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Love in Lockdown: we've been awarded ACE grant for new lockdown-themed show, online workshops & more

We've received an Arts Council England Emergency Response Fund grant to write new concert/plays, including one about the challenges to lovers in the Lockdown, and to extend our already popular weekly online workshop series.

We are thrilled to have been awarded a grant from Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund to not only continue, but expand our highly popular online workshop and concert series The Telling in Retreat, as well as produce two new concert/plays, stream live mini window shows and perform an online version of our popular concert/play: Unsung Heroine about the 12th-century woman troubadour, Beatriz de Dia.

After a series of concert cancellations thanks to COVID-19, we quickly responded to the crisis in our usual style by bringing live singing workshops and concerts into homes with The Telling in Retreat series. The first workshop, led by mezzo-soprano/harpist Ariane Prüssner, took place on Friday 27th March via Zoom and received a glowing reception. The series has continued with an ever-increasing number of participants, taking place at 11am every Friday, covering medieval and Sephardic songs, and lullabies for isolated grandparents to sing to their grandchildren down the phone. The grant will allow this series to expand to also include instrumental workshops and play-along concerts with our other musicians. Find out more at

The lockdown has enabled us to get closer and more deeply engaged with our audiences who attend our In Retreat series every week. Although we have residencies in Liverpool, Hastings and Wolverhampton, we don’t see those audiences very often. So the regular weekly nature means we have got to know them and they have got to know us in a much more meaningful way.

Box sets and streaming of concerts and plays are omnipresent – but there’s only so much sitting in front of a screen people can take. The response from participants speaks of how it is connection and participation which really carry meaning, when we are under lockdown; they are what we crave from art right now.

“Well done for providing something of beauty in these dark times”

“This morning’s workshop is uplifting my whole day”

“Friday mornings are FUN!”

“One of the best ideas, which really works to soothe pains of separation”

In Retreat Workshop participants

Missing singing to a live audience, our Soprano Clare Norburn has also taken on a May Song Challenge and has been serenading her neighbours with songs about May from her London flat window every day this month. The ACE grant will allow for our other musicians and actors to perform a variety of mini-window shows while in isolation, which will be streamed on Facebook Live.

Thanks to Arts Council England support, we also aren’t allowing concert and festival cancellations hinder the production of new shows. The successful live workshops we have done via Zoom have allowed us to experiment with the technology and we have ideas about how we can film premieres using a combination of Zoom and YouTube online. As a result, we will produce two new shows:

Love in The Lockdown – inspired by Bocaccio’s book The Decameron (1348) where young people fleeing the Black Death make up 100 stories and songs, this concert/play follows a playwright and a musician separated in the lockdown who record stories and music for each other – where shadowy dark fictional characters start to take over the narrative which starts to impinge on the isolated lives of the two lovers.

I Spie - the imagined story of Elizabethan Spook composer, John Dowland.

Plus, we will adjust our critically acclaimed concert/play Unsung Heroine (woman troubadour singer-songwriter) for an online production. An online format allows audiences to interact and get inside the creative process and give suggestions which wouldn’t be possible with in-person performances.


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