The SEA LIFE London Aquarium has kick started an innovative new project to extend the aquarium experience to a totally new audience – blind and partially sighted children. Working with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the pupils of Joseph Clarke School the aim is to bring the ocean world to life for them through music.

The project began yesterday evening with a discovery workshop session and tour of the SEA LIFE London Aquarium for 11 severely sight impaired children and will culminate in a live performance of an especially composed piece of music at the attraction on 26th November 2012.

In a series of workshops aquarists from The SEA LIFE London Aquarium and musicians from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will work with a group of 11 partially sighted children from the Joseph Clarke School in Waltham Forest. The children, aged 13 to 17, will explore the ocean world using a range of instruments to express the movement, scale and character of a variety of marine life. The results of these workshops will inspire a piece of original music which will be performed by the children and the RPO musicians throughout the SEA LIFE London Aquarium, including in front of the magnificent Ocean Reef Display.

“We’re hoping that by the end of this project these children will have a better understanding of the wonders of the marine world and be able to relate to it in a new way,” commented Toby Forer, General Manager at The SEA LIFE London Aquarium. “If you can’t actually see the slow, majestic movement of a shark, or look at how large and impressive it is, how can you comprehend it? If you have never seen a seahorse, how do you know it’s 4 inches tall not actually horse sized? The idea is to use music to express these qualities and help children who can’t experience an aquarium through sight to experience it through their other senses”.

“As someone who is blind, I have no concept of the size or scale of sea creatures so it’s very exciting to be working with SEA LIFE Aquarium and the RPO to offer blind and partially sighted children this unique opportunity. Interpreting not only the size of the creatures but also the style and energy of their movements through music will open up the infinite variety and beauty of the underwater world for all of these children.” said James Risdon of the RNIB Music Advisory Service.

“The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to continue its long tradition of delivering quality creative experiences which give all participants regardless of ability, demographic, culture or in this case impairment, access to the joys and manifold benefits of music and music-making. Project participants will work with world-class musicians from the Orchestra and draw upon their expertise and knowledge in order to explore the magical world of the aquarium in an engaging and creative way. The result will be a completely unique musical performance created by the pupils themselves who can proudly showcase their new found musical insight into the aquatic world.” said Ruth Currie, Head of Community and Education at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

“Our children are amazingly creative in using their sense of touch and hearing to interpret visual images,” commented Peter Falconbridge, Head Teacher at Joseph Clarke School. “They have worked on many projects with music, art, dance and drama professionals to create astonishing performances and compositions which comment on the visual world around them. They are really excited about being part of this innovative, ground-breaking project”

Nine year old pupils and project participants Abdullahi Abdullahi and Mahsa Babaei added, “We’re very excited about the idea of producing music that will translate sea life!”

The SEA LIFE London Aquarium “audio” aquarium project is a pilot project and if successful the team hope funding may be secured to roll out more workshops for a larger group of children and adults in the future.

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