A Freedom of Information request made by 4BR to Arts Council England has raised concerns over the exact financial impact the national funding body believes Brass Bands England may have been able to make,over the past year and a half, on what they refer to as the brass band ‘sector’,
In a recent article printed in Brass Band World magazine (November edition), BBE Chairman Mike Kilroy reportedly commented that, “BBE has had help from the Arts Council England in figuring out what money has reached brass bands in the last 15 — 18 months.”
Mike reportedly highlighted the ‘astonishing impact’ made ‘engaging with bands and helping them with applications for funding’. The figure quoted was £300,000.
Freedom of Information request
Following the publication of the article, and through another published in British Bandsman (25th October issue), 4BR made the Freedom of Information request to find out exactly how this figure was calculated, and to whom the payments were made.
Arts Council England initially replied to 4BR to state that: “Supporting the sector (brass bands as well as the composers, individual artists, producers, festivals, venues etc who work with brass bands) to access funding is part of Brass Bands England's role as a National Portfolio organisation.
In terms of Arts Council funding, Grants for the Arts is the most popular programme as well as the most appropriate for first access to our funding.”
The figure quoted to 4BR for this ‘sector’ in the financial year 2013/14 was £290,244.
Arts Council England subsequently provided 4BR with a complete breakdown of Grants for the Arts awards that have been made to the ‘art form’ of music and the ‘sub-art form’ of ‘brass and silver bands’ for 2013/14 and 2014 to date.
For the financial year 2013/2014, £290,244 was awarded to 15 successful applications, whilst for the period 2014 to the present, a further 9 awards have been made totaling £80,690.
Separate National Portfolio Organisation awards were made for the financial years 2013/14 and 2014/15 to Brass Bands England of £126,323, to Gala Durham (£420,450) and the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain (£236,280).
The total of NPO and Grants for the Arts awards for 2013/14 and 2014 to date amounted to £1,153.988.
However, further investigations by 4BR have found that only a small proportion of the Grants for the Arts awards were made through the direct application involvement or indirect help and advice of Brass Bands England.
4BR has contacted the majority of the biggest successful applicants of 2013/2014, including individual bands, festivals, community cultural development and theatre groups who have confirmed that their applications did not involve BBE in any way.
The successful outcomes of these applications amounted to approximately £270,000 of the £300,000 figure reportedly quoted in the Brass Band World magazine article by BBE Chairman Mike Kilroy.
Further contacts with those for 2014 to date reveal the same story.
Root and branch
Since Mike Kilroy took over as Chairman of BBE in July 2013, he has spearheaded what he called ‘a root and branch’ reform of the organisation — one that has resulted in a hugely successful 142.3% increase in the organisation’s core funding over the next three years by Arts Council England — from just over £62,000 per year to over £142,000.
Hard work to do
However, speaking to 4BR, he confirmed that the Freedom of Information request by 4BR revealed that there is still a great deal of hard work to do in the coming months for BBE to implement robust, transparent reporting procedures to record the outcomes of its work to Arts Council England.
He has also confirmed in writing to 4BR that he disputed the claim that the £300,000 of funding success was down to BBE’s work.
In a reply to 4BR he stated: “...the conversations with the Arts Council have facilitated a change of attitude in assessing the validity of applications by Brass Bands… and have helped create a more positive outlook from bands in regards to applying for funding.
I need to continue to make the point that BBE, nor me, have ever claimed that the funding uplift was due to direct or indirect work undertaken by the organisation.”
The overall figure of £1.15 million of funding to benefit brass banding provided by Arts Council England is something to be greatly encouraged byBBE Chairman Mike Kilroy.
Speaking to 4BR he added: “The overall figure of £1.15 million of funding to benefit brass banding provided by Arts Council England is something to be greatly encouraged by.
It does however also highlight the need for BBE to put in place our own accurate reporting requirements, which at present we do not have.
These will not only help us work much more effectively with them, but also highlight the outcomes of work we will be able to undertake when our new funding stream and appointments of an Operations Manger and three full time Liaison Officers start in April 2015.
It must be noted though that our current work has resulted in many successful applications from other funding streams and sources.”
He added: “I’m grateful to 4BR for also highlighting the need for BBE to gain reliable, accurate figures for awards made through our work, and to be able to break into constituent parts the current overall ‘Grants for the Arts’ figures provided to us by Arts Council England.
I believe that will give us a greater understanding and focus on the work we need to undertake and target in the future, and to be realistic to what we can and cannot achieve.
It will also help us present a much stronger case to funding bodies and politicians for increased funding to the brass band movement.”