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Serious at Buckingham Palace April 2018

Serious was proud to produce the creative content for the formal opening of CHOGM (the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting).  

The programme happened within Buckingham Palace and also outside on The Mall.  

In the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, members of the Royal Family, Heads of Government and senior leaders from the 53 Commonwealth Countries, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland and an audience of specially invited guests, Serious created a programme which took place in Ballroom of Buckingham Palace. The  programme, which was hosted by Reeta Chakrabarti and featured Emeli Sandé singing the National Anthem accompanied by a specially created string quartet, included  two major collaborations featuring young artists and creative performers, including some drawn from Serious’ Talent Development programmes.

The first was led by vocalist Ranjana Ghatak, who has just taken part in our LEAP Talent Development programme (see below). Entitled Commonwealth Voices, this was  a group put together for CHOGM which drew on singers with a Commonwealth heritage and included Cherise Adams-Burnett, who was a member of Young & Serious and has also taken part in LEAP.  Together they  sang a specially created version of Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield, arranged by Harvey Brough, and the group consisted of six singers who draw on the vocal traditions of each Commonwealth region.

Commonwealth Voices
Cherise Adams-Burnett
Jamie Doe
Ranjana Ghatak
Laurent John
Ria Moran
Mim Suleiman

The second collaboration was led by Sam Sweeney from Bellowhead (now the Artistic Director of the National Youth Folk Ensemble). The group was called Commonwealth Strings and the piece they played was a new version of Shepherd’s Hey by Percy Grainger who was an Australian composer who came to Britain in the early 1900s and enthusiastically collected English folk music alongside Cecil Sharp. He heard Shepherd’s Hey performed by Morris Dancers in Oxfordshire, loved its exuberance and physicality ('I can whistle, I can sing, I can do most anything'), and included his instrumental arrangement in an edition of the National Songbook that was printed in London and sent to all corners of the Commonwealth. For CHOGM, it took on a life of its own in Australian and Canadian folk music and evolved further as a tune – we took it one stage further, building on its Commonwealth heritage for the performance by  the group which was called Commonwealth Strings and featured:

Commonwealth Strings
Victoria Bernath
Courtenay Cleary
Nadine Galea
Braimah Kanneh-Mason
Owen Spafford
Jyotsna Srikanth
Sam Sweeney
Osian Jones

Performance on the Mall

Serious invited Kinetika Bloco to collaborate with other Commonwealth artists for a performance on the Mall on the morning of the opening ceremony for CHOGM.  Kinetica Bloco are a performance group with an exuberant mix of young brass and woodwind players, drummers, steel pan and dynamic dancers all in costume, who create a 'unique new British Carnival sound with a decidedly London edge'. Some of best Dhol Drummers in the UK  were also invited to take part in the  performance and they added further exciting rhythms and traditional outfits in a spectacular display that acted as a curtain-raiser to this very important international meeting.

Serious has a long and successful history of working on Commonwealth projects, including  the 1997 CHOGM in Edinburgh and the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002.

'David Jones and I have been involved in Commonwealth projects since 1995, when President Nelson Mandela took South Africa back into the Commonwealth. We are proud to have worked on this moment in history and to have created a programme showcasing the modern Commonwealth and featuring  such talented diverse artists, giving them the opportunity to perform to Her Majesty the Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth, an array of world leaders and members of the Royal Family' (Claire Whitaker, Director, Serious).


LEAP (Learning, Education, Access, Participation) is Serious’ Talent Development scheme for outstanding artists interested in developing their Learning & Participation skills, ideas and practice. Participants take part in a residency programme, followed by a period of mentoring and support to create new and ambition creative learning work. The programme is funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation with additional support from Arts Council England and Serious Trust.

Young & Serious is a year-round Talent Development programme for emerging event producers aged 18 to 25 from around the UK. The programme provides opportunities for young people to build their professional network, develop new skills, attend industry events, talks and workshops, and programme and deliver their own events.

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