London Symphony

August 18, 2017 Film/TV , Music , MUSIC/FILM/TV


Zena Howard


‘London Symphony’ to bring silent film and live orchestra to local communities, including Hindu temple and housing estate, as it tours country


LONDON SYMPHONY, a brand new `city symphony’ which fuses silent film and classical music to create a poetic journey through the capital, will be performed live at three special events taking place amongst the diverse communities that inspired it and will then tour the country. Directed and edited by Alex Barrett, LONDON SYMPHONY is an artistic portrait of the city as it stands today, and a celebration of its rich diversity of culture, architecture and religion. Footage for the project was captured in over 300 locations around every borough of London.


The music has been specially composed by Brit James McWilliam (who is now in the process of composing the music for the forthcoming film Close staring Noomi Rapace) and will be performed by a 9–piece ensemble from the Covent Garden Sinfonia (CGS, formerly the Orchestra of St Paul’s), and their conductor Ben Palmer. The CGS are resident at the famous Actor’s Church, St Paul’s in Covent Garden, and regularly perform at many of London’s leading concert halls.


The project’s release strategy has been devised by Disobedient Films to take the work into the heart of the communities that inspired it, including the world-renowned home of silent cinema in London, the Barbican Centre, the iconic brutalist Alexandra & Ainsworth Housing Estate, and the Shree Ghanapathy Temple in Wimbledon. The release has been supported by Arts Council England, and performances at all three events will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Barrett, McWilliam, Palmer and a local history expert unique to each venue.





Barrett says: “LONDON SYMPHONY is a community project, and we will be bringing it directly into those communities during our release. It is a contemporary take on the ‘city symphony’, a genre of creative non-fiction that flourished in the 1920s and consisted of works that attempted to build poetic portraits of city life. As well as serving as a form of virtual tourism, city symphonies raise important and universal questions about the nature of community life – questions that have become vital within the current political climate.”


The performance at Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate will run in collaboration with their newly employed neighbourhood activity co-ordinator, who facilitates larger scale presentations on the estate. It will be held in the estate’s park (the ‘Bowl’), and will be open to both the residents and to the general public. The whole estate will be able to hear the orchestra.


Mrs Geetha Maheshawaran, coordinator of the Shree Ghanapathy Temple, says:

“This is the first time we have undertaken such an event in our most sacred of spaces: hearing western classical musicians playing live in a Hindu Temple will definitely be a first!” She added, “This performance will be such an incredible instrument for unity – something that is so vitally needed, especially after the recent terrible atrocities in London and Manchester and the tragedy of Grenfell Tower. We need to deepen our discussion on community cohesion and also to help us to celebrate the unity in our diversity.” The screening at the temple is in keeping with the project’s partial focus on London’s religious diversity.


Ben Palmer, conductor of the Covent Garden Sinfonia, says:

“It’s always a thrill to bring a new piece to life, but this promises to be an unusually interesting collaboration for CGS. We’re very excited to be premiering James McWilliam’s fantastic music for LONDON SYMPHONY, especially at the iconic Barbican Centre.”


LONDON SYMPHONY was produced by Katharine Round and Disobedient Films, and was nominated for the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017.


After its special launch event at The Barbican Centre, LONDON SYMPHONY will tour over 30 venues throughout the UK.  For full details and tickets, please visit The project was also nominated for the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017.


The Three London special screenings:


03/09/2017, 15:30 – The Barbican Centre

17/09/2017, 19:00 – The Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate

28/10/2017, 18:30 – The Shree Ghanpathy Temple






The film will also be released internationally this year through Flicker Alley, one of the world’s most prestigious distributors of silent film. Flicker Alley are much admired for creating and distributing new digital editions of cinema classics and rare works in partnership with archives, broadcast networks and talented creatives. They regularly feature in annual “Best Of” lists.



