Royal Mint unveils Benjamin Britten 50p piece

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British composer's centenary honoured with new coin

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The Royal Mint has revealed the design of a 50p coin commissioned to celebrate Benjamin Britten’s centenary.

The coin is unique in a number of ways. As well as being the first British coin to feature a composer, it is the first coin to contain the full name of someone other than the monarch, and the first to include a line of poetry.

Rather than feature a portrait of the composer, designer Tom Phillips wanted to create something that captured the spirit of music. The central feature of the design is the composer’s name, framed by a double stave in recognition of Britten’s virtuosic piano skills.

This is accompanied by the words ‘Blow Bugle Blow’ and ‘Set the Wild Echoes Flying’, lines from a Tennyson poem, The Splendour Falls on Castle Walls, which Britten set to music in his Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings.

Richard Jarman, director of the Britten-Pears Foundation, said: 'Benjamin Britten wanted his music to be "useful" and to be played and heard by as many people as possible. He would therefore be thrilled that this new 50p coin will put him into everyone’s hands and pockets.'

Commemorative editions of the coin will be available from 27 September before the coin goes into wider circulation in time for the centenary on 22 November.

Josephine Franks