The launch of the new Character and Arts Foundation took place in Victoria Hall, Hanley, on 12 July 2023.

The mission of the Foundation is to ensure that there are broad and rich opportunities for children and young people across Stoke to engage meaningfully in programmes and activities which encourage character development including culture and the arts. Local businessman, Peter Coates, has made a multi-million pound donation to provide these life-changing opportunities. Peter has deep roots in the area of Stoke-on-Trent and a philanthropic passion for giving back to his community.

This new partnership brings the Hallé together with the City Learning Trust, Stoke City Music Service and Entrust Music (covering the wider Staffordshire region). ‘Musical Pathways’ is just one flagship element of this new Foundation’s work, which also celebrates and promotes history, heritage, sustainability and enterprise to offer children and young people from the Stoke region – one of the poorest in the country – the chance to experience new opportunities and be inspired.

This five-year programme will inspire and support children and young people to engage more fully with music in their lives, their studies and career pathways. It aims to elevate music in the curriculum and the wider life of school, engaging all stakeholders and tackling barriers which inhibit many young people from pursuing music as they progress through their educational journeys.

On 12 July 2023 we welcomed over 1,400 schoolchildren to the matinee Hallé concert in Hanley’s Victoria Hall, and the response to the Hallé performance was incredible. The children listened, responded, sang, danced and laughed – it was wonderful to watch. In the evening VIP guests listened to (almost) the same concert programme, and even they as adults were persuaded to go beyond their comfort zones and join in the crazy dancing before giving the orchestra a standing ovation at the end. The reception to the orchestra in both performances was a wonderful welcome to the new partnership and we look forward to the future!