Music is my language

October 27 2023

Very few of us get to have a piece of music we’ve produced premiered at London’s Royal Festival Hall – but that’s the gig for people we support at Livability Bradbury Court, who’ve been working with innovative music-makers OrchLab.

Who are OrchLab?

OrchLab is an inclusive project which shares music-making with disabled adults, through the orchestral sound of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO). Residents at Bradbury Court were one of two partners chosen to work with OrchLab over a year-long period, with an OrchLab team running seven days of workshops at this north London residential care home.

OrchLab makes it possible for adults whose disabilities prevent them from using most traditional musical instruments to create music with members of the orchestra, using assistive technology, iPad apps, percussion instruments and adapted instruments. The project partners with Drake Music, specialists in music and disability, who create and use technology to give access to music-making.

Around ten residents took part in the sessions, supported by staff. Staff member Teo says: ‘Several of the people we support are non-verbal but they used the instruments to show what they were feeling. At the end of each session, there was a calmness and a satisfaction you could see they felt – we know them, and how they communicate, very well.’ Manager Margaret Khaka agrees: ‘You could see the excitement and joy people felt in taking part.’

At Bradbury Court, the sessions were based on a live LPO recording of a Bartok concerto. Working with orchestra members, people we support could explore their response to the music and make the music their own through the instruments and technology they learned to use. The sessions were recorded and filmed, and come 6 December, will be premiered at the Festival Hall on London’s South Bank.

London Philharmonic Orchestra is inclusive

This event – the OrchLab Festival Day – is creating huge excitement at Bradbury Court, says Margaret: ‘I think just about everybody wants to go. The experience with OrchLab has pushed people in terms of how much they think they can achieve, going from “I can’t do it!” to learning how to do it. It’s opened up new things for them and music is a language for everybody, whatever their ability.’

‘Bradbury Court was a really friendly and welcoming place to work,’ says OrchLab project manager Hannah Foakes. ‘People enjoyed doing something a bit different. Our main aim is to increase wellbeing in the group and to give staff confidence in music-making.’ This is the ‘legacy’ part of the project: staff receive training, building on what they have learned through the workshops, and becoming more familiar with bespoke iPad apps which enable inclusive music-making.

‘OrchLab have been incredibly generous in donating us four iPads and speakers, as well as the staff training, so we’ll now be able to use to carry on music-making with our residents,’ says Margaret.


Want to come along to the OrchLab Festival Day? Royal Festival Hall, Wed 6 December, 11am-3pm. Tickets are free: book here


All photo credits: Image source OrchLab and London Philharmonic Orchestra  |  |

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