The Big Play 2.0

Shaune Eland, Durham Music, Assistant Head of Service, who first said “What if…”

The Big Play and The Big Play 2.0


We asked Deputy Head of Durham Music Service, Vicky Bates, to tell the story of how it all began and the incredible response that followed…

The initial idea for our first Make Music Day event began in September 2018 when we wondered how exciting it could be to have one day dedicated to music making county-wide. Not just concerts in schools and concert halls, but music making anywhere and everywhere: a celebration of everyday music making whatever the level, whatever the genre, wherever the place!  It was then we discovered Make Music Day and realised that our ambition to could be part of something truly global!

Our target was to reach a mighty 5,000 participants and from that our 1 DAY-5000 performers tagline was born.

Durham County Youth Big Band who kicked the day off

Durham Music works with both Durham and Darlington local authorities and we were delighted when both fully supported the idea. We also worked hard to engage other local arts organisations and businesses, such as Music at the Heart of Teesdale and Creative Darlington, to give the event a broad reach.

We asked schools, pupils and musical groups to register with us their musical activity and participant number and then placed them on our Big Play Interactive Map. Each then received a Big Play Pack with (eco-friendly) balloons, stickers and posters to give the event a festive feel. Added to that the Make Music Day bunting and t-shirts giving each performance a sense of being part of something much bigger. We encouraged all our participants to be as active as possible on social media to create a real buzz on the day and we also posted as many performances as possible as ‘rolling news’ on our website during the day.

Having Charanga create a Big Play Unit of resources really helped schools access event resources and information easily and this, we feel, was the key to the project’s success – so much so that our target was completely smashed as nearly 18,000 performers took part; orchestras, choirs, school groups, rock bands, solos, ensembles, nursery classes, ceilidh bands, teachers’ choirs, jazz bands, wind bands, string groups were all represented. We started at sunrise with a fanfare and closed with a ceilidh band at sunset at the highest point in County Durham.

Durham Music Service staff performing for our Jamboree in the grounds of Ushaw College
Moving forward to Big Play 2.0 for 2021

We have learnt so much as a sector about making music in the virtual world. With Big Play 2.0 we are really looking forward to widening the scope even more with music recorded from pupils’ homes and showcasing our virtual ensembles. We have discovered how adaptable we are as an organisation and Make Music Day is the perfect vehicle to celebrate music making in all its forms, wherever we may be.

Big Play 2019 for Make Music Day was definitely a highlight for Durham Music’s parents, teachers, schools, trustees, councillors and young people as it was truly an event for everyone, and as such I  would highly recommend it to my colleagues in other Music Education Hubs.

Life feels so very different and challenging for many of us at the moment – music brought us together for Make Music Day 2019 and we can’t wait for music to bring us together again in 2021!

Head of Durham Music Service, Michael Summers & Deputy Head of Service, Vicky Bates