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Media spotlight falls on UK banding

The national media in the UK is taking interest in the plight of brass bands — with the Express and Telegraph following the Daily Mirror is highlighting the movement's challenges.

Newspapers
  The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Express are the latest national newspapers to take an interest in the banding movement.

The financial plight of the brass band movement during the Covid-19 pandemic has begun to be noticed by a number of leading national newspapers in recent weeks.

Following a positive two page feature in the Daily Mirror, which highlighted the proactive approach of brass bands utilising the Brass Bands England backed Crowdfunder fund raising campaign initiative, it was the turn the Sunday Express and Daily Telegraph to feature the banding movement.

Grimethorpe

An article by freelance journalist Mark Branagan in the Sunday Express looked at the challenges faced by Grimethorpe Colliery Band and its efforts to raise funds to keep going as well as pay for instrument repairs.

Although it did contain some questionable assertions it was generally positive in its appreciation of the efforts being made by the band, with supporters donating over £10,000 (including gift aid) towards an overall target of £20,000.

Serious

Band spokesperson Andrew Coe was reported as saying that their running costs were 'sky-high' and said: "For us it is particularly serious because we do not have sponsorship. We just rely on working really hard and are normally the busiest brass band out there, doing 30 to 40 concerts a year.

We are one of the biggest names in the brass band world and we are just surviving. We have lost 90% of our revenue last year and it is looking likely we will lose a big part of this year's too."

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph's Culture Reporter, Hugh Morris took a broader view of the movement as a whole, stating "Of all Britain's amateur music groups, brass bands are among the hardest-working."

His understanding of the challenges were certainly informed and did not fall foul of lazy stereotypes, instead concentrating on how the ever changing challenges imposed by Covid-19 have restricted the ability of bands to plan for the future with certainty.

Direct responses

The article contained direct responses from Brass Bands England CEO, Kenneth Crookston as well as Mark Wilkinson, Band Manager and principal cornet of Foden's Band.

Kenny said: "Just when you think you see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, it's all taken away again,"whilst Mark added: "It's more or less impossible to do any forward planning, because we don't have any clue what our income is going to be, and we don't know what our outgoings are going to be."

He added: "And yet, while friendships and camaraderie bring "banders"together, even that spirit threatens to ebb away. Aside from the costs of Covid, there are concerns that many people will be loath to return.

It's not as simple as picking up where you left off, especially with time away soon to be measurable in years."

The Daily Telegraph also highlighted the struggles many bands are now facing not being able to focus on competitions such as the Regional Championships, with no real prospect as yet to when players will be able to enjoy the social interaction of full rehearsals.

It's not as simple as picking up where you left off, especially with time away soon to be measurable in yearsMark Wilkinson

Mixed results

And whilst the article highlighted the impressive on-line initiatives such as Cory's and Foden's online competitions, it had understandably really produced "mixed results"- none able to recreate what was described as "the thrilling live experience of a brass band playing at full tilt."

It did however point out the success of a number of bands in gaining Arts Council Funding for specific projects and initiatives as well as the ongoing success of the #SaveOurBands campaign fronted by TV presenter Melanie Sykes.

Upbeat

The article did end on an upbeat chord though with Kenny Crookston described as being 'optimistic' that banding will return

"The role that the band plays in people's lives,"he added, "is significant, and just keeping them connected as human beings has been extremely important.

Quite a lot of people would tell you that band has been a lifeline since last March. Where people might not have had anybody in their house, band has provided them with a lifeline to humanity."

Copyright iStock image

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