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Curating Elgar at The Firs

Statue of Sir Edward Elgar gazing out to the Malvern Hills at The Firs, Worcestershire
Statue of Sir Edward Elgar gazing out to the Malvern Hills at The Firs | © National Trust Images/Trevor Ray Hart

Curating Elgar was a co-produced project working with over 200 people in diverse community and education settings through musician-led workshops. The aim was to introduce people to Elgar through The Firs, translate the impact The Firs had on the world and make his music relevant for a wider audience.

Curating Elgar

Curating Elgar was a co-produced project, led by musician Ruth Hopkins, filmmaker Nicky Prestage and the team at the Firs. Throughout the project we worked with over 200 participants aged three to ninety, in diverse community settings. The mission was to understand how to make Elgar relevant for a wide audience and how to communicate the international significance of this quaint cottage setting in Broadheath.

Following the workshops, the team commissioned poet Kurly McGeachie to write a poem in response to the activity and inspired by Elgar’s story.

Elgar Energy

Alan (Kurly) McGeachie a performance poet based in the Midlands. He is CEO of Memorhyme, an arts-based literacy service and resource provider for the education sector. "My aim was to reflect Elgar's musicality by stringing together sentences in a rhythmical way. Hopefully, it will inspire others to make rhythms of their own!"


Curating Elgar and Elgar Soundscapes at The Firs

Opening in February 2024, the Curating Elgar display at The Firs has been developed to provide a legacy for the Curating Elgar project and new family activity for visitors with Elgar Soundscapes.

Visit The Firs to learn more about the background of the project, watch the co-produced film: A guide to making music inspired by Elgar and the participants, and discover the 5 ingredients needed to build musical compositions with Elgar Soundscapes.

The Team:

Ruth Hopkins – musician

Ruth studied Music at Oxford University and is director of K’antu Ensemble. She performs internationally, has broadcast on TV and Radio, and enjoys collaborations with dancers and actors for multimedia and site-specific historical performances for heritage events.

Passionate about increasing accessibility to classical music, she has undertaken a multimedia residency at the BANFF Centre (Canada) and received the Live Music Now Fellowship for her work in special educational needs and disability settings. She was Artistic Director for ‘All Roads Lead to Alexander’ at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Festival and ‘Music from Home’ for Transforming Narratives in Bangladesh.

Nicola Prestage – filmmaker

Nicola is a documentary filmmaker, film facilitator and digital artist. Her film career started over a decade ago filming and producing adverts and customer insight films. Her digital artwork has been displayed at various galleries throughout the UK including Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and alongside Grayson Perry’s artwork at Croome Court.

Nicola produces creative and engaging films which help people understand the challenges that other people face and to dispel negative stereotypes. She is passionate about facilitating film, drama and digital media projects and enjoys working with people to support them in unleashing their potential.

She facilitates projects to build self-esteem, confidence, group cohesion and transferable skills to enable participants to engage and contribute positively to society.

Tymek Jozwiak – musician

Tymek is a drummer based in Birmingham. He works predominantly in the field of jazz and improvised music but is also involved in folk and early music projects.

While a student at the Birmingham Conservatoire, Tymek was awarded the Tony Levin Drum Prize by the legendary British jazz drummer himself. He is currently working with some of the finest musicians and band leaders in Britain and has performed with K'antu Ensemble and at many clubs and festivals across the UK and Europe.

Find out more about the project in this video.

The Curating Elgar project: a timeline

17 June 2019

Workshop at Calthorpe Academy

We arrived at school bright and early with a car packed full of sensory resources ready for our three workshops with eighteen of Calthorpe Academy’s pupils with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties, some of the most disabled in the school. 

Our grass matting, animal finger puppets, trays of soil, stones and leaves, combined with video projections of the Malvern Hills transported us to Elgar’s world. Each class took a musical journey exploring the sounds of nature using drums, rain sticks and their voices to create improvised soundscapes.  

Whilst the children were all non-verbal, it was clear that they were enjoying themselves. Staff commented that it is rare for everyone to stay in the room for an activity session. However, the music captured their attention and with the help of support staff, all the children were involved with the musical activities.  

The highlight of the day was when one non-verbal student found his singing voice during the session. Initially, everyone thought it was me singing, but he was perfectly copying my tone and we ended up improvising a duet together. 

Mahonia at Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey


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