Future uncertain for Norwich children’s music project

The future of a groundbreaking music project aimed at transforming the prospects of hundreds of Norwich children hangs in the balance as staff anxiously await news of a government spending decision.

In Harmony was set up two-and- a-half years ago as a way of giving children the chance to get free expert music tuition, all the while teaching them invaluable life skills and boosting confidence.

Involving more than 500 youngsters, the group gives in and out of hours teaching at Larkman Primary School and Catton Grove, in Mile Cross and runs an orchestra for 110 children.

But following the expiry of much needed government funding, the future of the project remains uncertain until education minister Michael Gove gives a thumbs up to as yet unknown Department of Education spending plans.

Director of Norwich and Norfolk Community Arts, Marcus Patterson, runs the musical project and said a decision was expected any day now.

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'The project has had a phenomenal impact. In the ten years I've been involved with things like this I've never seen a project have such an impact in such a short space of time,' he said.

'Waiting for the news I'm nervous and excited, but mainly nervous. Things are on hold at the moment.'

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Mr Patterson outlined the wide range of benefits the project had brought, including a girl who had learned to control her breathing, and thus epilepsy, through singing. He said that if it did not get funding, the project as it existed would have to end, with a year break being taken to fundraise and try and get it running again.

However, he was hopeful that the money would come through, and said funding covering three years, with �150,000 for the first year, was a reasonable target.

Launched in March 2009 in Norwich, Liverpool and London with a split share of �3m from the Department of Education, In Harmony was set up to help impoverished children and was inspired by the El Sistema scheme in Venezuela.

Earlier this year, it launched a bid through the Evening News for donations after its government grant for the rest of the term was halved, leaving a �15,000 funds gap. Headteacher of Larkman Primary School, Alison Clarke, explained how the music lessons had helped students with learning words and writing, as well as increasing attention span and boosting confidence.

'Parents now see In Harmony as part of what we do. Their staff are now part of our staff, and it's had a crucial impact on what we've been able to build up here.

'The government has to prioritise, but I think this should be a priority.'

Is your organisation facing an uncertain future? Call reporter John Owens on 01603 772439 or email john.owens@archant.co.uk

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