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Enriching and improving lives: RWCMD launches Woolcott student residencies

The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama is launching the Woolcott student residencies, an innovative training programme designed to support RWCMD students working within the community, and to give local people a sense of ownership of the arts.

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RWCMD, Music

Date published

Published on 06/12/2023

The Woolcott Residency Programme is part of a wider strategy to increase access and inclusion at the College, including new scholarships and bursaries programmes, a revalidation of its undergraduate music course to focus on the artist in society, and new ticketing schemes and outreach programmes to ensure that more people can enjoy participating in the arts.

Building a network of residencies in Wales

A growing network of residencies in Wales blends musical artistry, talent development and creative projects to engage and support young people and the wellbeing of communities, offering benefits for RWCMD students, local schools and communities, partner venues and the public.

Projects so far have focused on Cardiff and include The Bute Wind Quintet at The Norwegian Church Arts Centre, RWCMD Guitar ensemble at Pedal Power in Bute Park, and the RWCMD Big Band, RWCMD composers and Quartet Draig working with different groups, including early years workshops, at Penarth Pier Pavilion.

Building on this pilot work in Cardiff, students will then work with organisations across Wales through new and existing connections, helping to develop the College’s role as the National Conservatoire, and continuing its ambition to keep the arts in the heart of communities in Wales, alongside contributing to Cardiff City’s Music Strategy.

Creating musicians in society

Each Woolcott residency provides students with the tools, support and mentoring needed to set themselves up as creative businesses working in a collaborative, entrepreneurial manner. 

Each ensemble will be encouraged to curate and nurture their own relationship with a venue, delivering regular educational workshops, concerts and participatory sessions for at least a year.

‘I am so glad that the Anthony G. Woolcott Trust’s grant means we can commit to this important programme for the next three years.

There is an increasing body of research that evidences the very real physical and mental benefits of participating in creative activities, and we firmly believe in the power of music to enrich and improve lives.

It is wonderful to be able to support our students to get out of the building and into communities across Wales for two-way exchange and learning, as an essential part of their training.’
Helena GauntRWCMD Principal

Following the success of the South Wales pilot, the residencies and collaborations are expected to double over the next few years, generating long-term change to the local and national arts scene.

RWCMD is currently setting up new residencies with organisations including Theatr Clwyd, St Woolos Cathedral and Hay Castle.

‘We very much want to state our support for the performing arts in Wales and this programme of RWCMD.

We look forward to the residences flourishing over the coming years.’
David MacFarlaneTrustee of the Woolcott Trust

Editors notes

This programme has been made possible thanks to a transformational grant from the Anthony G. Woolcott Charitable Trust. Named after entrepreneur and LGBTQ+ rights activist, Anthony Woolcott, who passed away in 1986, the Trust has supported a wide range of projects across the UK and overseas over the past 36 years. They have decided to close down the Trust, spending out their remaining capital with one major investment in the College to ensure this project has a lasting impact.

Woolcott residencies case studies

The Norwegian Church Arts Centre in Cardiff Bay has hosted the Bute Wind Quintet resident for two terms already. The students have used the Church as a base for rehearsals and concerts, while the staff of the Church have supported them to develop skills through talks on business planning, tax, photographs and career progression.

Gareth Roberts, general manager of the Norwegian Church arts centre said, ‘The relationship between us, RWCMD and the 'Butes' has felt generous, meaningful, and completely inspiring. The interest of the Arts Centre's customers has definitely been piqued. Audience and staff engagement has been significant and growing, and it feels like there's momentum in the relationship, which I’m looking forward to exploring.’

Gabriella Alberti, from the Bute Wind Quintet added, ‘Our Woolcott residency at the Norwegian Church has been an immensely exciting and beneficial experience for the five members of the quintet. The opportunity to rehearse in the beautiful space, which offers a soaring acoustic, is any instrumentalist’s dream. The friendly environment and the café’s bubbly cliental provides a loyal audience for the quintet members to interact and engage with, both musically and socially. 

The residency encourages the artistic freedom to explore exciting musical programs for the local community to feast their ears on.’

Pedal Power

RWCMD Guitar ensemble host weekly sessions at Bute Park-based disabled cycling culture café and charity, Pedal Power. Helen Sanderson, Head of Guitar at RWCMD, said,

‘Pedal power has been an exceptional opportunity for our students to share their music in the local community in a warm, friendly and welcoming setting. The ability to develop stagecraft in a more informal venue, thinking carefully about an audience, and considering what they might enjoy hearing, and what music they could be introduced to, has been invaluable for our students.'

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