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ON THE BLOG: Delma Tomlin talks music partnerships

Delma Tomlin is the Director of the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), which is partnered in Cooperation Project eeemerging: Emerging European Ensembles. She told us about how the partnership was formed, advice for future applicants and why being part of a Creative Europe project is "joyous, eye-opening and enriching".

Tell us about the eeemerging project

"The NCEM is one of eight major partner organisations in the eeemerging project, which supports the professional development of the most promising young early music ensembles from across Europe.

"I was already confident that the partners had common artistic goals and fundamentally liked each other enough to work as a team."   

"Led by the Centre culturel de rencontre d’Ambronay, France, eeemerging brings together partners from the UK, Latvia, Romania, Slovenia, Italy and Germany in a four-year Cooperation Project."

How did the partnership come together?

"The partnership came together as a result of relationships established over years through the European Early Music Network (REMA). This network brings together some 60 organisations involved in the promotion of music of the past, using instruments and musical editions from the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods.  

"Membership of this valuable network has enabled me, as the NCEM’s director, to meet like-minded individuals from across the community and visit comparable early music festivals over a number of years.  

"So when I was approached about collaborating on a large-scale project by Ambronay Cultural Encounter Centre, I was already confident that the partners had common artistic goals and fundamentally liked each other enough to work as a team.  

"This basic understanding of our collective administrative and artistic ambitions has enabled us to take the inevitable ‘growing pains’ of working together as a collective in good heart and has been particularly vital in understanding, and complying with, the specifics of the Creative Europe Programme."   

Any surprises about being part of a Cooperation Project?

"Creative Europe was not new to the NCEM – we had been supported for the York Early Music Festival some years earlier and felt able to take the challenges of working within Europe as a team.  

"We had not, however, factored in the level of detail required to draw down monies as a collective over a four-year programme and have been on a steep learning curve.  

"Thankfully we have been ‘signed off’ as working effectively as a partnership at the mid-way point, opening up the second tranche of funding (some 40% of the total)."

Has it all been worth it?

"Absolutely yes from our perspective. We have for the very first time been able to host a series of residencies which support emerging professional ensembles at a very valuable time in their careers.   

"The first residency began with the young French ensemble, Les Contre-Sujets, who spent 10-days at the NCEM in November 2015. During their stay the musicians took part in specialist training sessions tailored to their skills, with support from senior arts administrators and musicians from Brighton Early Music Festival and The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Their residency culminated with a performance entitled The Four Nations, which was part of the York Early Music Christmas Festival.

"For the NCEM it is joyous, eye-opening and enriching – and it changes the fortunes of the young professionals who are on the scheme." 

"The second residency featured the Consone String Quartet – winners of the European Union Baroque Orchestra prize at the York Early Music Festival's International Young Artists Competition in July 2015. Highlights of their residency included two innovative educational projects and the ensemble spent time working with the NYMAZ – the youth music development charity in North Yorkshire. The quartet not only performed to a live audience of Key Stage 2 pupils, but reached out to an online audience of students in rurally isolated schools across England.  

"The third residency took place in November 2016 and featured the Goldfinch Ensemble from The Hague – first-prize winners at the International Handel Festival in Gottingen earlier in the year. The ensemble worked with specialist coaches and presented concerts in Huddersfield and York.

"We anticipate three more residencies in the current funding period." 

Do you have any tips for partners of future Cooperation Projects? 

"What advice would I give to potential applicants in these complicated times? Only apply if you really want to work together as a cooperative. If you fundamentally respect one another, you will get through.  

"However, if you only partly commit, the level of detail required to actually draw down the monies will be a nightmare.  

"It is intensive, the rules onerous, the meetings tiring. For the NCEM it is also joyous, eye-opening and enriching – and it changes the fortunes of the young professionals who are on the scheme."

Dr Delma Tomlin MBE is the Director, National Centre for Early Music

Find out more about eeemerging, which received €1,971,375 in Cooperation Projects support. 

Zoe Hardie