Interview with Hannah Fiddy
Hannah Fiddy is a creative consultant and events producer, developing new audiences for classical music. She is the Director of Alternative Classical, which creates and promotes new approaches to classical music. Some her other projects include:
- Concert Roulette (classical jukebox)
- London Flashmob (pop-up events producer).
- Her current clients are John Rutter, one of the world’s most famous choral composers, and London-based startup Tutti, the Airbnb of creative spaces.
I was able to catch up with this incredible classical music entrepreneur during lock down to talk about how she’s getting on in the “new normal”:
1) As the Director of London-based organisation Alternative Classical – what has life been like during lockdown?
Life has been generally pretty busy. Initially I thought that I would have a bit more time, as I’ve not been publishing my events guide or organising my monthly drinks, but of course things never stay that way for long – especially as I constantly have new ideas and never enough time to do them all!
Since being in lockdown I have created Concert Roulette, a classical jukebox that can fill many hours, written a series of articles, continued interviewing musicians from around the world about the future of classical music (via Zoom) and also started several playlists, including COVID-19th Century Music and Black Contemporary Classical Music. So generally I’ve been working hard, doing lots of yoga (and occasionally PE lessons with Joe Wicks!) and enjoying the chance to play the piano more than usual.
2) A lot of your work is to do with reaching new audiences and engaging them with classical music – how has that changed your thinking with the situation we’re in now?
I read a great quote recently that sums up my answer to this: “We must stop apologising to people and telling them the online experience ‘isn’t the real thing’. Sure, it’s not the traditional thing. But it’s a new real thing.” (Ron Evans) As an industry we have generally been fairly slow to adapt to the many digital platforms, so although it goes without saying that this is a very scary time, one silver lining is the chance this has afforded us to give digital a proper go. I believe that there are hundreds of ways of presenting classical music and connecting with new audiences. If we can use this collective breath as a chance to dream up the myriad of ways of presenting classical music, that’s really exciting.
3) You’ve recently launched Concert Roulette – can you tell me more about that?
I created Concert Roulette back at the start of lockdown – possibly even during the first week. How long ago that now feels! Concert Roulette does what it says on the tin – a sort of classical lucky dip. You’re given a random concert, starting at the moment of the upbeat, which you can either watch or click ‘another!’ to move on. Because I’ve selected the exact second each piece of music starts, you also bypass any adverts, so it’s a more curated and streamlined version of YouTube. It’s been more of a hit than I was anticipating, having now been accessed by thousands of people in over 60 countries during lockdown!
4) What was it that got you initially interested in classical music and how people perceive it?
I have always been immersed in classical music, taking violin and recorder lessons from the age of 7, piano lessons from 10, flute lessons soon after, and I also sang in various choirs. I was always interested in attracting new audiences and breaking down the perceived barriers, perhaps because not that many people at my state school knew much about it. The other day during a clear out I found an accessible guide to classical music I’d written as a child. Surely this must be the most ‘on brand’ story from my childhood! Old habits die hard…
5) You’ve worked with some fantastic organisations and musicians so far, do you have any event highlights?
One performance that sticks out is a Street Orchestra Live concert we arranged at a care home in north London. There was a man in the audience in his 50s with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Following some classical numbers, the orchestra played Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, and the man and his wife stood up and slow danced together throughout. Afterwards she came over to let us know that it was the first time she’d had a connection with him since he’d been brought into the home and that was the song that had been playing when their daughter (now a teenager) was born. It was such a special moment and she couldn’t thank us enough. Suddenly all of those hours we’d put into organising a gruelling tour schedule (4-6 concerts per day) felt worth it for that one connection. The power of music is transformative. It’s brought so much to my life, in so many different ways, and I want to share that with as many people as I can.
6) What’s next for you?
There are various exciting things coming up for Alternative Classical but I can’t say too much just yet – you’ll have to follow @alterclassical on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook or join the mailing list to hear more. Similar to Concert Roulette I am building some new tools at the moment, which will be released soon, and I have lots more articles on their way. A popular one recently has been 10 Contemporary Black Classical Composers and I am currently researching more around the Black Lives Matter movement and how that intersects with the classical music industry. Lots in the pipeline!
©Alex Burns 2020
Photo Credit: Nick Rutter