In May 2013 I spent five days attached to a machine at Lewisham hospital coming to terms with a diagnosis of type-one diabetes. Saving money on my phone contract became a quick regret leaving me without signal, an internet connection and very much on my own. As the days progressed visits from friends and conversations with other patients, nurses and doctors shaped my experiences, changing the way I thought about the music I was making. I quickly realised that no matter where you are it is the sense of community created by those around you that is the most integral part of your own happiness. Without this experience the Engines Orchestra wouldn’t exist today.
From the hospital bed that the EO concept was created: ‘A community of musicians, based around a large-cross genre ensemble that come together to promote and develop audiences for new music’ - the most important word being community. If we don’t embrace musicians and non-musicians together how can we break down the barriers to bring fresh faces to explore new music? A combination of performance projects, educational outreach and artist development prevailed formulating into a business plan that lead to my application for the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award.
The audition day arrived and a sweaty, anxious version of myself turned up to The Premises rehearsal studios in Hoxton to be greeted by smiles from the Help Musicians UK team but smiling back was the last thing on my mind as the beads of nervousness rippled slowly down my forehead. I took my small group to audition; a collection of some of my favourite musicians (Laura Jurd, Elliot Galvin, Conor Chaplin and Simon Roth) to find a panel of Gwilym Simcock, Soweto Kinch, Norma Winston and Steve Rubie sat in front of me, along with members of the Whittingham family. After handing my business plan to them and taking a (very) deep breath we performed. The band then left the room and I was interviewed about my proposal.
As with all awards the competition was tough and the standard high – I saw many brilliant musicians enter the building that day. My phone rang and Tim Foxon was on the other end. I was completely astounded to find out that I had been successful with my application/audition and had received the 2013 Peter Whittingham Jazz Award.
Are you a jazz artist? Find out if you're eligible to apply to the Peter Whittingham Jazz award.
One year on and the award has been the most important step in my professional development so far. It has unlocked access to brilliant expert advice and support, given me the funds to developing the infrastructure and found the orchestra. Without it we wouldn’t be releasing the debut album at this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival.
Indirectly more people seem interested in the work we are trying to do, the music I’ve written for the debut and many have expressed an interest in helping the orchestra develop further! I feel that my skillset as a composer, a saxophonist and a member of the music industry has developed tenfold and the support from Help Musicians UK has been invaluable throughout the process.
Without the 2013 Peter Whittingham Jazz Award this dream wouldn’t be a reality and I cannot thank the Whittingham family and Help Musicians UK enough for their help. If you’re thinking of applying this year my only advice would be to believe in your project no matter how ambitious. Make sure it’s something you are truly passionate about and remember that there’s more to the process than performing – knowing your project timeline and having researched your budget will help you go a long way!
The future for the Engines Orchestra looks bright and together with Alex J Watson from Boom Better Records and Katie Robson (our first employee) we hope you’ll join us for some creative music making soon!
Don’t miss the Engines Orchestra launch gig this November at the EFG London Jazz Festival
Would you like to support to the Engines Orchestra?