Inside Southbank Sinfonia

An orchestra like no other, based in the heart of London


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Crusading for equality

As we welcome a new fellowship of players to Southbank Sinfonia for our 15th birthday year, Managing Director James Murphy takes to the blog to share an issue that’s become something of a passion for him and the orchestra. 

If, like me and my team, you work behind the scenes in classical music, you’re actually a bit of a crusader, here to ensure people recognise the power and worth of a remarkable art form. Day to day, we don’t really think of ourselves as crusaders but, all told, it’s who we are.

Recently, I’ve found myself crusading for a cause I honestly hadn’t given great thought in years past. At Southbank Sinfonia we’re privileged to welcome conductors of all kinds, from the venerable likes of Vladimir Ashkenazy and Antonio Pappano, to the latest sensations fresh out of music college – just like our players. As part of this, we’ve come to work with some fantastic female conductors, still a fairly rare sight on the podium, this particular profession – like many things – not really recognised as unisex for centuries. The times have thankfully changed and some of the most exciting conductors are now female. Nonetheless, in candid conversation, some of them have shared with me their ongoing struggle for parity in a world where men still seem largely to prevail. I started to wonder what my orchestra and I might do to help change this, fuelled by the initiatives of a handful of others in our sector.

Early in 2017, I had the opportunity to share my progress, and general sentiments on the matter, with colleagues from across our sector at the Association of British Orchestras Conference. What follows is a digital distillation of the ‘provocation’ that the ABO invited me to present.