Manifesto for the Future
Published in General on 2013-05-14 by Empty Chairs
David Ashworth and Kevin Holgate have set out a Manifesto for the Future after the open meeting in Blackpool over the weekend.
Manifesto for the Future
The brass band movement is at a crossroads.
The emergence of Kapitol Promotions as a highly organised and creditable organiser of the National Brass Band Festivals has brought in to sharp focus that the management of the movement as a whole has been completely lacking in leadership.
In our view BBE in its present format is not fit for purpose. It has failed to attract members because it currently has very little to offer in practical terms, where it really matters with individual bands.
BBE has failed to recognise, and produce practical solutions to the reducing number of players coming into the movement. Whilst it has promoted a highly successful youth competition, it has failed to support the establishment of youth bands to compete in it.
Nobody has all of the answers, but within the brass band movement those answers exist and it should be BBE that acts as the conduit through which the effort to revitalise the movement should be directed.
Proposed 10 Points for the Future of Our Movement.
Point 1: Dialogue
Within 6 months of taking office it is our intention to set up a dialogue between all local Brass Band Associations, Regional Committees and BBE to garner opinions and collect together information relating to everything that is happening within each area relating to the development of brass bands.
Using this information we will ensure that within a further 6 months of the meeting in each association area a minimum of one initiative supported both financially, and in practical terms by the BBE, is planned and executed.
The responsibility for this will fall within the remit of the BBE Development Officer.
These initiatives could take the form of Youth development or initiatives to attract slightly older, former players into or back to the movement for example.
As a practical working example there is a ‘Music Hub’ initiative in Nottingham called ‘Dust-it Off’.
This has been highly successful in getting people back to playing instruments after a break either having a family or building a career for instance. This model could be used in other areas given the joint support of BBE the local associations and bands themselves.
We are certain that similar initiatives have taken place in other areas around the country and it should be the role of the BBE to co-ordinate, support and share best practices.
Point 2: Funding
Within 3 months of taking office we will meet with representatives of the Scottish and Welsh Brass Band Associations and learn how they achieved their successful funding bids for the development of brass playing in schools.
We will follow this up by arranging a meeting at the earliest possible opportunity with the relevant Central Government departments and the Arts Council to establish what steps we can take to achieve similar funding in England.
It is our intention that funding will be used to provide financial support for the provision of instruments and tuition on brass band instruments in the Education Hubs already established by central government in each county.
The funds would be ‘ring-fenced’ to ensure that funds are targeted specifically at the development of brass players. We will link each funding initiative specifically to member bands in each area.
This funding is also vital to allow us to execute many other initiatives that we plan, which are discussed later in this document.
Point 3: Membership
The present number of members of the BBE is woeful. In discussions that we have had with bands over the past 6 months the overwhelming response from bands is that they see no benefit to them of being members.
In order to achieve the funding discussed in Point 2 it is a pre-requisite that we follow the lead of Scotland and Wales and increase the number of member bands.
In order to make membership more attractive we will on taking office, and as soon as possible:
• Reduce the annual membership fee to £50 per band
• Re-negotiate a discounted instrument, buildings and public liability insurance deal for members that offers an increased discount
• Negotiate a deal for reduced cost legal advice with a leading national law firm specialising in music and musical related matters
• Continue the fee-free CRB check service
• Provide a monthly e-newsletter to member bands sharing good practice and funding initiatives
• Provide a free on-line and telephone based advice service relating to applications for Lottery and other Funding available in each area. Available only to member bands
• On being successful in a bid for funding under Point 2, to establish a BBE Grant scheme under which member bands can apply for funding for local initiatives, such as Brass Academies (See Point 7 Below).
• To provide bursary support funding for young players who are members of member bands to receive a number of lessons from eminent tutors.
• To provide financial support to Regional Committees in the organisation of their Area Competitions
• Provide practical support in the pursuit of new playing members through the implementation of Points 1 & 2 above.
Point 4: Press Relations
In our various discussions over the last 6 months it has become very obvious that the present management of the BBE has a very poor relationship with the brass band press.
The vast majority of brass band people today regularly access information on-line therefore regular communication is vital.
We will re-establish and develop the relationship that BBE has with all of the brass band press to ensure that communication of activities undertaken by the BBE, and by member bands are given publicity on a regular basis.
Improving the relationship with the brass band press will, we hope lead to a greater awareness of the role of BBE.
After seeing that BBE is striving to achieve a higher profile we hope that this will in turn lead to an increase in membership.
Point 5: Competitions
On taking office we will seek to hold a meeting with Kapitol Promotions as early as possible. We will seek to establish a working relationship in the interests of the future of the movement as a whole in England relating to the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain.
It is our intention that BBE will continue to support the English National Brass Band Championships for Championship Section ‘Elite’ Bands.
We will establish a committee to determine the invitations issued to compete in this competition in conjunction with the Regional Committees and the Association of Brass Band Adjudicators.
