Children’s music chief gets MBE for service to education in Tower Hamlets and The City

Karen Brock (inset) and pupils from Swanlea and Mossfield schools at Hackney Round Chapel

Karen Brock (inset) and pupils from Swanlea and Mossfield schools at Hackney Round Chapel - Credit: TH Cll

The woman behind a groundbreaking arts and music education service for children in London’s deprived East End has been awarded an MBE for services to education.

Tower Hamlets Youth Orchestra at York Hall

Tower Hamlets Youth Orchestra at York Hall - Credit: Tower Hamlets Cll

Karen Brock’s award was given in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours, but details have only been announced by Tower Hamlets council today.

She is head of Tower Hamlets Arts & Music Education Service, known by its initials as ‘Thames’, which recruits youngsters from schools to learn instruments good enough to play at major London festivals.

The service runs the Tower Hamlets Youth Orchestra which performs regularly at Bethnal Green’s York Hall and other major London venues.

Sir John Cass pupils play steel drums at Hackney Round Chapel

Sir John Cass pupils play steel drums at Hackney Round Chapel - Credit: Tower Hamlets Cll

It also has two thriving music centres, several music ensembles, a youth dance troupe and a young artists and curators group.


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Karen’s leadership has made sure that loans of instruments remain free to the children and that schools provide free music lessons to all pupils, lowering the barriers to make music.

“Karen’s award is a richly-deserved recognition for the work her music education service carries out,” Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs said. “It’s clear that Karen’s dedication running outstanding arts and music education is part of our success as a local education authority.”

Young violinists at the 'Take a Bow' rehearsals

Young violinists at the 'Take a Bow' rehearsals - Credit: Archant

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The service set up in 2006 has expanded the arts and music education now available to youngsters from all backgrounds and leads the Music Education Hub for Tower Hamlets and the City of London. Around 11,500 pupils are learning instruments every week in primary and secondary schools.

Karen said: “This honour for my work is a testament to the contribution my colleagues have made over the past decade.”

Many pupils have gone on to win scholarships to prestigious establishments including the Purcell School and the Junior Guildhall School of Music.

Some 3,000 pupils and almost a-thousand hours of music are taught in Tower Hamlets schools every week, providing regular music and arts tuition for all youngsters in both Tower Hamlets and the City.

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