LONDON SYMPHONY’S September release will coincide with the 90th anniversary of Walter Ruttmann’s BERLIN: SYMPHONY OF A GREAT CITY, one of the most important examples of the original city symphonies. Ruttmann was one of the great pioneers of experimental film, and Barrett and McWilliam have worked hard to bring a similar sense of poetic playfulness to LONDON SYMPHONY, while also updating the form for the 21st Century.



Alex Barrett is an artist-filmmaker whose works collectively have been screened at over 70 international festivals, and garnered eleven awards, including ‘Best Lo-Budget Film’ at the London Short Film Festival (for PAINTBRUSH: THE EPITAPH) and ‘Stoli Emerging Filmmaker Award’ at the Babelgum Online Film Festival (for HUNGERFORD: SYMPHONY OF A LONDON BRIDGE). In addition, his short films have enjoyed a number of non-festival screenings, including showings at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. His debut feature, LIFE JUST IS, was released theatrically in the UK in December 2012, screening at a number of cinemas including the ICA, Riverside Studios, Genesis Cinema and the BFI Southbank, where it had a two-week run. Sight & Sound contributor Brad Stevens called it “one of the most promising debuts in contemporary cinema” before placing it in his top five films of 2012, while the home video release was acclaimed as Mark Kermode’s ‘DVD of the Week’ in both The Observer and on BBC News 24. The film was nominated for the Michael Powell Award for Best British Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2012, where it was also selected for the ‘Best of the Fest’ screenings. LONDON SYMPHONY is Alex’s second feature.     



James McWilliam began his career at Metropolis Studios, after he forged a strong working relationship with producer Andy Wright. He wrote a large number of arrangements for Wright, including tracks for Pavarotti, Simply Red and Jeff Beck. In 2005, he began working with composers Dario Marianelli and Patrick Doyle, the latter of whom brought him onto his first Hollywood films, such as HARRY POTTER and AS YOU LIKE IT. He has also arranged a number of pieces for Warner Entertainment, Universal Music and Endemol TV, and composed a number of original scores for feature films including THE PATROL (Raindance Film Festival 2013’s ‘Film of the Festival’) and several primetime television shows for the BBC and Channel 4. His concert work, SYMMETRY, for percussion and piano received 9 performances by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, while his STRING QUARTET NO. 1 was shortlisted by spnm. The acclaimed cellist, Robin Michael, recorded James’ work for solo cello, INTERJECTION, and James recently released his first instrumental single, BLACK WATER, through Grandpa Stan records. He has an MA in Composition from Goldsmiths College and a BA from Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts.



Covent Garden Sinfonia (formerly the Orchestra of St Paul’s) is firmly established as one of London’s most dynamic and versatile chamber orchestras. Under the baton of Artistic Director Ben Palmer, since 2007 the orchestra has been developing a reputation for imaginative programming and exciting, stylish performances. Resident at the famous Actors’ Church, St Paul’s in Covent Garden, the orchestra performs regularly at London’s leading concert venues, including Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, St John’s Smith Square, Cadogan Hall and Milton Court.



Disobedient is committed to telling important stories in innovative ways, be it through fresh eyes, with extraordinary visuals, new technology or mixing genres in new and exciting ways. It has been building a reputation as a hub for creative collaboration & interdisciplinary art forms since its inception in 2014, so far producing work for the V&A (Disobedient Objects), exhibiting at the Serpentine Gallery (Transformation Marathon), and collaborating with a range of high profile artists including Peter Kennard, Joseph Kosuth, Natalie Jeremijenko, Paolo Cirio and Marco Godoy. Recent notable projects include the Arts Council supported CLIMATE SYMPHONY (June/July 2017) turning climate change data into a sound & music composition; critically-acclaimed film THE DIVIDE (2016) and work for Banksy’s WALLED OFF HOTEL (2017).  LONDON SYMPHONY will be led for Disobedient by Katharine Round, who has 20 years’ experience as a producer across a variety of artforms, producing events for DocHeads, Film London, Open City Festival, as well as cinema releases.

Editor review


No Comments Yet!

You can be first to comment this post!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.