Saturday, 27 October 2012

Miraculous changes - date for final show is 26th Jan 2013!!!

OK, I know I have a tendency to ramble, but as this is fairly important news, I'll keep the headline brief :

The final show for 12.12.12 will NOT be on 12th Dec 2012, but will be on 26th January. The venue will be announced next week (1st Nov).

Here's the explanation of why below:

About a month ago, with the weight of everything upon me, I seriously considered quitting this challenge. It may seem strange because it was right after a well-attended show at Union Chapel, features on BBC, a performance on the London Eye. Everything looked positive to people.

But behind the scenes, I was having a really poor response rate from musicians, I was struggling to get the funding to secure the venue, and I didn't have any support from the organisations & people involved (with the exception of a couple of people. you know who you are. Thank you!). So, I was pretty much alone, broke, jobless, and without the support needed to make this challenge work. And I had 3 months to make this work. I had a venue pencilled in and ready to go, and even though the response was poor, I still believed I could form an orchestra and make this work. But I didn't have the funding or support I needed to put the event on and this really hit home after Union Chapel. I just had to face fact that it was probably too late.

So I went to quit.

Then something odd happened. The moment I was seriously considering giving up, my brother (who had come on board as the charity rep) contacted me and said there was a charity called Daytrippers who were interested in meeting with me to discuss putting on the event if I could form the orchestra. So I went to meet with them. And they seemed to love the idea. The main guy involved is a very smart and shrewd man, so he grilled me a lot on whether I thought we could make the event work. And I guess, partly through fear of looking a fool, partly through the enthusiasm I felt from the people there, I must have given the right answers. Because they agreed to come on board and put the event on, which will screen the documentary, and a performance from whatever orchestra I can get together.

Daytrippers do incredible work with children with disabilities and terminal illnesses, providing some amazing days out for them. I'd recommend everyone visit and see the awesome work they do.

So, at the eleventh hour, we had a possible reprieve. The venue was set, the organisers were set. I just needed to get the orchestra together. Yet, we still had to be realistic. We may now be able to put the show on, but was there enough time to sell tickets and make the event work? Are there enough people out there interested in coming to this? Are you people actually out there? Would there be enough of you to come and watch this on 12th Dec?

So, I looked back over the comments from people, and put the feelers out with Daytrippers, and came to the conclusion that whilst it was a nice idea, and people seemed interested (in fact, people seemed to not care when it was, just as long as it happened), we wouldn't be able to get everything in place for 12th December. It was a logistical nightmare. The challenge is meant to end that date, so how would I involve people I met that day? What's the cutoff? How are the film-makers going to film up until 12th then show the documentary that evening? When would rehearsals start? Would that get in the way of actually forming the orchestra? Aargh! It was all getting too much. So, again, we were back to the same problem. I had to concede defeat. Which was now doubly tough because I now had a great charity supporting the challenge.

So before quitting, I looked at the rules I'd made. Could I end the challenge on 12th Dec and then just do the final performance another time, still keeping to the original venues? Hmmm, felt like cheating to me. "But Shaun", people kept saying, "if you put on the event later after completing the challenge, and it means you raise more money for charity, then it's worth it".

So, as the main aim for me is to raise funds for Daytrippers and put on a show highlighting the year's work, we decided two things:

1) We would do a performance on 12th December, but it will be low-key (maybe invite only. Watch this space) and won't be at one of the top listed venues
2) We would do a screening of the documentary and a final performance with the orchestra sometime the following month, at one of the top listed venues.

You can look at the rules at and make up your own minds. Does this mean I've failed the challenge? Is it within the rules and a success? I'd like to hear people's opinions on this. It's an interesting debate I think. And one I've had with myself far too many times. Sometimes I forget that I am the one who has trapped me with these rules. And the bottom line that it's easy to forget is that I want to put on an event that everyone can come to, see the work that's been done, follow the journey I have taken leading up to 12.12.12, then hopefully listen to some music by more than just me and a kazoo.....does it HAVE to all happen on 12.12.12?? The answer, for me, was no.

