Spotlight on: Rebecca Parnell
Former Creative Producer embarks on PhD.
Until August 2023, Rebecca Parnell worked as a Creative Producer – a joint role with one of The University of Manchester’s four Research Platforms, Creative Manchester, and Manchester Camerata. Rebecca’s PhD – with the Department of Music - examines the dynamics of collaboration in the community work undertaken by Manchester Camerata, specifically as it relates to the ways in which place and community mediate classical music, memory and belonging.
The project will take advantage of, and research, Camerata's move to The Monastery in Gorton and will ask the following overarching question: what factors underpin the ways in which those who work for Camerata, with Camerata, and/or participate in its projects respond to The Monastery and to Gorton as a place?
To find out more about Rebecca and her work, we sent her some questions.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your areas of interest and your work
Prior to beginning the PhD I worked as Creative Producer in a joint role with Creative Manchester and Manchester Camerata. This incredibly varied role involved producing concerts (both live and digital), as well as teaching and knowledge exchange with the University.
I have always been interested in barriers to the orchestral world, as well as issues of taste, class, education, and the role played by family in musical preferences.
My MA dissertation explored motivations of younger classical concert attendees, and prior to the Creative Producer role I worked at the Royal Northern College of Music organising concerts and working with students on their professional development. My first introduction to the music world was as a classical guitarist, which I studied in Western Australia and the UK.
Tell us about Manchester Camerata, its work in the community and its partnership with The University of Manchester
Manchester Camerata is an organisation which is always looking forward. This can be seen not only in its eclectic programming and presentation on the concert stage, but also in its internationally recognised community work. Camerata puts collaboration at the heart of all its work, whether this be collaborating with a world-class soloist or a person living with dementia.
Each collaborator is given equal importance and attention, and the organisation is always looking for opportunities to bridge the gap between the Community and Concerts departments, which highlights the view that the concert stage is no more important than work which takes place in community settings.
The partnership between Manchester Camerata and the University of Manchester began over 10 years ago, with discussions leading to the co-supervision of Dr Robyn Dowlen’s PhD on the ‘in the moment’ musical experiences of people living with dementia. Camerata’s association with Creative Manchester began in 2018, resulting in the collaborative role of Creative Producer.
Your PhD looks at the dynamics of collaboration in the community work undertaken by Manchester Camerata and the ways in which place and community mediate classical music, memory and belonging. Why is this topic important to you?
In my role as Creative Producer I was fortunate enough to work on projects which brought communities together, performing music written by participants with support from Camerata musicians. Historically, the ‘outreach’ of the past often placed emphasis on an arts organisation entering a community’s space and dictating to them, rather than working with them.
Camerata’s approach to empower participants to write and perform alongside the orchestra has produced some truly magical moments of joy and connection, and it is this which I am keen to explore.
Looking to the future, do you have any plans, goals or dreams that your current work might help you achieve?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had a wide range of experiences over the past 4 years of the Creative Producer role, including working at a concert in New Delhi, producing films during the pandemic, organising recording sessions, and chairing conference panels. A definite highlight was co-writing and co-teaching the MA Creative Producing module with the Institute for Cultural Practices which cemented my desire to move into lecturing. I really enjoy working with students and have always strived to incorporate some aspect of mentoring in each of my jobs.
Finally, what music has been keeping you inspired this year?
Well I have a toddler so I mostly listen to whatever she enjoys! Thankfully she seems to have good taste and we like listening to The Beatles and flamenco together. When I get the chance to listen to music on my own I love soundtracks, particularly Michael Nyman’s work on Peter Greenaway’s films, or Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ. Film is my other great love and I’m always ready to bore anyone talking about it.
Find out more about Manchester Camerata and their relationship with the Gorton community by watching their video, ‘The People Make the Place’.