Orsett native and top violinist Hannah Woolmer is bringing the Woolmer Philharmonic Orchestra to Grays for a spectacular concert this autumn.

The concert will bring alive Belmont Castle inside the Civic Hall, with a recreated Victorian 'pleasure garden'.

Inspired by the promenades of the 19th century, the aim of the event is to recreate the concerts held in Belmont Castle’s enormous gardens, which were destroyed in 1944.

People will get the chance to go on their own ramble and picnic around the Civic Hall, or order food, whilst the top-class orchestra play popular classics.

Thurrock garden centres will even be donating statues and plants intended to recreate the vibe of a 19th century castle garden.

Founder Hannah Woolmer said the philharmonic orchestra aims to recreate the "rock concerts of their age", where Mozart conductors would go up in hot air balloons and live tigers would prowl around on stage.

The latest show is part of a string of ‘culturally-themed’ WPO concerts across the borough, including a ‘snowing’ Russian concert at the Civic Hall last year.

The orchestra are working towards outdoor gigs next year.

Hannah, who was born in Orsett and went to Gable Hall School, said: “We set up in Thurrock because we wanted to bring music to Thurrock and the events we are bringing are promenade concerts.

“The premise is to bring classical music to Thurrock and reach people who might not normally listen to it.

“I also wanted to create a hand-picked orchestra that could be more artistic and creative.

“The promenade events are more of a relaxed event, where you can order food, bring your own picnic.

“It’s a new kind of experience.

“I tend to bring everything back to Thurrock. Everyone said the orchestra should be in London, but each time we have played the numbers have gone up in the audiences.

The orchestra is also working on a new gothic ‘Frankenstein’ work with acclaimed US composer Ian Deterling for next year, along with a WWI Vaughan Williams project yet to be announced.

The spectacular concert 'Pleasure gardens & Promenades: The Untold History of Thurrock' on November 11 has been funded by the National Lottery, the Arts Council and the Heritage Fund.

To buy tickets, from £1 for the promenade and concert to £20 for Dukes and Duchesses, go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pleasure-gardens-promenades-thurrock-the-untold-history-tickets-25116783977

An orchestra - and a charity?

The Woolmer Philharmonic Orchestra is believed to be the first of its kind in Thurrock, drawing top musicians from all over the world.

Top violin soloist Hannah Woolmer set up the orchestra with the profits from her no.1 Classical Downloads chart selling album ‘The Lark Ascending’.

After the orchestra, Hannah next set up charity Woolmer Music Group, which currently tutors around 180 children, many from Stifford Clays Primary School and Deneholm Primary School in Grays.

Last year, orchestra member Liam Parradine worked on the Channel 4 documentary ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ to initiate an ‘instrument amnesty’, where people donate old or unwanted instruments.

The aim was to "reach children who might not normally have the funds to access a classical music education" Hannah said.

The amnesty received 58 instruments from all over the country for children being tutored.

Ten tutored children went on to enter the competitive Southend Musical Festival this year and Hannah said she was “staggered” when five walked home with prizes, some as young as seven years old.

The orchestra aims to teach children how to play ‘beautifully’ and ‘creatively’ Hannah explained, rather than aim for technical brilliance.

She said: “I was completely surprised but very happy that the judges saw things our way at Southend.

“The children from Thurrock learn in groups at local primary schools and do not have access to the financial support that most of the other competitors benefited from.

“But despite this, and despite perhaps being considered the under-dog, these children prevailed to win every category they entered.”

“We would rather children learn to play something simply and beautifully than master difficult technicalities with a scratchy sound!”

And the vision, Hannah said, for the future of her twin projects, is to “keep growing.”

The Southend music competition winners were: Stifford Clays Primary pupils Lucy Jones, seven, who won gold for her violin playing; Edee Woodward, seven, who won silver with her violin in the under-seven group.

Henry Hattam, nine, from Horndon on the Hill Primary School, won silver in playing his own violin composition ‘Marzipan’ in the eight to nine category.

Michaela Aworinde, 11, from Dene Holm School near Blackshots, won Gold in the 10-11 group for her violin piece.

The WMG runs workshops in schools, and parts of WPO – the orchestra – have also worked with the Thurrock Trailblazers’ Programme in conjunction with the Royal Opera House.

For more information on both projects, visit: http://www.woolmermusicgroup.com/ or http://www.woolmer-philharmonic.co.uk/