BBC Philharmonic and IWM North: May you live in interesting times

Susie Stubbs

A one-off performance at Manchester’s war museum promises more than you might at first expect.

People do interesting things in Manchester. Take IWM North, the war museum that has found time in its diary to hang Bashir Makhoul’s cardboard encampment in its 55 metre-high Air Shard, place Shamsia Hassani’s large-scale graffiti outside and Imran Qureshi’s small-scale, bloodied watercolours inside – all as part of the Asia Triennial festival that’s currently running across the city. Or take the BBC Philharmonic, the orchestra that has collaborated with both Jarvis Cocker and John Grant this autumn. These are combinations you wouldn’t quite expect – a war museum does Asian art, an orchestra goes pop – and yet such combinations increasingly appear to occupy space in Manchester’s cultural calendar.

An immersive performance that features music, drama, true stories, projections and singing

Which brings us to Services No Longer Required. This World War One-inspired event takes place at – you guessed it – IWM North. While the event takes as its starting point a subject matter that the museum must feel entirely at home with, it does so via an immersive performance that features music, drama, true stories and contemporary war stories, projections and singing. The hook for it all comes from the letters sent home from the front line by Arthur Burke, a Salford lad who served during World War One. His letters are also currently on display in IWM North’s current From Street to Trench exhibition.

The music, meanwhile, comes courtesy of a new score written by the composer Richard Taylor and it is performed by – yes, you guessed it – the BBC Philharmonic. Part of the same series that saw the orchestra get together with Jarvis and John, it means we can expect something that feels raw and real, and which combines the old (a war story at a war museum) with the new (a site-specific performance and a premiere to boot). Like we said: people do interesting things in Manchester. Both IWM North and the BBC Phil are worth keeping an eye on.

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