11 May 2023
Community Development: Grayshott Concerts
Founded in 2004 by Peter and his wife Vivien, Grayshott Concerts was established when the couple sought to raise funds for their local church, through a one-off classical music concert.
The concert, at St Luke’s Church in Grayshott village, on the Hampshire/Surrey borders, was unexpectedly a sell-out and raised £3,500. Inundated with demand for more events, Peter and Vivien decided to start a community group, alongside running a busy marketing agency.
“We are now acknowledged as one of the most successful volunteer-led music groups in the UK and we owe our sincerest thanks to Community First for its support over many years”, says Peter Harrison, creator of Grayshott Concerts.
“This proved to be a revelation for us. Community First showed us how to form a proper group, write a constitution, open a bank account, run accounts, attract members, form a committee, promote our activities, apply for grants, find sponsors – and much more.”
After some resistance to become a registered charity, due to the time and commitment required to run a not-for-profit, Community First convinced Peter and Vivien to apply in 2011, to access funding from trusts and foundations, which Peter says was a “total game-changer”.
After four bidding attempts, Grayshott Concerts was successful with a National Lottery, Awards-for-All grant, receiving £10,000, which was combined with £10,000 raised from the local community to buy new modular staging.
“In the very early days, my wife and I felt very overawed. We had little idea of how to run and grow a community group and were floundering. We also had to balance running our business, alongside the demands of our developing musical activities with Grayshott Concerts.”
“To begin with, all our success was owed to word of mouth, and later, we managed to attract almost 200 members, who sponsored us with up to £20,000 per year. We had to top this up ourselves, so knew we needed to apply for a grant to grow the group and attract more members.”
Community First also supported Grayshott Concerts to promote volunteering opportunities and attract volunteers. The charity has since built a seven-member board and 35 committed volunteers who help with staging, ticketing and to act as front-of-house staff to put on six to eight concerts each year.
“With such an excellent start, with help from Community First, we realised that we were selling out at every event we staged – and we now have an unbroken record of close to 100 sell-out events behind us. Little did we know that this is virtually unheard of in our sector.”
“This achievement is no doubt helped by the fact that we have developed the ability to attract world-class performers, orchestras, choirs, soloists, conductors and composers to star at our events – so that now, people come from up to 50 miles away to attend.”
Grayshott Concerts is now a member of Making Music, the UK’s largest music community group, which has enabled it to attract concertgoers from a wide area and Sir Karl Jenkins CBE FRAM, one of the world’s most performed living composer, as patron.
The charity, which also champions young rising stars, was recognised in 2012 with the ‘Lady Hilary Groves Prize’ for its ‘Outstanding contribution to Music in the Community’, a prestigious prize signed by Making Music’s patron HRH the Duchess of Kent.
In 2023, founder Peter was among just 500 people in the UK recognised as a ‘Coronation Champion’ by the Queen Consort, for his outstanding contribution and dedication to volunteering.
But much of the organisation’s success, as Peter says, is the result of Community First’s support who “stood by us when we most needed help”.
“Staff from Community First are like guardians who could be turned to for advice – at any time. They’ve shown us how to run a charity and given us the confidence to take risks – they’ve been inspirational.”