Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Celebrating classical composers from diverse ethnic backgrounds

We welcome expressions of interest from:

  • arts and humanities researchers from all disciplines specialising in, or with interests in, Black, Asian and ethnically diverse classical music composers
  • researchers at all stages of their careers, including doctoral students and early career researchers.

We are particularly interested in receiving applications from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse researchers who are currently under-represented within academia and on BBC Radio 3.

Who can apply

AHRC’s usual institutional eligibility rules as detailed in the research funding guide apply for this scheme.

We welcome expressions of interest from researchers at all stages of their careers, including:

  • doctoral students
  • early career researchers.

A single principal investigator is the only permissible staff for the project.

Applicants must have the availability to attend a workshop (either virtually or in London) in January 2021 should they be successfully shortlisted.

What we're looking for

We are inviting expressions of interest from arts and humanities researchers from all disciplines specialising in, or with interests in, Black, Asian and ethnically diverse classical music composers. Applicants are permitted to submit up to two composers, but separate expressions of interest must be submitted for each.

Expressions of interest will be assessed by a panel and a shortlist of researchers will be invited to participate in an AHRC/BBC workshop in January 2021 to explore ideas that will help shape the project and feed into BBC programming.

We are particularly interested in receiving applications from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse researchers who are currently under-represented within academia and on BBC Radio 3. This scheme aims to encourage greater inclusion and ensure researchers feel empowered to apply.

Expressions of interest must focus on a single historical composer (that is, deceased), who can be from any part of the world. They must have written orchestral, chamber and/or choral music so that BBC orchestras, choirs and new generation artists can then perform and record their work for broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Given the resources available of the BBC performance groups, we’re specifically looking to record music written predominantly for western instruments.


Following the initial expression of interest stage, it is expected that around ten applicants will be shortlisted, and the selected researchers will be invited to attend a workshop in January 2021. Here they will pitch their ideas and showcase why their chosen composer or composers are important.

The workshop will either take place virtually or at BBC offices in London depending on government social distancing requirements at the time and the needs of participants.

Each researcher will be asked to deliver a short presentation to the room, followed by time after each presentation for questions. The workshop will be jointly facilitated by staff from AHRC and the BBC.

Your proposal and subsequent presentation should include:

  • a clear and interesting narrative about the composer and their music
  • a passionate case for why the composer’s music matters to modern day audiences
  • unusual or interesting stories and/or facts about the composer and any research that you have undertaken to date (this might also include for example, research that this project could be aligned to)
  • your assessment as to why the music has not become part of the received canon, including likely causes of their marginalisation, and your critical comparison of your nominated composer to her/his contemporaries
  • wherever possible we would hope to hear a recording or recital of a short piece of music from the composer. However, where this is not possible, applicants will not be disadvantaged through the competition on that basis
  • any ideas about specific works that deserve to be recorded, and if these works are not already published, an indication of where the original manuscript might be found and prepared for performance.

We will primarily assess the excellence of the proposal on the basis of the case it makes for its nominated composer and their interest to a wide public audience, but as part of the shortlisting process, we will also consider the breadth and diversity of awards.

How to apply

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S).

Please note that the applicant must have a full ‘applicant’ level Je-S account, student accounts will therefore need to be upgraded.

Applicants are permitted to submit up to two composers, but separate expressions of interest must be submitted for each.

Using the ‘summary’ section of the Je-S application form please cover the following two areas:

  1. An account of the proposed topic of your presentation taking into consideration the bullets outlined above. Please bear in mind that your proposal will be read by non-academics and therefore please ensure your proposal is clear, accessible and avoids unnecessary jargon. Please make it clear which composer you will presenting to us and include their birth and death year.
  2. An account which covers your research specialism(s), relevant publications and any broadcasting and public engagement experience.

The total character limit for this is 5,000 characters and we would anticipate applicants using approximately two thirds of the allocation for area one and the other third for area two. Applicants should number the two areas within the summary section so that it is clear which is which.

