2012: November

Poor advert from Grimethorpe, cases of deja vu, the registry history and even a touch of Welsh racism. Not that is what is called an interesting postbag...

Poor advert from Grimethorpe

Having been given two concert tickets to see the Grimethorpe Colliery Band in Cardiff recently as a birthday present, you can imagine my disappointment that the band provided such poor value for money for tickets that in my case cost £21.00 per head.

No mention was made that Grimethorpe were fielding the principal cornet and third man down of the Cory Band (amongst others it appeared) or that the conductor seemed to be so badly prepared that he read the introductions to each piece from his scores.

Perhaps I expected much more from Grimethorpe, but with only around 340 people in St David’s Hall, perhaps others knew something we didn’t – and decided not to turn up.

They certainly didn’t miss out on anything – with scrappy repeats of their Brass in Concert programme and boring old ‘Brassed Off’ material, it was little wonder so many people I talked to on my departure echoed the same sentiment as me.

This was not a good advert for either Grimethorpe Colliery Band or brass banding as a whole.

Jen Thomas

Correct history

Jim Yelland is correct in saying that the National Registry of Brass Bandsmen (the official title) was drawn up in the mid forties.

In fact they were drawn up in time for the 1945 National Championships Regional Competitions, sponsored by the Daily Herald, the man in overall charge at the time was Jerome Chester and we believe the Registrar to be a Mr Williamson.

Kenneth Dennison was playing with Rothwell at the time and I was playing with Askern and we both remember those times very well and signing on before we played just as players do today.

Arthur R. Taylor in his book  'Brass Bands' , states that in conjunction with the Daily Herald , the National Brass Band Club, and other contest promoters,  the National Registry was drawn up to settle the problem of borrowed players.

The Registry was a kind of card-index system of all contesting players. When I left Askern Colliery band in 1949 to play with Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band the card went with me and had a number of stamp marks showing the date and contest I had played with Askern. 

When it became full, a new card was issued from the registry and the old card returned to the band. I was given my old card which I kept for many years.

The National Brass Band Club took the registry over for a short period in 1952, but found itself incapable of coping with it and returned it to the Daily Herald.

David Read MBE

Déjà  vu 

How odd that often history repeats itself and that we have the feeling that we ‘have been here before’?

The current and ongoing debate regarding the registry (BBR) has created comment and, in some circumstances, mass hysteria with vitriolic attacks from all quarters. 

For those who have only a short historic knowledge of the brass band ‘movement’ let us be reminded that during the 1960’s and early 70’s the same seismic  shift in the control of the community was happening (Newsome, 2006, p98).

Basically, the battle during that period was between the NBBCC (National Brass Band Contesting Council) and the, then fledgling, BFBB (British Federation of Brass Bands) under the stewardship of the wonderful Fred Bradbury.

To cut a long story short the BFBB emerged as a kind of lead body, pledging a number of initiatives to promote and improve the perception of brass bands within the public and Governments’ eyes.

The current crisis has echoes of the past and therefore, perhaps, we could learn from history, and as a result, shape the future of the brass band community accordingly.

Historically, the Nationals, and to some extent the Regionals, have had mixed fortunes over the last few decades, with the distinct possibility that the Nationals could have disappeared if not for dedicated people taking personal and financial risks to ensure the continuation of same.

In that context I think it is fair to say that Kapitol have stabilised the future of the Nationals and, with the help of excellent Regional committees, have provided a successful series of contests. 

Contrary to much hype, Kapitol do not want to take over the current registry but wish to inaugurate a new registry to facilitate the needs of their organisation – a decision that seems quite legitimate.

The fact that other contest promoters have also opted for this new registry is a decision for them to make.

In the general fracas the BFBB/BBE (owners of the Brass Band Registry) appear to see this as a direct attack on their ability to operate as a body for the brass community as a whole. 

The publicity surrounding the BFBB and their registry staff has not enhanced their standing in the movement, and the lack of real insight into the actual nature of the problems have added to the speculation and doubt as to their ability to be a credible force.

Personally, I have no preference either way as to who administers the registry, suffice that it fulfils the needs of contest organisers. 

However, it would appear sensible that contest organisers run their own system to fulfil the requirements of their own contests and rules therein.

What of the BFBB or BBE and its role within the brass band community?

There is still an opportunity for the BBE to be a viable force and work for the good of all brass bands and their participants. 

The BBE could retain those early principles proposed by Fred Bradbury and his colleagues – to promote the development of brass bands and its music in innumerable spheres of influence, grasping the opportunity to become the overarching umbrella body for the brass band movement. Negotiate with contest promoters and other organisations within the movement and network with external bodies who could offer their assistance.

