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Envy backs no viable argument
Why Culture Recovery Fund awards should inspire others

The last thing we need at this moment in time for the brass band movement is to start being envious of the success of others...


Good thinking and application should be celebrated not envied...

The brass band movement is rightly proud of the sense of communal endeavour that has provided the foundation stone on which 170 years and more of its history has been built.

It has arguably been its greatest strength when faced by the harshest challenges – from World Wars and economic recessions to the existential threat of Coronavirus.

And as has been shown with the recent Foden’s Whit Friday and Cory Online contest projects, at its best it stirs positive emotions of meaningful pride as bands showcase their talents to a worldwide audience at a time when performing music together is denied us.

Injustice

It also adds the tinder to fuel our collective feeling of injustice that brass bands have historically been left to try and survive off the financial crumbs from the table of London-centric arts funding bodies.  

Like the famous scene in Dickens’ ‘Oliver Twist’, we believe they continue to ladle out millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money to keep feeding the insatiable appetites of opera, ballet and classical music, yet seem oblivious to our penury as a nationwide amateur music movement. 

We are fed up of wanting some more.


Wanting some arts council more...

Depressing

Sad then that it makes the critical response from some quarters to the news that Black Dyke Band and Brass Bands England have been awarded £76,000 and £227,000 respectively from the Culture Recovery Fund, all the more depressing. 

Instead of congratulations, social media pages have been disfigured by bilious resentfulness from people who would write with a special green coloured Times Roman font of spiteful envy if they could take the time to find out just how to do it on their computer keyboards.

And instead of presenting coherent arguments to back their viewpoint that brass bands as a whole are not gaining a fair share of the emergency financial help, they are instead reduced to vocalising a bleating sense of injustice based of the success of others, backed by nothing more than their own misinformed self-entitlement.  

Instead of congratulations, social media pages have been disfigured by bilious resentfulness from people who would write with a special green coloured Times Roman font of spiteful envy if they could take the time to find out just how to do it on their computer keyboards.

Why them? Why not us? What do they need it for? Why don’t they give it to others? Why don’t they share the information on how they did it? Somebody’s profiting. Money goes to money. etc, etc, etc, etc. 

It has become as predictable and tiresome as it is depressingly small minded in its splenetic ignorance.   


Arts Council England has been supporting bodies through its Culture Recovery Fund

Any band or banding organisation (and a number have made successful applications to a variety of funding streams) that successfully gains arts grant funding at this time should be applauded.   

It should also act as a beacon for others to follow for themselves - not to simply try and lazily plagiarise.

Crass stupidity

Each brass band organisation may share the same artistic values, but their specific aims and objectives are unique.  Thinking that you can copy whole chunks of one successful application and then simply transfer it to another borders on crass stupidity. 

It should also act as a beacon for others to follow for themselves - not to simply try and lazily plagiarise.

In respect to Black Dyke and BBE, Arts Council England has just awarded specific help from its Culture Recovery Fund to nearly 2000 organisations amounting to over £334 million.  

Prior to this other help was available to apply for (such as the £10,000 payment for organisations that were registered for Council Tax on the property they rehearsed in etc) - all advertised and promoted through various Arts Council bodies, local councils, charity bodies etc.

And in the past few years there have been a number of schemes - such as Grants for Arts programmes, Heritage Lottery and Catalyst project funding amongst others.  

Laborious process

Each of the organisations that applied to the Culture Recovery Fund  (the success rate was stated to be around 75%) had to go through the laborious process of downloading forms, reading and understanding the criteria, providing evidence and business plans, aims and objectives, etc, etc.  

It also reinforced the fact that being able to successfully claim Arts Council grants, Heritage project funding, donations, local authority help, tax refunds, rebates, Gif Aid, council grants, charitable exemptions etc, at this time, takes a great deal of research, understanding, hard work, patience and a fair amount of good fortune.  


Brass Bands England has been promoting new ideas to help bands at all levels

Same for others

Black Dyke and Brass Bands England had to do that too. It would have been the same for applications to other funding streams that could have applied to other bands and bodies.   

