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A young girl plays trumpet while participating in an RCM Sparks event

RCM celebrates royal bicentenary with all things brass at the Great Exhibition Road Festival

Tuesday 7 May 2019

This summer, 20 iconic South Kensington landmarks are throwing their doors open and taking to the streets for two days of free science, arts and culture events. From 29 to 30 June, the Great Exhibition Road Festival will see the Royal College of Music join forces with 19 other leading London cultural venues in a special celebration to mark the bicentenary of the births of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

The new festival brings together talent from the RCM, Imperial College London, the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, the Science Museum and others. As part of the festivities, the Royal College of Music will join forces with Historical Royal Palaces to mark the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth at Kensington Palace on Saturday 29 June and Sunday 30 June. Brass Revolution! will feature a series of performances and workshops specially tailored to entertain and educate guests of every age group.

This fun and innovative exploration of all things brass will include an unmissable performance from the Prince Regent’s Band. The specialist period ensemble will perform on original 19th century instruments, while also sharing the stage with modern funk players. Expect a musical collaboration that inspires, surprises and makes you want to dance.

Brass Revolution! is led by RCM alumnus Mike Poyser, who frequently works with RCM Sparks, the College’s learning and participation programme. In the week leading up to the festival, RCM Sparks will be working in partnership with Imperial College to deliver a series of interdisciplinary workshops for children of primary school age, where young musicians can explore the science of sound and brass playing.

Catch Brass Revolution! on the Main Stage at Exhibition Road at 12.15pm and 2.30pm on Saturday 29 June and at 11am, 1pm and 3pm on Sunday 30 June.

Throughout the weekend there’ll also be drop-in brass workshops for all ages, where visitors can experience what it would have been like as a performer in the legendary James Brown horn section. Watch out for the RCM Students’ Union Brass Band, too, as the ensemble will be making surprise appearances in unlikely locations throughout the festival.

On Sunday, a series of talks hosted at the RCM will explore the art of science and the science of art. One of these will feature Lord Robert Winston in interview with RCM Artistic Director Stephen Johns, discussing how music affects the brain.

Elsewhere, there are hundreds of hands-on activities for guests to get involved in, including the chance to play chess with robots and try out multi-sensory experiences and virtual-reality headsets. Visitors can also experiment in the Slime Lab, design their own earthquakes and recreate the Apollo 11 moon landings. The iconic Great Exhibition Road will be closed off to traffic for two days, as activities spill out into the surrounding streets and scientists, musicians and curators escape their offices to meet the public.

The much anticipated Great Exhibition of 1851 drew six million people to Hyde Park – approximately a third of the entire population of Britain at the time – who came to witness the latest innovations in industry and culture, from the first voting machine to the world’s largest diamond. Profits from the event were used to found three now established South Kensington institutions: the Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum and Natural History Museum.

The Great Exhibition was the inspiration of Prince Albert, alongside renowned British inventor Henry Cole. Some 30 years later, Cole was also active in the founding of the National Training School of Music, which opened in May 1876 and was the forerunner of the Royal College of Music. Cole designed the original Kensington Gore building that housed the RCM before it moved into its current premises in 1894.

Nearly 170 years later, the historic festival’s spirit of curiosity and discovery will be reignited once more in the cultural hub of South Kensington. The area will be transformed for an array of interactive workshops, behind-the-scenes tours, exciting talks and dynamic performances. For a full line up of events and to find out more about the Great Exhibition Road Festival, please visit www.greatexhibitionroadfestival.co.uk.

For further information on the College’s learning and participation programme, please visit the RCM Sparks section of the website.