Embrace not just bands, but players, conductors, adjudicators and supporters alike giving them a democratic voice in the future development of their movement.

I would urge them to do this sooner rather than later!

David Hirst

Racist rules in Wales?

I read the 4BR Editorial in respect to racism in banding and whole-heartedly agree.

However, quite recently, I played with a Welsh band at a contest in England and as our trombone player was unavailable we were fortunate enough to be able to borrow a local English player.

Our trombone player was unavailable for the next contest which was in Wales. The borrowed player offered his services to help us out at this Welsh contest, as we were playing the same piece of music.

Our band secretary, who was quite embarrassed with the offer, had to explain that the kind offer would have to be declined, because as he held an English Registration Card he was ineligible to take part in the Welsh contest. 

He was aghast and said that he did not realize that Wales, or was it just Welsh bands, was so racist. 

It was quite difficult trying to explain that Welsh bandsmen are certainly not anti-English, but it is because of the rules.

No player holding an English Registration card can play for a Welsh band in the South East Wales Brass Band Association. 

If your editorial comments are to have some real meaning would it not be a good idea to make public this racist rule in your columns and to demand that such a rule should be expunged forthwith?

Does this rule about English players also apply to any other non Welsh registered players like the Scots, Irish and players from the continent?

This ban on English registered players playing for Welsh bands is an appalling anomaly.

I have mentioned this rule about English players and Association contests before, but no one has heeded my concerns about such an anachronistic rule still being extant in our very liberal society.

Dai Francis
Blaenau Gwent

Pros and cons?

Yet again both the News and Comments sections on 4BR are full of statements about the ongoing Registry debate, including the offer and rejection of independent arbitration, and Colin Johnson's announcement of his resignation (sorry to see you go Colin, and thanks for all the help and support you gave me over the last few years with the intricacies of registration).  

So it appears that all has not been resolved at Brass Band England, despite assurances to the contrary, and it does make me wonder whether my band's vote in favour of the BBE Registry was a mistake!

I have no axe to grind either way and it seems to me that there are faults on both sides: Kapitol's requirement that we register with their registry in order to compete in the Area and National contests with little, if any, consultation; and the lack of leadership and hints of skulduggery emanating from BBE; being good examples! 

And in the interim, the shouting from the sidelines becomes more strident. 

But what of the future?

If BBE win the ballot, do we imagine this will lead to a showdown with Kapitol to the extent that the need to register with Kapitol is abandoned or perhaps changed from compulsory to voluntary?

Or will bands publicly protest and privately register with Kapitol simply in order to compete.  

If BBE lose the ballot then bands will obviously re-register, but the victory for Kapitol will be hollow, as everyone will continue to feel resentful at having been forced into the new Registry.

Neither route looks particularly appetising.

But perhaps the most important question is, ‘Which Registry promises to provide the better service for bands in the future?’ 

The simple answer is that I don't know, because that sort of balanced debate is not taking place publicly.

So, could I make a request to the editors of 4BR?

Why don't you provide the forum for that debate -  perhaps an editorial covering the pros and cons of each Registry, including a summary of why we are where we are so that bands can make an informed decision about their future?
Peter Haigh
Contest Secretary
Alder Valley Brass

Intelligent and considered contribution
In answer to Pete Denton's query - the first player’s registry was created by the Daily Herald, a now defunct national newspaper which ran the National Championships from the mid 1940s until 1964. 

This information provides yet another example of a commercial organisation taking responsibility for one of the brass band world's institutions, because the individuals who make up the brass band fraternity itself have shown a chronic inability to organise themselves. 

Mr Denton asks, ‘...should we not be grateful when experienced business people get involved in sustaining banding?’ To which the clear answer is yes. 

I find the mean-minded ingratitude of so many bandsmen embarrassing and illogical.
The reason why the ownership of the registry is causing so much discussion now, when it did not do so in the past, is due to the existence of the Internet, which allows everyone to publish their thoughts, no matter how incoherent, ignorant or just plain wrong they may be. 

Fortunately, the internet also allows us to read intelligent and considered contributions from people like Mr Denton.
Jim Yelland

Sad passing of a gentleman

It was sad to hear of the passing of Harry Mather, but I noticed that there was no mention of him playing for Mirlees Works Band at Hazel Grove, Stockport.
Perhaps my memory is getting fuzzy in my old age, but I'm sure that he played 2nd euphonium there in 1972/3.

I had no idea who he was at the time but he was a gentleman and an excellent player and teacher and I had the privilege of sitting next to him on baritone.
Chris Powell
Markham Colliery Band

What does it all mean?

