Keep the Philharmonia Playing: many live concerts up to December 2020 are sadly cancelled. If you can, give what you can to keep the Philharmonia playing for you.

Donate now

Philharmonia publishes initial report into The Virtual Orchestra

Visitors in installation at The Virtual Orchestra

Today the Philharmonia Orchestra releases an initial report about its audience development project The Virtual Orchestra (2018-22), a major strand of the Orchestra’s programme using digital experiences and engagement work to widen access and increase participation with orchestral music in the UK.

The findings demonstrate the transformative impact of taking orchestral music experiences outside the concert hall and out into communities, with a demographic reach that represents contemporary society, including:

  • 26% of audiences and participants for the project were from a BAME background, against 2% for classical music audiences in the UK (source: The Audience Agency);
  • 39% of audiences and participants were under 16;
  • Representation from communities with traditionally low engagement with the arts increased almost doubled across the project (measured using The Audience Agency’s ‘Audience Spectrum’ model).

The Virtual Orchestra 2018 – 2022

Public report 2020

Download report

The Virtual Orchestra was founded on the Philharmonia’s approach to working with communities across the UK. Our residencies give us the opportunity to work with local partners to design programmes of activity that embeds the Orchestra into the cultural life of the community. There is no better example of this than through The Virtual Orchestra, which has transformed our approach to audience engagement. Our revitalised partnerships are wider and more diverse, and our audiences are beginning to become more reflective of our residency communities. To have achieved such depth of engagement alongside such a wide reach through one project is testament to the Orchestra’s continued investment into our UK residencies.

Jonathan Mayes, Director, Residencies & Regional Programme

Delivered in the Philharmonia residency areas of Bedford, Leicester (2018), Canterbury and Basingstoke (2019), The Virtual Orchestra is a successor to the award-winning iOrchestra project (2014-15, South West England). The Virtual Orchestra is principally supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and John Ellerman Foundation.

The high-intensity delivery period for the project ended in August 2019, moving on to a longitudinal evaluation stage. This report aims to share initial learning and insights following the delivery period. The findings within this report speak to strategic policy changes and challenges facing the orchestral and arts sectors in 2020.


The Virtual Orchestra