The acclaimed chamber orchestra Britten Sinfonia has launched a £1 million appeal to enable it to ‘play on’. The appeal following the withdrawal of the Sinfonia's funding as an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, which has left the orchestra with a financial shortfall of £1 million over the next three years.


A range of high-profile musical figures have lent their support to the Play On appeal. These include composers Steve Reich and Master of the King’s Music Judith Weir, Sir James MacMillan, Thomas Adès and Nico Muhly.

Performers lending their support include singers Dame Sarah Connolly and Roderick Williams, trumpeter Alison Balsom, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani and pianist Benjamin Grosvenor.

They are joined by others connected with Britten Sinfonia, including an NHS nurse and a teacher, in a film to launch Britten Sinfonia’s Play On appeal.

Based in Cambridge, Britten Sinfonia is the only professional orchestra in the East of England. Britten Sinfonia’s work in the region typically reaches around 14,000 people annually. Alongside residencies in Norwich and Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden, Britten Sinfonia performs and makes music with communities and schools, and in hospitals, elderly care settings and prisons.

The Sinfonia has toured to the USA, South America, India and across Europe. It was the first UK orchestra to play at Hamburg’s newly opened ElbPhilharmonie in 2017, and with choral ensemble The Sixteen, it gave the first ever live streamed concert from the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

Britten Sinfonia launches £1 million appeal
The only professional orchestra in the East of England, Britten Sinfonia gave the first ever live streamed concert from the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel

The ensemble has commissioned nearly 250 new works, both from emerging composers and from some of the biggest names in classical music. It has collaborated with composers, directors, choreographers and musicians from across the musical spectrum, including Anoushka Shankar, Father John Misty, Rufus Wainwright, Michael Clark, Richard Alston and Urja Desai Thakore of Pagrav Dance Company.

Steve Reich has described Britten Sinfonia as 'a particularly finely tuned chamber orchestra of enormous sensitivity.'

To donate to Britten Sinfonia’s ‘Play On’ Appeal, go to

Meurig Bowen, Britten Sinfonia Artistic Director and Chief Executive comments: 'We never took for granted this longstanding public funding, and cherished the ability it gave us to make bolder programming choices, to bring into being so much newly composed music, and to have a wide-reaching presence throughout the East of England in concert halls, schools, health and community settings.

'Now, everything that is celebrated internationally, nationally and regionally is at risk. This level of skill, expertise and extraordinary musical synergy is rare; it has taken three decades to build, and simply can't be replicated overnight.

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'We are so proud of the range and quality of our work, and are determined that this loss of ACE funding will not decrease or degrade what we do. The collective belief in the importance of this – for audiences, communities and the wider cultural ecology – is too great for that to happen.'


You can donate at


Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.