About Us

Docklands Sinfonia | One family | Two orchestras

Welcome to Docklands Sinfonia – an orchestral family which has become a major cultural force in the Docklands and beyond - bringing high quality music to the area staging ground-breaking concerts and creating a lasting legacy by inspiring generations of young people.

Firmly grounded in our east London community, Docklands Sinfonia was founded by conductor Spencer Down, whose grandfather worked in the docks. His love of music was born listening to his grandfather play trumpet in working men’s clubs in the East End.

In 2019, Docklands Sinfonia launched two orchestras following huge success in both our local community and further afield. Our family is now made up of the Docklands Sinfonia professional orchestra and our e14 (non-professional) orchestra.

We nurture talent at every level - whether providing playing opportunities and work for our musicians, providing a platform for young composers and emerging soloists or through expanding our educational work with schools in the area.

Docklands Sinfonia - Since its formation in 2009, Docklands Sinfonia has enjoyed incredible success with performances for the Queen at Buckingham Palace and with Grammy-award winner Imogen Heap at the Royal Albert Hall. It has appeared on BBC Radio 3 and BBC1 and performed the first-ever concerts in the Tower Bridge's Bascule Chamber under the Thames.

Docklands Sinfonia has also performed with world-renowned classical artists such as Alison Balsom, Jennifer Pike, Leonard Elschenbroich and Elin Manahan-Thomas as well as the English National Ballet and Royal Opera House. The orchestra has recorded albums for leading artists such as Katie Melua and Suzi Quato, and toured the UK in 2019 with Hawkwind. Recently, the orchestra received standing ovations for its world premiere performances of Roy Budd's Phantom of the Opera at the Barbican and London Coliseum.

The orchestra is currently bringing classical music to school children with its specially-commissioned educational project 'The Caretaker's Guide to the Orchestra' - shortlisted for in the 2018 British Composer Awards - featuring children's artist and illustrator James Mayhew. To date, it has performed for more than 3,000 school children in East London.

e14 - Docklands Sinfonia's e14 orchestra has its own distinct concert series - performing for our local community and providing high quality playing opportunity for non-professional musicians. Over the last ten years, our concerts at St Anne's Limehouse have attracted numerous top class soloists and performers including Jennifer Pike, Leonard Elschenbroich, Christian Forshaw, Elin Manahan -Thomas, Rex Richardson and Phil Cobb.

Conductor- Spencer Down

Spencer DownSpencer Down is the driving force behind Docklands Sinfonia. He was inspired to set up a symphony orchestra in the Docklands by his grandfather – who worked as a shipwright in the docks and introduced him to classical music.

Recently, Spencer was honoured to be entrusted with Roy Budd's score to the 1925 classic silent film Phantom of the Opera, conducting the premiere at London's Coliseum and, later, at the Barbican. Spencer has been orchestral director for high profile events including concerts for the Queen in the ballroom at Buckingham Palace and the world premiere of Grammy award-winning singer Imogen Heap’s ‘Love the Earth’ at the Royal Albert Hall.

Spencer was honoured to conduct the Mayor's Jubilee Band - made up of young musicians from London's top four music colleges - on one of the music barges taking part in the spectacular Queen's Jubilee Pageant on the river Thames.

He has built up an impressive portfolio of working with artists from leading organisations including the English National Ballet, Royal Opera House, London Symphony Orchestra and Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Spencer is professor of euphonium and tuba at the Royal Military School of Music and conductor, brass co-ordinator and professor at Junior Guildhall.

Full biography

Leader - Emma Blanco

Emma BlancoEmma Blanco studied under Yossi Zivoni at the Royal College of Music. She has attended masterclasses with Igor Oistrakh and Yossi Zivoni in Belgium and with Victor Liva, Sophie Till and Ming Yang in the United States. After graduating from the RCM in 2003 she continued her studies privately with Rodney Friend. In 2003, Emma was appointed leader of the National Musicians’ Symphony Orchestra and has also led the London Soloists’ Chamber Orchestra in concerts at the Purcell Room, St-Martins-in-the-Fields and St John’s, Smith Square.

Emma now has a busy freelance schedule, based in London. She plays regularly with many orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Concert Orchestra and the New London Soloists. Emma has recorded for artists including Olly Murs, Katie Melua, Will Young, McFly, Aled Jones, Duke Special and The Indelicates. She has also played on film and TV sessions with groups including Millennia Strings and the London Session Orchestra. Emma's TV appearances include The Brits 2014 and the Graham Norton Show. She has given live performances with international artists such as Imogen Heap & Peter Gabriel.

 Full biography




Admiral The Right Honourable Baron West of Spithead GCB DSC PC ADC DUniv

Mike Batt LVO


Kathryn Lewis (Chair)

Harold Sim (Treasurer)

Clare Walker

Kirsty Walker

Phil Sizer

Lesley Balding