In the future, (as part of a 10 year plan) and with the co-operation and support of the Regional Committees it may be that this competition is expanded to include other sections. (See European Level below)
As part of their National role, Kapitol Promotions provide financial support to each of the regional competitions. On taking office we will ensure that BBE matches this financial support.
In Point 1 above we undertook to set up a dialogue with all local brass band associations.
In these discussions we will establish what the BBE can do to support each of them with their operation. This could take the form of providing funds to cover the costs of adjudicators at Association competitions for example.
Youth Band Competition & National Youth Solo Championships
We will continue to support the National Youth Band competition. We will further develop this by introducing a National Youth Solo, Air Varie, Quartet and Small Ensemble Competition to run alongside the main competition supported by BBE.
We undertake to establish this within 3 years of taking office.
Non- Registered Band Competitions
We will discuss with local associations the practicality of introducing competitions for non-registered/non-contesting bands based on the ‘Entertainment Contest’ model.
It is our intention, subject to the support of the local associations and the bands themselves to establish a National Competition for this group of bands within 5 years of taking office.
The European Brass Band Championships is currently open only for the ‘Elite’ bands from each country.
Working with fellow European Brass Band Associations we will seek to open discussions on whether this could be developed to establish a European Competition in other sections. (This is part of a longer term 10 year plan)
Point 6: Registration System
At the risk of going over very well trodden ground we feel that we should be very clear about the situation as it currently exists relating to the Registration systems in England.
This is clearly a highly emotive subject and it would be fair to say that at this moment in time the whole thing is a mess.
Kapitol Promotions have successfully established their registry, and because they control the National Competition they have been able to impose this registry on the movement.
The stance of Kapitol is very clear; if an English band wish to compete at the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain then their players must be registered with the Brass Players Registry.
The long established Brass Band Registry is still in operation but to say its organisation is fully functional would be masking the truth.
The reasons for this are subject to an industrial tribunal and will therefore not be discussed further at this time.
The British Open and Spring Festival Championships have now established their own independent system. The workings of this system again we will not discuss.
In Europe there are a number of working systems of registration in operation.
On taking office we will open a line of discussion with other European associations & Kapitol Promotions in the interests of the brass band movement as a whole to establish common ground to move forward.
With the co-operation of all parties involved we will work to establish a working system with 12 months of taking office.
The present ‘paper card’ based system is clearly out of date and a move to a 21st Century solution must be researched.
Tentative initial research that we have undertaken would seem to indicate that a swipe card, fully computerised system could be established relatively easily, and would be relatively inexpensive to establish.
Point 7: Brass Academies & Youth Bands
Every one of the Elite bands in England is made up of players who at some point in their career have benefitted from playing with bands at lower levels of the movement.
Most, if not all of them have been taught ‘free of charge’ by willing volunteers in brass bands across the length and breadth of the country.
The experience of these players is an untapped resource that with co-ordination and co-operation could be used to produce the players of the future.
On taking office, subject to the funding mentioned in Point 2 above, we will support through the BBE and the BBE Development Officer initiatives undertaken by ‘Elite’ Bands to establish and operate Brass Academies along the lines of the Grimethorpe Youth Initiative.
Grants will be made available to support all planned and costed initiatives relating to the establishment of ‘Brass Academies’ and Youth Bands.
Grant Aid under this initiative will be made available to all bands, at any level but will only be available to BBE member bands.
Point 8: Regional Forums
We have been staggered by the general apathy that exists within the Brass Band movement as a whole.
Hundreds of people have voiced opinions recently on social media ranging from ‘resigned acceptance’ to ‘vitriolic rants’ and yet when given an opportunity to discuss the future of the movement few people have stood up to be counted.
On taking office we will organise within 6 months a ‘Bands Forum’ within each of the Regions where ordinary bands people can meet the BBE officials and discuss anything they wish regarding the movement.
Point 9: National Composer and Arrangers Competition
We will establish an Annual National Composer and Arranger competition within 2 years of taking office.
The competition will be divided into various categories to encourage maximum participation. Full details of the competition and the membership of the judging panel will be announced at an appropriate time.
It is suggested that the categories will include the following:
• Compositions/Arrangements for Competition pieces for each section (Championship to Youth Section)
• Age related categorisation
• Compositions/Arrangements for Solo instruments
• Composition/Arrangements of ‘concert’ items
We will jointly fund the competition by teaming up with one or more brass band music publishers. Publication of the winning entries will be part of the prize on offer.
The winning entries will be performed at a BBE sponsored Concert featuring the winning band of the English National Brass Band Championships.
Point 10: Openness, Accessibility and Honesty
It has often been a criticism of BBE that it has failed to establish a creditable profile within the movement.
We will make an undertaking that an elected, and empowered official of BBE will be available to meet with any band in England, at any time to discuss any subject that they wish that affects them and their future.
We will also guarantee that such a meeting will take place within 90 days of a request being made.
The only condition we would attach to such a request is that details of what a band wishes to discuss is submitted with the request so that the most appropriate official or officials can be present.
Membership of BBE is not a pre-requisite of this undertaking.
David W Ashworth
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