Regional music-making at the heart of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

On Tuesday 19 April, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) hosted a reception at the House of Commons to mark its 70th Anniversary and to celebrate the Orchestra’s flagship UK regional touring programme. The occasion was sponsored by the Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP and supported by Northern Trust.

Since its formation in 1946, the RPO’s mission has been to bring world-class orchestral music to the widest possible audience. The Orchestra performs approximately 180 concerts a year worldwide and the variety and diversity of its programming helps to attract an annual global audience in excess of 500,000. However, its roots are firmly in the UK, performing in more than 70 towns and cities each year and achieving an audience demographic wider than that of any other British ensemble.

This unique regional output is under threat due to continuing cuts to Local Authority expenditure on arts and culture (17% since 2010); whilst the RPO has managed up until now, this trend is not sustainable and the English regions risk losing this provision. ‘If the Orchestra’s regional activity is to be secured, we must at least maintain current levels of public funding whilst increasing corporate and private sponsorship,’ said Ian Maclay, Managing Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. ‘We must make our voice heard if we are to celebrate a further 70 years, which is why we are bringing our message to the corridors of power.’

Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP praises the Orchestra

The reception was attended by many MPs in and around whose constituencies the RPO regularly performs. In his opening remarks, the Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP praised the Orchestra for its commitment to the English regions – in particular his constituency (Hull West and Hessle) where the RPO played an important role in securing Hull as the City of Culture 2017, and where it delivers an innovative project with stroke victims.

Sir Peter Bazalgette (Chairman, Arts Council England (ACE)) explained that ACE is developing a holistic case for arts investment based on the intrinsic social, educational and economic impacts that support and reinforce each other – ‘using these tests as a yard stick, the RPO gets a big tick,’ he praised. 

It is not just concertgoers who will be impacted if arts and culture funding continues to be cut. Since 1983, RPO Resound, the Orchestra’s groundbreaking and award-winning community and education programme, has taken music out of the concert hall and into the heart of the communities in which it regularly performs, using the extraordinary power of music to enhance the lives of those in our society who are less fortunate. Therefore, it is imperative that funding is maintained.


Notes to editor

Key facts

  • The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has the widest demographic of any of England’s orchestras, performing in more than 70 towns and cities in each year.
  • The RPO operates a mixed funding model with public funding accounting for less than 12% of the Orchestra’s annual turnover.
  • The Orchestra and its award-winning Community and Education Programme, RPO Resound, engaged just under 15,000 participants from schools to families during 2015.
  • The RPO played an important role in securing Hull as the City of Culture for 2017, which will generate £60 million to the local economy.   
  • The RPO is completely committed to diversity in all of its forms, both in society and in the work place.
  • In 2015, the RPO performed 172 concerts, playing in London, UK venues and internationally, reaching a combined audience in excess of 500,000.
  • STROKESTRA, the RPO’s stroke rehabilitation programme, has recently won two significant healthcare awards.
  • The RPO is committed to supporting young emerging talent, providing young artists a world-class platform.             
  • The Orchestra is at the forefront of digital technology and is fully committed to emerging digital opportunities.

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra biography

In 2016, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) celebrates 70 years at the forefront of music-making in the UK. Its home base since 2004 at London’s Cadogan Hall serves as a springboard for fourteen residencies across the country, often in areas where access to live orchestral music is very limited. With a wider reach than any other UK large ensemble, the RPO has truly become Britain’s national orchestra. 

Read the full biography

Contact information

For further comments or information, please contact Chris Evans (Director of Press and Marketing, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra). Telephone: 020 7608 8836 | Mobile: 07702 210074 | Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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