Once I let go of this pressure to live by the rules I'd set, another awesome thing happened. Suddenly, almost within a matter of days, it seemed that one of the awesome venues on the list had been back in touch with us/Daytrippers, had rescheduled some pretty cool and profitable acts to free up a date, and offered us 26th January. This venue is not only one of my favourites, they were by far the most supportive along the challenge, contacting me throughout and offering other places as options (they were booked from the outset on 12th Dec). The guys are really wonderful people.

So....whether I succeed at this challenge or not, I can proudly announce that Daytrippers and I will be hosting an event on Saturday 26th January at one of the top 10 venues on this list.

The venue and info on tickets will be announced next week.

Onwards and upwards


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The final published statistics about the challenge

So, here we are once again. Stats time, stat!

So, as you may/may not know, I'm keeping a comprehensive database of everyone I will meet from 1st Jan-12th Dec whilst doing this challenge. I'm now in the final stages. Here's the last stats I will publish until after the event. This gives me a chance to avoid questions like "how many people have I met"/"what's the signup rate like", etc. I won't tell anyone myself whether I have formed the orchestra and succeeded until 12th Dec, or whenever/whenever that final presentation will be. So....what I know from musicians I have met in the last 291 days.....

  • I have found all main instruments that make up a modern symphony orchestra
  • 65.58% of musicians I have found are carrying string instruments
  • 19.07% of musicians I have found are carrying woodwind instruments
  • 12.56% of musicians I have found are carrying brass instruments. 
  • 1.86% of musicians I have found are carrying non-orchestra instruments*
  • 0.93% of musicians I have found are carrying percussion instruments

* Non-orchestra instruments are instruments I have mistaken for other instruments initially, but still been interested in potentially using. These are accordion, ukelele and cavaco.


  • 29.63% are women
  • 70.37% are men
  • 81.48% express interest (yes) or possible interest (maybe) and give me their e-mail details
  • Of these above interested musicians, 22.73% of them have responded to say they are free on the date of the performance and interested in joining the orchestra.
  • So, I have an 18.52% chance when I meet a brass player that they will be interested, available, and willing to be a part of the orchestra.


  • 46.34% are women
  • 53.66% are men
  • 87.80% express interest (yes) or possible interest (maybe) and give me their e-mail details
  • Of these interested musicians, 16.67% of them have responded to say something like "yep, count me in for performance day"
  • So, I have a 14.63% chance when I meet a woodwind player that they will be interested, available, and willing to be part of the orchestra


  • 61.70% are women
  • 38.30% are men
  • 78% express interest (yes) or possible interest (maybe) and give me their e-mail details
  • Of these interested musicians, 10% of them have responded to say something like "yes, I'm available and would perform in an orchestra of strangers"
  • So, I have a 12.82% chance when I meet a string player that they will be interested, available, and willing to be part of the orchestra


  • 100% are men
  • 100% express interest (yes) or possible interest (maybe) and give me their e-mail details
  • Of these interested musicians, 50% of them have responded, but none have confirmed they are free and willing to join the orchestra
  • So, I currently have a 0% chance when I meet a percussionist that they will be interested, available, and willing to be part of the orchestra

So, what we know from this?

- Whilst I seem to be twice as likely to get a positive e-mail response from an interested brass player than an interested string player, you have to note that I have met significantly more string players, so it's likely the response rate is more accurate.
- There seem to be more women performing string roles than any other section (although, interestingly, I haven't met a single female double-bassist or female harpist, but have been approached via by a female double-bassist living in London who is now part of my band!) 

So, the most important fact for me now, with 56 days to go until 12.12.12., at this success rate, I calculate that I would need to meet the following amount of musicians to form the orchestra :
(symphony orchestra in bold and smaller chamber orchestra in brackets, plus I'm assuming the average 10.23% success rate for timpani/percussion).

Strings : 546 (202)
Woodwind : 109 (63)
Brass : 70 (27)
Percussion : 29 (9)

So, to make this succeed, it seems I'd have to meet 754 musicians to form a symphony orchestra, and 309 musicians to form a chamber orchestra.

I am going to have a very busy 56 days!!!