I am writing to add my thoughts to the debate on the new registry.
I find it extraordinary that the area committees have supported and voted in this new registry without consultation with the associations and bands. No explanation given - no notification. 
The recent statement from Kapitol states that the registry is being set up to preserve the continuity and integrity of the National Championships. 

Does anyone know what that means? I don’t.
If other contests continue using the existing registry the administration workload for bands on registration will double - cost will at least double. So thank you very much for that.  
What if the existing registry folds/falls into disuse if other contests use the new registry? 

We then have the entire registry system for the brass band movement in the hands of a private company instead of in the hands and control of the brass band movement where it should be.

If there are problems with the new registry where is the accountability - not with the brass band movement it seems.
Also, it seems to me, that the formation of this new registry seems to assume that Kapitol will have the running and control of the area/national contests for ever.

David Ferris
Swindon Pegasus Brass

End this faux democracy

So, I read that the Midland`s Area have made the pragmatic and probably sensible decision to accept the new Kapitol registry.

As per your recent Editorial, Kapitol have gambled on the selfless volunteers who run their contests for them, not being aggrieved enough to scupper the biggest day in most bandspersons year, and it looks like the gamble has paid off.

Mr Morris has his 'power grab' in the bag and his potential new revenue stream to boot...good on you Mr Morris!
The over-riding thought for me today however, is that no longer in England should we ever kid ourselves that we have any say in the running of our National Championships of Great Britain.

No more talk of 'votes', ' Kapitol forums' and 'conference calls' involving 'Area Reps' who represent the interests of ordinary bandspeople to Kapitol. The events of the last few days have certainly put paid to that particular myth!

It might be for the best if Kapitol officially called time on this faux democracy, disbanded the 6 Area committees and used properly paid employees instead, that what proper events management companies do.

If I were one of these unpaid volunteers who contribute to Kapitol`s profits and whose views were not sought or ignored recently, I’d be wanting the going rate for my time in the future.

Ian Heard

Interests declared

I’d like to confirm that at the recent NW regional committee AGM and the NWABBA meeting both Shirley Woodward and Peter Bates declared their conflicts of interests.

At times it was a little confusing as they swapped their respective hats, but fairly and openly they swapped them.
Three quarters of the national finalist come from England. They need us just as much as we need them. Who would knowingly jump into a relationship were only one side knows what the financial burden will be?

If English bands hold fire for the time being, Kapitol will have to state what the new registry is going to cost and that’s all we want. Then a decision can be made on what to do next.
This is a battle on two fronts, nerves and sticking together, if we do both we’ll get the answers we need.
Matt Walker

Honoured by being a threat...

How honoured I feel that Kapitol thinks that I am such a threat that they single me out for comment on my need to declare an interest when writing to them on behalf of our Association/Region.  

Our bands don’t need any declaration from me.  They know exactly where I stand.  

My job as General Secretary of the North West Area Brass Bands Association is to put forward the concerns of our bands in regard to the proposed Kapitol Registration system.  

This I have done.

The NW Association held an open meeting where the bands were unanimous in expressing their concern at the bullying tactics that were being forced upon them by Kapitol.  Yes, I have represented the interests of our bands at the BBE (Federation) for quite a number of years. 

That does not mean that I toe any party line.  The NW Association pay their membership each year and deserve to have a place on the Board where their concerns can be aired.  If your Association are members, are you represented on the Board? 

If not, why not?  You can’t complain about how anything is organised if you do not contribute to it.  So I am happy to declare an interest there also.

I have always thought that it is important for our bands to have a reliable Registry which is run as a not for profit entity. 

So again, when its integrity was compromised, I was happy to be the one ‘unqualified’ volunteer (if you discount more than 30 years of organising contests) who worked for eight weeks along with the very loyal and dedicated staff of the BBE to bring the Registry back to full capacity, where every band at the National Finals had cards and printouts, despite comments to the contrary.  So yes, I declare an interest in that too.

As Chairman of the North West Regional Championships Committee I am proud that we are the only Regional Committee whose Officers and Executive Committee are directly elected by the competing bands.  

As such it is our responsibility to reflect the concerns of our bands, their interests must be paramount.  Why do the bands in the other Regions sit back and allow themselves to be rolled over?

You might like to ask your Regional Officials and your own Association. 

When Kapitol decided to use the medium of a very hurried telephone conference to force through rule changes our representative was working away and could not be involved so we asked for a delay. 

It was not granted. It has not been mentioned that our Region sent in an alternative motion to allow bands to use which every registry they wished, it was thrown out.  Why? 

Also, why was the Welsh Regional Representative allowed to vote on matters appertaining to English Bands?  I do declare an interest in wanting to know the answers.

