Music Co-operative Scotland is one of the three Co-operative Development Scotland’s Collaboration Prize winners. Here Katie Hull explains how the £10,000 prize money will help bring their idea to life…

The last two months, since we found out we had been awarded one of three Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) Collaboration Prizes, have been busy for our fledgling company, Music Co-operative Scotland, aka McOpera.

We have issued Membership Agreements to all the possible potential members of our co-operative consortium, the 53 members of the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, and October has been their window of opportunity to commit to the co-op, with a one-off membership subscription, and a signed agreement.

Although there are three vacancies and two sabbaticals at present, we have signed up 45 of the possible 48 members, which is really excellent news, as our perceived strength is in facing the future together. The aim of our co-op is to provide opportunities at many different levels for our musicians to be paid for performing.

This follows Scottish Opera moving us from full-time to part-time contracts in 2011. As you might expect, this had a negative effect on the members of the orchestra in terms of personal morale and finances. Potentially most damaging of all was the detrimental effect of not working together regularly, which is what gives each orchestra its own special character.

We have instigated setting up a website which will be ready for business in about a month’s time. The website will promote us as individuals and within all our various strands of musical activity. We are currently planning to film a variety of small ensembles for the website, as we need to showcase our talents in a way which will appear attractive to members of the public wishing to hire musicians for a wedding or for corporate entertainment. A whole orchestra appearing ‘en masse’ can be rather alarming, so we want to demonstrate the possibilities within an orchestra, especially as we intend to be completely flexible, and capable of meeting all requests.

We have also booked St Andrew’s in the Square as the venue for three concerts in March and May next year, featuring brass, strings and wind separately. Without the CDS prize money we might not have had the confidence to do this at this stage.

It is really important for us to establish a presence on the Glasgow music scene. With careful planning and budgeting the concerts will involve around 30 members who will be paid a fixed fee, and should break even. Small beginnings but a good start for us, as it guarantees that those members will recoup their membership subscription within six months.

We have had a meeting with an opera production company to move forward with some ideas for performing popular opera in unconventional spaces. As an orchestra we know the repertoire very well, and so it makes real financial sense to try and do some productions like this, with a full orchestra. Our experience really mitigates against the rehearsal costs that any other group in Scotland would need to be paid.

Above all we are passionately committed to opera, and want to bring it out of the theatres and the concert halls to reach as diverse an audience as possible. The use of digital technology to create scenery and effects is a really attractive way in which to bring a complete opera experience to different venues.

A part of our prize money will be used to develop and pitch a range of digitally enhanced operatic performances to funding bodies and commercial sponsors, as the cost of promoting these ourselves is far beyond our means.

Anyway, we’re on tour to perform Magic Flute as the Orchestra of Scottish Opera. Time for some fun…


Co-operative Development Scotland is a Scottish Enterprise subsidiary, established to help companies grow by setting up consortium, employee-owned and community businesses. It works in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise.