberside.

Lear Settings had numerous impacts. Building on the original rationale of the underpinning research (see Section 2), the film's research led to (1) generating new ways of thinking that influence creative practice beyond the academy; (2) creating, inspiring and supporting new forms of (primarily) artistic and social expression beyond the academy; (3) contributing to continuing personal and professional development; and (4) preserving, conserving, and interpreting cultural heritage for audiences external to the academy. It achieved these impacts as a result of dissemination through:

  • Animation Studio Image Production Workshops with AMBEC, Hull June 2008. (Earlier music/image workshops in January 2006, September 2007 had impacts in 2008 and beyond.) 40 pupils. (3.2, 5.4)
  • Film work. 5 professional animators employed, 2008-9 (3.2, 5.4, 5.5)
  • Recording of film soundtrack (January 2008) (17 performers employed) (3.2, 5.4) [
  • Workshops (Including singing, costume-making), St Andrews Community Primary School, Kirkella, Jun/Jul 2009. 70 pupils. (5.6)
  • Performances and screenings (including with live orchestra) at:
    • Middleton Hall, University of Hull March 2009. 17 performers employed. (3.2, 5.4, 5.7)
    • BBC Hull Big Screen, 27 June 2009 (3.2, 5.8, 5.6) with live elements by St Andrews
    • Cubby Broccoli Cinema, National Media Museum's, 16th Bradford Animation Festival, 12th November 2009 (3.2, 5.5, 5.8)
    • Albemarle Music Centre, Hull and Beverley Minster, 4-5 July 2012. 17 performers employed. (3.2, 3.5, 5.8)
    • Chinese University of Hong Kong, 12 March 2013. (3.2, 3.6, 5.1)
  • Youtube downloads

In total there were 1250+ audience hits: 229 Non-academics in participatory events, 720 general live audiences, 301+ downloads/webhits. N.B. These figures exclude any audience hits for works subsequently produced by professionals as a result of their involvement in Lear Settings.

Sample impacts:

a. Increased and sustained engagement in Music and Arts subjects. Workshops with AMBEC first took place when the school's Music provision was developing. Pupils in 2008 responded to the underpinning research by delivering work as though for a commercial animation studio. The project played a role in strengthening numbers obtaining related qualifications. The school has records from 2009 and information on 25 of the 46 participants: 85% opted for creative and performing arts subjects; 92% achieved GCSE grades A-C, median average B/C, mode C; BTEC median Dist, mode Dist* with 6 music BTECs Dist* for all averages) (5.9); a workshop in Sept 2007 contributed directly to a further 8 pupils achieving their Certificate of Personal Effectiveness award in 2008. (5.4, 5.9)

b. Improvements in pupil behaviour. `Democratic authorship' was promoted to encourage artistic ownership and `open-earedness'. Observable improvements in pupil confidence, productivity, and behaviours resulted notably amongst pupils at risk of exclusion. Pupils who attended the film premiere referred to being inspired to create (musical) artworks. Many went on to take arts subjects. (5.4, 5.9)

c. Changes to school teaching methods including cross curricular learning. In St Andrews subsequent radical shifts towards cross-curricular learning contributed significantly to record literacy SATS results in 2012. (5.6)

d. Professional skills development particularly in relation to use of image editing and musical timing for live performance and 2D animation using Flash technology. William Simpson (formerly Docherty), Katariina Paakki, Rozi Fuller, Zane Whittingham, Lisa McKnight — all credit their work on the film (listed as either A Jumbly Girl or Lear Settings) on business websites relating to their careers, e.g. Zoom animation,, and Omni Pictures.

We can observe increased use of techniques in their post-Lear Settings work. For instance:

  • The complex narrative (meta-)structure in which projected images interact with a soloist in live contexts was discussed by Fuller at an open forum at BAF'09 and would inspire her to pursue later interactions between: a live performer and animated images as well as audience and animated outdoor projections. (5.5a-c)
  • In 2012, Whittingham and Fuller, with Kath Shackleton, would form the company Fettle Animation (Lear Settings features in first showreels). Influence from the creative direction and writing of the `A Jumbly Girl'section can be traced in the style of the 2012 Olympiad project Spooky Sport, which was shortlisted for the `Best Use of Animation' Big Chip Award and included in the BAF2013 Official Selection Short Shorts. (5.5d)
  • Following Lear Settings, Will Simpson founded both Omni Pictures and internet TV studio MITSUI.TV, producing for BBC, World Wildlife Foundation and Arts Council England. Subsequent related music-film work included Trilogies — three video works commissioned for a Piano Circus live performance at Kings Place London, Feb 2011 favourably reviewed by Bach Track. (5.5e)

e. In an impact survey of concertgoers attending a live orchestra screening of Lear Settings and `implications for communities' talk (2012), 87% of those questioned identified a music-related impact. Audiences commented on: aspects of the project perceived as innovative or new; images or presentation of images affecting experience of the music; interesting/resonating themes/ideas; the usefulness of the project as a model for others; changes in their behaviours as a direct consequence of the experience; general impressions of the multi-stranded approach; the intensity level of their engagement. (5.10)

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Dean of Students, Hong Kong Institute of Education testimonial
  2. Doncaster Music Service (Hull Sinfonietta Rehearsal Orchestra Days and Rehearsal Orchestra Day survey data 2012) testimonial
  3. Lord Mayor's Office, Hull City Council
  4. Creative Partnerships Hull archives at Hull College. Reports by partners, including Evaluation (end-of-grant) report by Hull Sinfonietta on the animated A Jumbly Girl for CP (July 2009)
    Reference: 7022094. Pages 3-4
  5. Professional development

a. A Jumbly Girl featured at BAF Animated Yorkshire Showcase for the Animated Yorkshire Network, Thurs 12 Nov)

b. 'Fly me to the moon' for Mary Oliver's Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth (Aug 2008).

c. `Light Garden' (a Spatial Augmented `Un'reality) at Lawrence Batley Theatre/Huddersfield Library for Huddersfield Festival of Light December 2010)

d. Fettle Animation

e. Omni Pictures

  1. Sports co-ordinator and EVC, Kirk Ella St. Andrew's C.P. School — testimonial
  2. Hull Sinfonietta website (current membership and past events) URL:
  3. Screening confirmations (examples):

a. BBC Big Screen Hull Weekly Schedule Week 26: 270609-030709

b. Hull Daily Mail 14 Nov 2009 short report on Bradford Animation Festival (BAF) screening

c. Great British Life (Beverley Minster screening) with rating URL:

  1. Heads of Creative & Performing Arts (former and current), Andrew Marvell Business and Enterprise College — testimonial
  2. Lear Settings Impact Survey July 2012: Audience Responses Report (with statistics)