I have seen that some bands have thought of going to registries in other countries.  Well you can’t now.  That rule was changed as well.  Apart from that, have you enquired about the costs?  I think you may well have a shock?

As for the bands who say that they will join the Players Registry and see what the situation is with the Barnsley Registry when their cards are due for renewal, well it is unlikely that it will still be there then. 

So please don’t come crying to us when Kapitol, as a for profit company, invite you to pay inflated prices to register your band, as they have already done with the charges for going to the National Finals.

If our bands act alone they will be picked off one by one, like lambs to the slaughter.  However, as the largest body of bands attending the Nationals, you have the power to unite and say ‘so far and no further’.

Forget the threats that you will not be able to contest if you don’t rush into registering with the new registry immediately.  Without your participation there can be no Nationals, either at Regional or Finals level. They need your money.

The future of English Banding is in your hands.

Shirley Woodward

Memory loss?

I’m wondering if my memory is playing tricks on me or whether huge swathes of the brass band movement are conveniently forgetting a whole load of history about player registration.
I’m not sure how long there has been a players’ registry but I would guess its well over 50 years. 

I don’t know the exact date when the Federation took over management of the British (English) Registry but I know it was roughly in the mid 1990s – let’s say 15 to 20 years ago. I also understand that prior to this happening, it was managed by Boosey & Hawkes – a commercial organisation which also owned the National Championships (and which used them as a way to promote the instruments bands spent thousands on).
I don’t recall much dissent in banding circles when I started competing in the 1980s and the Nationals and the Registry were controlled by the same people. As a Welsh bandsman in the late 1980s I remember having to have both a yellow (English) and a Green (Welsh) registration card, so we could compete in contests both sides of the border. Are we not just going back to the same place?
On another note, I’m not sure really what people’s problem with Kapitol is. Philip Morris is a trumpet and cornet player who has played and contested in a number of bands and for many years was a dedicated Honorary Secretary of a local brass band association.

How is this any different from ‘household name’ players and conductors who have owned businesses making money out of brass bands (I can think of publishers, recording businesses and other contests)?

Did people object to the Mortimer family’s historic influence over and income from the brass band movement?
Should we not be grateful when experienced business people get involved in sustaining banding?
Finally, I believe that Phil Rodgers (the new registry contact) has many years experience running the Welsh registry so is doing this from a position of knowledge and experience.
Is there anything new under the sun?
Pete Denton

Frustrated beyond belief

In response to reading your November editorial, I find myself frustrated beyond belief.

You fail to grasp two very important issues here. Firstly, the depth of feeling amongst rank and file bandsmen and bandswomen and many of their Conductors regarding the whole Brass Band Players Ltd issue.

On other internet forums, there is growing daily support for the BBBR and it is visible in two ways.

To my knowledge there are two opinion polls which are still running which both show very high percentages of support for BBBR and opposition to Kapitol. There is an internet petition to save the BBBR which is growing in its signatories by the hour and you want to read the names!

At time of writing there is a growing number joining. The group creator is in the process of collating which regions these people come from. 

The regional committees and Kapitol telephone conferenced their changes to the National rules without the presence of the North West rep.

What you don't know about is that there are non - NWABBA bands who are, and are, going to support them.

NWABBA have voiced their opposition, and have been told to shut up. There are many bandspersons who have publicly voiced their disgust at what is going on.

 Second issue. You predict the death of BBE and BBBR and sit in your Ivory tower without grasping the fact that the movement have been walked on. The movement you supposedly love! 

These good people haven't been consulted and that is what is hurting us. Well I believe that a hornet's nest has been stirred. Mark my words.

I'll not take up much more time, but you have a rival fledgling news site out there that report in a more objective way. I found the difference between your presentation of Kapitol press releases and BBBR press releases remarkable in its bias.

The bottom line is Kapitol owns the Nationals and can change the rules without asking us, but don't expect us to roll over and die.

Expect opposition and hopefully a boycott. If no-one turns up.........

John Ludden

Radical answer

Here’s a radical proposal to the on-going, tedious registry problem.

Why not just get rid of registration all together: Rely on a bit of honesty and a Corinthian spirit of competitiveness.

Turn up with your passport or another form of identification, sign a form to say you haven’t played with another band at the same contest and just get on and enjoy playing music.

99% of players are not of the mercenary persuasion as are 99% of competing bands.

Those who are will soon become pariahs and we can get on with a transparent contesting environment free of rancour, mistrust and downright cheating.

They seem to do just that in Norway – so why can’t we follow suit?

Ian Stevens

Welcome intervention

Well done Kapitol! What a commercial opportunity!

