As a programmer and organiser of concerts and other events and projects over many years, Graham has established a reputation for flair, originality and imagination, but also reliability and integrity, and paying attention to the smallest details.
As Resident Musical Director at Leicester’s Phoenix Arts in the 1980s he developed a disarmingly fresh approach in a first concert series that began with the Lindsay String Quartet engaging an unsuspecting audience with pint in one hand, and violin in the other, then electrifying them with the Bartok quartets. The series went on to include artists such as Kathryn Stott, alongside a rich mix of jazz, world music, folk and contemporary.
Graham followed this with a period as Composer in Residence at Bretton Hall, Yorkshire where he devised performance collaborations between music and dance and drama departments.
Subsequently as Fellow in Music at Bradford University he brought a wealth of music to the concert series, from classical Indian music to pianist Phillip Dyson to CBSO Wind Soloists, and ultimately forged a link with the city’s lunchtime concerts to enable the survival of both the City's and the University's series. In an unprecedented move his 2 year fixed term appointment was extended to 5 in recognition the raised profile, standards and increased activity in the music programme. His legacy was the establishment of the Tasmin Little Music Centre – the first dedicated space on campus for musical rehearsals, teaching, workshops and performances.
A review at the time noted: "the University Orchestral Society, under the baton of Fellow in Music Graham Coatman, performed Beethoven's First Symphony to a standard never before reached in the University."
Currently Graham is Director of 20,000 Voices. This Northumberland based arts organisation, as its name suggest, is about encouraging large numbers of people to sing! Established in 1993 it reached its 20,000 voices target in 2 years - and hasn't stopped since! It is now on target to sign up its 150,000th singer - sometime early in 2013. Since taking over in September 2012, Graham has already instigated a singing at work programme, schools projects and plans to establish a new professional vocal ensemble for the north east, and a major new collaborative music theatre project with Headway Arts.
"Graham put together a wonderful festival that received good support from its target audience, has a varied programme every year, and was also very personable and helpful in every respect."
— Sonia Slany, Director and producer, Village Life
Graham was Artistic Director of Hexham Abbey Festival for four years until 2011. During this period he brought about a major rejuvenation of the festival, reaffirming its all embracing music and arts status, and bringing an impressive range of internationally acclaimed artists to this rural market town and its splendid ancient abbey. Headlining acts included Steven Osborne, Sarah Leonard, Acoustic Triangle, Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble, Antonio Forcione, Scott Stroman, Eduardo Niebla, Joglaresa, Melopoetica and more.
"I first met Graham in my capacity as Editor of North East Life and found him very knowledgeable in his field and very reliable in terms of delivering the information and detail needed." — Sue Campbell, North East Life
Innovations included the Young Artist Platform, offering opportunities for newly emerging artists, musicians and photographers, a widening community & education programme, poetry, theatre, film and exhibitions, an expanded street festival and all important collaborations enhancing the programme. The Festival and its increased audience was rewarded with an impressive rise of 120% in Arts Council funding over four years.
"Thanks so much for having me, choir, and band at the Festival--it was a terrific experience and much enjoyed by all. I love the feel of your Festival and thoroughly enjoyed working with you and everyone associated with it. I also appreciated your hospitality and personal attention to getting everything just right, and for making the band members feel so at home; they loved being there.” - Scott Stroman
Graham is now working on the planning group to develop Left Bank, the former St Margaret of Antioch church, in Leeds as a new arts space for innovative and creative work. It has just won the Heritage Angels Award for best rescue of a place of worship, and was featured on BBC Culture Show in November 2011.