Docklands Sinfonia is the only high quality symphony orchestra based in the heart of East London’s Docklands. The orchestra was founded by conductor Spencer Down, the grandson of a docker, whose love of music was born listening to his grandfather play trumpet in working men’s clubs in the East End.
Over the years, Spencer watched the Docklands develop from a wasteland into one of the biggest financial centres of the world. But while the glitzy tower blocks have sprung up at a dizzying rate, the area remains a wasteland for cultural provision. With one in every two children (49%) living below the poverty line in Tower Hamlets – London’s most deprived borough - few young people in the area have, or will ever, experience the joy of listening to a live symphony orchestra.
Grounded in our home of St Anne’s Limehouse, Docklands Sinfonia is on a mission to change this. Our youthful and pioneering orchestra has become a major cultural force in the Docklands – bringing high quality music to the area, staging ground-breaking concerts and creating a lasting legacy by inspiring generations of young people.
The orchestra aims to reflect the old and new spirit of the Docklands. Our concert programming is respectful of the past while innovating for the future.
Docklands Sinfonia nurtures young 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.
We aim to challenge the norm by seeking out innovative collaborations to reach new audiences. In 2014, Docklands Sinfonia became the first British symphony orchestra to perform an entire programme of Iranian symphonic music and launched a new composition competition in Iran to wide acclaim. In 2016, we will be recording a CD dedicated to Iranian orchestral music performed by Iranian soloists.
To underline our commitment to supporting new talent, we have commissioned and programmed more than 20 new compositions since our formation in 2009. Looking to the future, we have a firm commitment to perform at least one new work at all our community concerts held at St Anne’s Limehouse.
Since its formation in January 2009, the orchestra has enjoyed incredible success with performances at Buckingham Palace for the Queen and at the Royal Albert Hall and the House of Lords.
In November 2010, Docklands Sinfonia performed the world premiere of Grammy award winner Imogen Heap's 'Love The Earth' to a sell-out audience at the Royal Albert Hall. The event was live-streamed over the internet to over 400,000 people worldwide.
In May 2011, the orchestra was honoured to perform a special concert for the Queen to celebrate youth in the arts in the ballroom at Buckingham Palace in front of a 500-strong celebrity packed audience. Docklands Sinfonia played alongside artists from the English National Ballet, Royal Opera House and National Youth Theatre as well as pop stars Joe McElderry, Rumer, DJ Ironik and Sara-Jane Skeete.
Docklands Sinfonia has enjoyed numerous collaborations with the record producer and song-writer Mike Batt. In 2013, Docklands Sinfonia recorded Katie Melua's new album Ketevan which was produced and written by Batt. Her single 'I will be there' has been viewed by nearly two million people throughout the world on YouTube since its release in 2013.The following year, the orchestra recorded Voice UK singer Bob Blakeley's new album.
Just weeks after its first rehearsal in 2009, it was asked to perform on the BBC1 series ‘Clash’ and it has performed a number of sell-out concerts featuring major classical artist including renowned trumpeter Alison Balsom, cello virtuoso Leonard Elschenbroich, baroque soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, trumpeter Rex Richardson, saxophonist Christian Forshaw, the Raven string quartet and LSO principal trumpet Philip Cobb.