Costs: to ensure funding is provided at 100% full economic costing please ensure all costs are entered in the ‘other directly incurred costs’ section and ticked as being exception. Note that the funding limit per application is £5,000.

Applicants must also submit a CV as an attachment which should be no longer than two sides of A4. No other attachments are permitted for this call.

By submitting an application, you consent to AHRC sharing your information with the BBC for the purposes of this scheme.

We would also encourage you to complete all fields in the ‘personal information’ section of your Je-S profile, to enable us to collect and analyse information on the diversity of applicants to this scheme, but it of course remains completely optional to do so.

How we will assess your application

Your application will be assessed by a panel including representatives from both AHRC and BBC and other academic and non-academic experts. They will perform an initial sift in order to create a shortlist of applicants who will be invited to the workshop stage.

The panel will pay attention to the breadth of awards made, taking into account factors such as diversity of applicants, and the compelling case made for the composer and their music. This funding opportunity is about the quality of the object of research (the composer), as much as it is the research or researcher.

The panel will agree a final list of successful applicants based on the workshop. You may be asked for more information or to clarify aspects of your proposal during the assessment process.

Contact details

For queries on creating a Je-S account and submitting your application form, including any accessibility requirements, please contact the Je-S help desk at or 01793 444164 between 08:30 and 16:30 Monday to Friday. If you call outside office hours, leave a message and we will call you back.

For general enquiries regarding this scheme, please contact AHRC at

Additional info

AHRC, in collaboration with BBC Radio 3, is seeking applications for a new funding opportunity that seeks to recognise and celebrate Black, Asian and ethnically diverse classical music composers across the centuries.

The lack of diversity in classical music is widely acknowledged but the opportunities to listen to and learn about composers from diverse ethnic backgrounds is often scarce.

This project will help to shine a light on this, while also enabling the public to hear new works, that perhaps until now, have not received the wider recognition they deserve.

The outcomes will therefore address prejudices that exist and are perpetuated, not just within society and institutions, but within the classical music canon, while bringing to the fore immensely talented composers and music that deserves to be presented alongside what is considered the traditional repertoire.

This opportunity follows on from the success of the 2017 forgotten female composers initiative in which five researchers spent the year exploring the lives and works of five female composers, and in many cases rediscovered compositions that had been hidden in archives for centuries. This research enabled these incredible works to be heard by new public and academic audiences during a special concert performed by the BBC concert orchestra and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 on International Women’s Day 2018.

Funding available

Applicants are not expected to prepare a detailed cost plan at this stage. However, please note that successful applicants will receive an award of up to £5,000 (paid at 100% full economic costs (FEC)) to facilitate their involvement in the project.

One of the aims of this research is to enable the broadcasting of the selected composers’ works by the BBC concert orchestra, choirs and new generation artists.

Music from the selected composers will be performed at a special concert in autumn/winter 2021.

Funding can be used for:

  • travel related to the project
  • delivery of project outputs in conjunction with the BBC
  • any other reasonable expenses incurred during the project.

AHRC will reimburse the cost of standard class travel to and from the workshop venue for shortlisted applicants in the event that the workshop doesn’t take place virtually.

Editorial decisions

Please note that the recording and performance of works produced as a result of this call, by any BBC performance group, is subject to final editorial approval by the BBC.

This new initiative is also part of AHRC’s focus on equality, diversity and inclusion both as an organisational priority in how and who we fund, and also as an important area of research as set out in our 2019 Delivery Plan. The aim is for this funding opportunity to contribute on both fronts.


To request copies of this opportunity document in large print or in a different format, please contact the equality, diversity and inclusion team:

01793 444000
UK Research and Innovation, Polaris House, Swindon, SN2 1FL

Please let us know about any accessibility requirements that you may have in terms of  attending meetings, workshops or events as part of this project, so that we can provide arrangements accordingly.

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