The discord within the movement has resulted in Kapitol filling that hole.

Let’s be clear, it make absolute commercial sense for Kapitol to do this. Not only do they now control a little more of their own contests but potentially control a little of every other contest that uses the new registry.

If this new registry is successful then the individual contester will be subject to Kapitol rules.

I for one welcome the straight, decisive and direct intervention of Kapitol but that welcome is in the knowledge that Kapitol will have a monopoly of the contest arena and that 'the brass band movement' does not function in the way other 'governing bodies' in the same area function.

Dave Bishop-Rowe

Wales, costs and the benefit of trust

Can someone explain why Wales had a vote in the recent decision over the new English registry?
As far as I’m aware Wales isn’t part of England and have their own registry. It seems extremely underhanded. Have the other region’s actually consulted their bands?

Does anyone care what the average bandsperson has to say?

As for the press release by Kapitol Promotions on this website.
"So that bands competing in the ‘National’ series do not incur any additional cost during the first year of transferring their player registrations to the new Brass Band Players Registry, the expiry dates of existing British Brass Band Registry cards issued before 1 October 2012 will be honoured, providing they are one-year registration cards and not two-year ones."

Don't incur any additional costs in the first year? Is this just a typo or prophetic of what's to come from BBP in the second, third, four and forever years?

I've had a couple of conversations with Kapitol Promotions regarding the new registry and I have been able to find out.
1. The new registry will be a player based registry.
2. That’s it really. Kapitol at this moment in time don't know really know how the registry will operate or how much it's going to cost.
So in summary, Kapitol would like to introduce a registry most likely based on the Scottish registry, but don't quite know the detail of how it'll work and definitely don't know how much it's going to cost you.
I'm not in the BBE camp and I'm not in the BBP camp. But I'm certainly in the 'What best for banding' camp.

As an engineer and amateur historian, by nature I like to deal in facts and figures. At this moment in time neither of these are available from Kapitol Promotions. If the BBE registry is to go, then I want to make sure that what replaces it is fit for purpose - something that no one can answer at the moment.
I can't help thinking that either someone doesn't want to tell us how much it's going to cost, because they know we won't like it, or Kapitol Promotions are defying every rule of good business.

What I would like to say is give us the facts, if all you say is true then give bands the benefit of the doubt and trust us to make the right decision.

Matthew Walker

Not really a welcome

With regard to the ‘welcome’ pack received from Brass Band Players ltd.
It would appear that Bands in England are being bullied into accepting a new registration system whether they like it or not, regardless of the cost - either financial or in time - for this, mainly amateur, group of musicians.
Has any thought been given to balloting bands on whether they have confidence in the existing system?

Has any thought been given to asking bands if they have any views on the old system, or a new system?

Has any thought been given to the fact that bands are now going to be required to have two sets of registration cards with twice the fees unless all contests swap to the new system, in a period of general financial hardship and at a time when numerous bands have folded due to lack of players and the necessary financial income?
I think the answer to all these questions is a resounding no!
With regard to the new registry, the forms supplied seem to have just been altered from the existing registry form rather than being unique. It would also appear that in the general haste to get bands signed up it was not even possible to wait for a postal address.

It has been left to the Area Secretaries to contact the bands as Brass Band Players Ltd have not even been able to do this. Could it be that they don’t know who the bands they are expecting to join their registry are?

It should also be noted that the letter, which arrived on 25th October, gives a deadline for bands to be registered of the 1st of October.
All of this appears to smack of desperation and a need to impose the new registry at all costs and makes me ask if a commercial operation, regardless of who runs it should be allowed to take control of our hobby, which we all do for relaxation and a love of brass music.
Come on people stand up and be counted!
Robin Allen

Name droppers 

I noticed from your live comments of the National Championships held at the Royal Albert Hall that your reporter Chris Thomas has turned to a little bit of name dropping when commenting about live performances.
It is all well and good to do this, however in the name of 'equality' should all soloists be named good or bad (4BR have all principal names prior to any contest) or should we just return to 'excellent sop / super timp' of which would be more appropriate.
Other than this, Chris Thomas writes very constructive critiques which are always written very well.

Tim Malpas

Harry Mather remembered

I had the honour of playing with Harry Mather in the mid 90’s at Farnworth Band.

I can always remember the test piece ‘Facets of Glass’. I think it was the second movement that opened with a Baritone solo.

I think we played the piece 2 or 3 times that year at own choice contests and Harry’s playing was always highly praised by the adjudicator - and I’m sure it got us several places up the results!
A real gent sadly missed.
Matt Walker

London Central Fellowship Band - The International Staff Band in Cambridge

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