Two North East organisations have been underlining the vital connection between culture and business.

Seventeen-year-old Penelope Boisseau-Hardman is firmly on track to an illustrious future as a professional classical musician - with the support of The Bernicia Foundation, and over in Redcar, schoolchildren have been working hard alongside professional musicians with the help of £1,500 funding from the Community Support Fund set up by UKSE, the Tata Steel business support subsidiary.

From first picking up the violin at the tender age of six, Penelope has excelled musically.

She auditioned successfully and was accepted into the Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) at the age of ten, has been a member of the Young Sinfonia since she was 13 and achieved ABRSM Grade 8 with a high distinction in violin at 16.

“I want to become a professional violinist”, said Penelope. “My tutors believe I have the ability and work ethic to do so.”

But her talent doesn’t stop with violin – with Penelope simultaneously training in clarinet to a Grade 8 level and, more recently, in viola and keyboard on the advice of her tutors. However, the path to becoming a professional classical musician is very expensive, even with large grants for tuition.

Expenses range from smaller items like sheet music, shoulder rests and strings to larger overheads, including tuition fees and the instruments themselves.

Penelope has frequently been told that to support her ambitions, she requires high-quality instruments. With her current instruments loaned to her, family illness and changing circumstances have meant that, without external support, Penelope would not be able to continue pursuing her dream career path.

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“In order to fully prepare for entry into a conservatoire, I am now taking additional lessons in viola and keyboard,” she said. “However, this means that I now need to raise over £2,500 just for the extra tuition. When you factor in other activities, such as chamber music or National Orchestra courses, things can get very expensive.

“Grants like the Inspiration Grant from The Bernicia Foundation really do go a long way towards covering some of those expenses for me”

The future is bright for Penelope, with her contributions to the CAT programme and Young Sinfonia frequently praised along with her performances, both solo and as part of small ensembles and larger orchestras.

Penelope’s Study Leader, James Craig, said: “Nell is an outstanding musician; she is a wonderful listener and communicator, and this shines through in her ensemble work. Her versatility and open approach help not only her own development but also those around her.

“Supporting her technical progress through additional lessons in viola and keyboard will continue to boost her confidence, and we can't wait to see what her future holds.”

Jenny Allinson, Director at The Bernicia Foundation, said: “Penelope is an extremely talented musician, and her drive to achieve her dream of becoming a professional classical musician is clear for everyone to see.

“To have achieved Grade 8 in both violin and clarinet at such a young age is incredible, so to be supporting her next steps of taking up viola and keyboard is very exciting.”

Penelope’s musical ambitions are now supported by The Bernicia Foundation's £1000 Inspiration Grant.


Sarah Thorpe (top right) of funder UKSE joins pupils and Headteacher Kinga Pusztai during rehearsals for the annual Family Fun Day at Newcomen Primary School.Sarah Thorpe (top right) of funder UKSE joins pupils and Headteacher Kinga Pusztai during rehearsals for the annual Family Fun Day at Newcomen Primary School. (Image: Bernicia)

In Redcar, pupils at Newcomen Primary School will hold their annual Family Fun Day on Friday with the theme of Sounds of Solidarity.

Children from every year group have had the opportunity to work with Appollo Arts since the beginning of June and the highlight of the day will see them giving a musical finale with group singing and instrumental contributions including some solo performances.

The Day will also include lots of live music, picnics on the school field, various stalls, including those manned by local businesses, rides and activities. Last year more than 1,500 parents, carers and members of the community attended the event. 

“We are extremely proud of our children,” said Headteacher Kinga Pusztai, “and this Family Day is such a great opportunity for families and community to come together with the school. With increasing financial pressures on budgets we were struggling to cover the costs of the musical element to the day and everyone is so grateful to UKSE for stepping in with this generous funding.

“Everyone loves Family Day and the children also benefit so much from working with professional musicians and performing with them.”

Sarah Thorpe, UKSE Regional Manager, said: “In addition to the investment and workspace support we give to businesses, our Community Support Fund helps charities and projects that improve life for people living in our steel areas.  We have now provided more than £1.2m to help projects in the Northern region alone.

“We are very happy that we could not only contribute to a fun day that the school and community obviously enjoy hugely but also give the children a great musical experience and opportunity to learn new skills.”