2017/18 Pettman DARE Fellow Callum Blackmore is spending the final three months of his year-long Fellowship working with the Education team at at New Zealand Opera.

I am having a wonderful time at New Zealand Opera working with education manager Joanne Cole. Being based at New Zealand Opera is very special for me: I have had a long relationship with the company (my first experience of opera was a New Zealand Opera production of Carmen when I was just seven!), so it’s really nice to be more involved in an organisation that has given me so much operatic magic over the years.

I find the work that I am doing here very meaningful, and it ties in perfectly with my learnings at Opera North and the University of Leeds. I have been laying the framework for a new retirement village outreach programme, drawing on my experiences working in the lifelong learning programme at Opera North. This is a really exciting challenge for me, and I am still feeling my way a little bit, but Jo is giving me really great guidance and I am really hoping that it takes off! I am very passionate about connecting people with the arts through later life, and it is exciting to build on the brilliant ways New Zealand Opera already connects with the retired community through the University of the Third Age. It is also nice to be able to build on the work of my predecessor, Adam Thompson, whose “Pop-Up Chorus” last year has formed the groundwork of my retirement village project.

Alongside this, I have been creating some education resource packs around New Zealand Opera’s 2019 season, which has been a real treat for me! I wrote one about a Benjamin Britten opera, which I found very stimulating, having visiting Aldeburgh during my time in the U.K. I was also overjoyed to be back singing with the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus for an invigorating performance of Aida at the Auckland Town Hall.

I am really missing everyone who I was lucky enough to meet in Leeds and there are so many good friends I have left behind there. My time in England was absolutely transformative and it has opened my eyes to the potential scope and power of arts education and outreach. Opera North has shown me not only the many forms that opera outreach can take, but also how to put outreach programmes into action so that they touch and inspire as many people as possible in every corner of the community. It has really motivated me to make sure that community wellbeing and social good lie at the heart of my artistic practice moving forward.

My time at the University of Leeds has prompted me to think more broadly about the arts, how they are funded, and what they should be doing in their communities with this funding. I think these questions are going to become even more important for the arts moving forward as public funds get tighter and our work becomes all the more vital.

I would like to thank Mrs Maureen Pettman who has made the Fellowship possible. Without her support, I could not have had such a valuable experience.

I look forward to making the most of my remaining time at New Zealand Opera and I will relish every opportunity I have to learn from them. I am also excited for the joint futures of Opera North and New Zealand Opera: with all the inspirational people I have met over my time as Pettman Dare Fellow, I know that opera, both in New Zealand and in England, is in very safe hands indeed!

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