The Great Learning

Community led devising project, raising questions about how society functions, and what lessons we can learn for a better future.

Over 50 years ago, avant-garde English composer Cornelius Cardew created an experimental and politically engaged choir composition called The Great Learning designed to be performed by people with no or little formal musical training. Cardew’s work uses texts by ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius as provocations for mindful living.

Based on Cardew’s work, The Great Learning project uses community singing - weaving words and music with simple movement - to explore questions about how society functions, and what lessons we can learn for a better future - creating new work that responds to participants own experiences and learnings.

In 2022-23, we worked with communities in Edinburgh and Cumbria to explore our experience of living through the Covid-19 pandemic - how it made us think, feel and see things differently. In 2024 we will deliver further workshops in Cumbria, Edinburgh and North Tyneside to understand how The Great Learning can be used in different contexts to support communities in decision making and creative development, exploring issues that are meaningful and relevant to the communities in which we are working.

Watch our Meet Me @ Mahogany discussion about the project here.

I felt that togeth­er we had achieved some­thing I would nev­er have imag­ined pos­si­ble — the idea of actu­al­ly cre­at­ing the out­lines of a per­for­mance in just one day, with a group of peo­ple who did­n’t know each oth­er pre­vi­ous­ly is incred­i­ble. I had such a great feel­ing of achieve­ment. And it was huge fun along the way too.
Participant, Community Singing Day in Cumbria
I loved being sur­round­ed by so many cre­ative and open mind­ed peo­ple, all will­ing to expose their emo­tions and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, made pos­si­ble I’m sure because it felt like a very safe space.
Participant, Community Singing Day in Cumbria

Creative Community Devising Day

14 May 2023

Leith Theatre, Edinburgh

Creative Community Devising Day

7 May 2023

Rosehill Theatre, Whitehaven

A Community Singing Day

21 January 2023 – 10:00

Rosehill Theatre, Whitehaven

A Post-Pandemic Singing Day

30 July 2022 – 10:00

Pianodrome - The Old Royal High School, Edinburgh

Workshop Leaders
Frederic Wake-Walker director
Dave Camlin
music leader
Emma McGordon
Stephen Deazley
music leader
Elspeth Murray




  • SCOPS light
  • Hadfield Trust 400px htrust logo
  • Catherine cookson charitable trust

The Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust

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