Grand Union was founded in 1982 by Tony Haynes, David Bradford, John Cumming and Julie Eaglen to tour theatrical work with music at its core. Since then, it has expanded considerably in scale and ambition, and continues to evolve year by year...

This a brief outline of the Orchestra's history; a fuller account can be found here and a summary here.


Our third touring show, Strange Migration, was crucial in shaping all our subsequent work - the way it brought non-European performers into the Company, and embraced less familiar musical cultures. The Grand Union Orchestra was born in response to a commission from the GLC to celebrate its Year against Racism in 1984. The resulting show, The Song of Many Tongues (1984), was composed by Tony Haynes and toured England for two years; this was followed by increasingly ambitious shows up until the present day.


Originating as a popular street band, formed to publicise more formal performances, the Grand Union Band evolved into smaller, more flexible combinations of the orchestra musicians. Its repertoire is based on traditional music from the musicians' own countries of origin and some original compositions.


The Grand Union Orchestra has always produced large-scale shows, often specific to a particular city or community and sometimes touring the UK. These shows are developed by a core group of our musicians in conjunction with amateur performers, community and local cultural groups. They have included:
 - Threads (Manchester 1986)
 - If Music Could... (Warwickshire 1990, London 1992, Slough1997)
 - Shadows of the Sun (Clerkenwell Festival 1992)
 - Nau Charia De (Spitalfields 1994 & 1995)
 - Dancing in the Flames (London 1995 & 1996, Melbourne 2005)
 - Where The Rivers Meet (week-long run Sadler’s Wells 2000)
 - Beyond the Silk Road (4 UK performances 1999)
 - Doctor Carnival (Leeds, Nottingham, Leicester, Loughborough, London, Folkestone, Birmingham, Orkney, Sunderland 2001-2005)
 - On Liberation Street (Leeds, Gateshead, London 2005-2009)
and for London's Hackney Empire
 - 11.11.11 (2011)
 - The Golden Highway (2012)
 - Liberation and Remembrance (2012)
 - Music Untamed (2013)
 - Undream'd Shores (2014)


The Grand Union ethos and way of working are much admired all over the world, and many of our activities have been successfully transferred abroad - performing and facilitating workshops and education programmes in many countries including: Australia, Bangladesh, Portugal, Turkey and China, described more fully here on our Projects page..

Here are highlights from Mil e Uma Mares, our recent show in Portugal - the last strand in our two-year project supported by the European Union Culture Fund:

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