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

London Eye, #1 music venues & why I can't do the final show on 12.12.12

Wow, so the usual regular blogs turned into a 3 month hiatus. I really was busy.

but I guess I also decided that, as much as it's nice to write about things, it's better to just do them. I think if anyone was really interested in what I was writing, they could just ask me for an update.

Anyway, these past three months have been pretty incredible. I have :

- Performed on the London Eye on 11th September, with 8 musicians, some of which were found on the London Underground
- Performed at Union Chapel on 14th September (a beautiful venue voted # 1 live music venue in London by Time Out) with a 21 piece ensemble, including musicians from the Underground, as well as a mini-flashmob of musicians during one song
- Quit my job, to pursue this challenge full time. Now, this is probably the most life-changing decision that I've made but more later...
- Got turned down by Guinness as an official world record. Apparently, "The method of recruitment is simply not relevant to the activity itself". Whatevs.
- Had a lovely article in the Evening Standard
- Had a nice feature on BBC news (See it here)
- Had radio interviews with BBC, Break London, Swindon 105.5, Heart FM, The Ladder Factory and UCB UK.
- Had features in national magazine publications (which I can't mention because they're going to print now!)
- Got refused funding by the Arts Council. Apparently, it's high risk and relies to heavily on external contributors. (i.e, we don't believe musicians will agree to such a ridiculous proposal)
- Met with some people about the documentary that is being made
- Had talks with a great venue in London about doing the show on 12.12.12, but.....

....most importantly, I realised it was not possible to do the final event, screening the documentary of the whole challenge, and the final performance on 12th December.

This last piece of news the thing that took me the longest to admit, because I was so insistent on getting the entire challenge and the event all wrapped up by 12.12.12. However, three important factors changed things drastically.

1) Funding. When I started this, I believed that we had external contributors who were taking on all of the organisation for the venue and event on 12th Dec, leaving me to focus on the challenge of finding and creating an orchestra ready to perform on the night. I was going to do the challenge, and then deliver them my "goods" on 12th Dec. This didn't happen. No-one to blame. I just didn't realise this wasn't in place as it had been before on any challenge, and crossed wires left me being the venue finder, event organiser, booker, promoter and backer. So...I set about these tasks on top of my other ones. I found a venue (actually got one from the the list!). I started to organise the event. I started to book the show, pencilling in the date with the venue. I got the promotion ready. But...crucially, I could not find the financial backing in time. I believe to do a show, and a show with justice that could raise funds for the charities, we would need at least 3 months lead time. And I wanted to announce the venue we had at Union Chapel on 14th September. But I couldn't find anyone committed and willing enough to take a punt on a crazy idea. Saddened as I am by it, the main reason the main event won't go ahead on 12th Dec was due to lack of money. And I'd just quit my job to concentrate on this too.....

2) Logistics of the date. When I started, 12th Dec was set up because it was a catchy date. 12.12.12. It gave me something to go for. But let's face facts. It's a Wednesday in December, the Christmas season. And the challenge stated that I had to form an entire orchestra by 12th Dec then perform at a venue in London. But how can I screen a documentary of the challenge first when it will have only finished 1 hour earlier?

3) The musicians. An important point. There was the orchestra to think of. Of the hundreds of musicians I had met, I was finding myself with a 10% reply rate. People just weren't responding. This is the last I will speak of regarding the success/failure to complete this challenge (other than to say that at the time of writing I am still working on it), but I have on occasions, been left to wonder whether anyone was interested at all.

So it was with a heavy heart that I admitted defeat. I went to throw in the towel. No show, and no orchestra on 12th Dec.

I went to write the blog, telling you all how sorry I was to let you down, and that I wouldn't even be able to put on an event to show you how I had done. You know, witness the 3 people that had been kind enough to turn up! But seriously, it's a hard thing writing this. For most people involved, it's just maybe one show. But for me it's my life. I have been repeatedly told time and time again by the wonderful press officer for the challenge that failure is not a word people like reading. So I procrastinated telling you that I had failed. No-one wants to fail at life.

Then something miraculous happened......