On our doorstep: Meet The Grand Union Orchestra and the Grand Union Youth Orchestra

A registered charity, the Grand Union Orchestra draws together musicians and singers whose backgrounds embrace the enormous range of cultures flourishing in Britain today. Many of the musicians are internationally-acclaimed and, over the years, the orchestra has represented more than 50 nationalities. Tony Haynes, one of four original co-founders of the orchestra, now acts as the company’s artistic director, and writes and arranges most of its music.


The Grand Union Orchestra is a pioneer and leading advocate of cross-cultural music-making in the UK, and is described as ‘making cultural diversity an art-form’. For over 30 years it has been bringing together singers and instrumentalists from all over the world – many of them first generation migrants themselves – to create spectacular music.

Based in Bethnal Green, the orchestra has been going strong since 1982 and has toured the UK numerous times in addition to performing internationally. As well as performing, they also facilitate workshops and education programmes.

Running alongside the Grand Union Orchestra is the Grand Union Youth Orchestra, London’s pioneering world music and jazz youth ensemble. Led by top professional jazz and world musicians from the parent orchestra, the GUYO brings together young musicians aged 12 – 26 who wish to explore the world’s major musical cultures.

The youth orchestra’s masterclasses and workshops take place at Rich Mix, where they also perform regularly. In addition to native Londoners, the group is truly international, with countries of origin including Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Bangladesh, China, India, East Africa, South Africa and the Caribbean.

The Grand Union Youth Orchestra performs Trading Roots at Rich Mix on Sunday 2nd December

The Grand Union Orchestra & Singers performs Uncharted Crossings at Shoreditch Town Hall on Sunday 9th December