Anyone who took time to listen to the excellent presentation given by Fred Harrison, Chairman of Amersham Band at the recent Brass Band England Conference about how they planned and engaged with various funding organisations and bodies to help meet their £400k target to build a new rehearsal facility will have been left in no doubt about that.

On the flip side, neither would they have been left in any doubt about the rather vague appreciation of brass banding’s ‘worth’ from listening to Arts Council CEO, Darren Henley on the same day.  

On the flip side, neither would they have been left in any doubt about the rather vague appreciation of brass banding’s ‘worth’ from listening to Arts Council CEO, Darren Henley on the same day.  

The Amersham Band has shown that hard work pays off in gaining funding

In that respect Amersham is no different from Black Dyke – or from any band at any level around the country.   

And all bands will surely have a couple of people willing and with the necessary confidence to undertake the process. If not – there are people who can help you by building in their costs to the application.  

And all bands will surely have a couple of people willing and with the necessary confidence to undertake the process. If not – there are people who can help you by building in their costs to the application.  

Put in the mixer

Put all that into the mixer and as much as conspiracy theorists out there think it is all down to patronage and ‘who you know’ when it comes to the money being paid out to brass bands each year (although there may be a case for an investigation into some multi-million pound government Covid contracts), nothing could be further from the truth.


Cory Band gained funding for their succesful online project

Value and merit

Foden’s, Cory, and more latterly Black Dyke, Brass Bands England and others got their funding, not because of entitlement, or who they knew in the corridors of quangoland power, but by taking the time and having the vision to present cases of value and merit, backed by detail and vision.

For instance, the Culture Recovery Fund was specifically aimed at enabling cultural organisations that have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis to stay afloat, providing them with support over a 6-month period to ensure that by 31st March 2021 they could reopen, either fully or partially, or operate on a sustainable, cost-efficient basis until able to reopen at a later date.

Foden’s, Cory, and more latterly Black Dyke, Brass Bands England and others got their funding, not because of entitlement, or who they knew in the corridors of quangoland power, but by taking the time and having the vision to present cases of value and merit, backed by detail and vision.

Real crime

The real crime purported by this Tory government has been its total lack of empathy for the arts sector as a whole – not brass bands in particular. 

£1.57 billion may seem like a lot of money, but compared to what they have pumped into other industries to protect jobs and businesses it pales in comparison.

The real crime purported by this Tory government has been its total lack of empathy for the arts sector as a whole – not brass bands in particular.

The plight of freelance workers, low paid staff and arts smaller arts venues and projects, many of whom have simply not been able to gain any funding help at all puts any gripe about what brass bands ‘should get’ as an automatic handout into perspective.    


Black Dyke met the specific criteria for a Culture Recovery Fund award

No begging bowl

Black Dyke did not hold out their begging bowls and wait for it to be filled with a measly dollop of financial gruel as one of the deserving poor of the arts sector.

This government is quite happy to keep you waiting in that long queue forever and a day.  

It met the criteria for assistance and can now plan ahead for a future where traditional concert income sources are sure to be scarce.   

Cyber-envy

Meanwhile, BBE’s plans in particular could have lasting beneficial effect with the creation of five new part-time education posts for a limited initial period, with other employment and consultancy opportunities becoming available as part BBE's growing outreach programme.

That is as poisonously destructive as any government minister implying that wishing to work in the arts sector is no longer a viable employment proposition. 

Other bands and organisations may not have been successful in their applications to various funding streams in recent months – but that cannot excuse the amount of spiteful cyber-envy that has been displayed towards those who have.

That is as poisonously destructive as any government minister implying that wishing to work in the arts sector is no longer a viable employment proposition. 

Iwan Fox 

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Sam Fisher

BA (Hons), PGCE, Dip.ABRSM
Conductor, Adjudicator (AoBBA), Composer/Arranger, Cornet & Flugelhorn Soloist


               

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