The world-famous Philharmonia Orchestra, resident orchestra at De Montfort Hall, comes to Leicester this October and November with The Virtual Orchestra, a free experience for all the family that gives everyone the opportunity to experience a symphony orchestra up-close. The ISKCON Centre becomes home to a 10-room installation that showcases the internal workings of the Philharmonia as the orchestra performs Holst’s The Planets, and virtual reality headsets that transport you to a concert hall stage where you can see and hear the orchestra up close in 360-degree virtual reality.

The Virtual Orchestra is a new flagship audience development project that aims to broaden and deepen engagement with orchestral music. The concept at the heart of this ambitious project is to engage people through digital experiences – and associated outreach programme and live performances – outside of the concert hall in public spaces and in the local community, all in partnership with local arts organisations and charities. This major project is generously supported by three foundations: Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and John Ellerman Foundation.

The Virtual Orchestra installation takes place at the newly-refurbished ISKCON Centre in Leicester city centre from Monday 8 October – Saturday 17 November 2018. Around this central hub of activity, the orchestra delivers a series of schools, family and community workshops with fun hands-on activities for all ages. A fringe programme delivered by local groups including De Montfort University, Bull Frog Arts, Leicester-Shire Schools Music Service, schools and the Philharmonia Orchestra hosts activities around the city such as busking and iPad compositions and performances, with themes related to Holst’s The Planets.

Philharmonia Orchestra: Live! is a family-friendly live concert (Saturday 17 November 2018 at 3pm, the Haymarket Theatre) conceived for audiences who have experienced The Virtual Orchestra. The concert is short, friendly and informal and presented by a specialist to guide you through the music, including the enchanting main theme to Harry Potter, music from Star Wars and excerpts from Holst’s The Planets.

Jonathan Mayes, the Philharmonia’s Director of Residencies and Regional Programme, said:

“We are delighted to be bringing The Virtual Orchestra to Leicester having spent the last 18 months developing the project with the Council, local businesses, arts organisations and our hosts ISKCON. The audience development work at the heart of The Virtual Orchestra is central to our UK residencies programme, and nowhere is this more true than in Leicester, where we will see thousands of people interacting with cultural activity in an entirely new way. For many people, this will be the first time that they have been exposed to orchestral music and we have already found that the digital platform for this exposure can be overwhelmingly powerful. We look forward to welcoming Leicester to the Virtual Orchestra this autumn!”

Visiting The Virtual Orchestra installation at ISKCON Centre is free with no ticket or pre-booking required. For further details about booking workshops and concert tickets, and opening and performance times, visit

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Great Central, John has been actively involved in Leicester's creative community for over a decade - promoting shows and releasing records under the name Robot Needs Home. He is a director of Handmade Festival, and ex member of the band Maybeshewill.

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