Comments ~ 2013: January17-Jan-2013
From Stanshawe to Mrs Dale's diary.... the joys of a January postbag.
The sorry tale of Stanshawe
May I simply say I totally agree with Jose Grant and Martin Gernon's recent comment re: Grimethorpe.
The same thing happened a few years ago with Stanshawe when they lost their sponsorship and where are they now?
Banding is just a hobby (and should be), the only time I ever request money is when I am depping and the travel is some distance; otherwise I dep for free.
Thank you Jose and Martin for saying what I and everybody else are already thinking.
Funding and ffotball
With reference to the funding of brass bands
Those at the top level of most organised activities I can think of require finance to remain there, including ‘amateur’ athletes.
From the earliest days of brass banding sponsorship including ‘retainers’ (with a few notable exceptions) has tended to ensure success - simply look at the names of ‘crack bands’ in the contest archive.
Our top bands are ‘entertainers’, there is still a paying audience out there - the commitment required of players in terms of time away from home is considerable, I suspect that many players would not be willing to give this commitment without some limited financial incentive.
Recruitment of players at all levels is becoming increasingly difficult and retention is also a problem.
If we were to return as a movement to a purely amateur basis (if this ever really existed) what sort of shape would our movement realistically be in?
The Football Association began as a purely amateur organisation - like it or loathe it, top flight football now relies entirely on money for its future survival - perhaps the top-end of banding is in the same situation.
Another bit of Les Mis...
I saw your piece about the son of a trombone player appearing in this new film and just thought you might like to know that in the Master of the House scene there is a brass quartet from Redbridge playing.
Mrs Dale's diary...
I looked through my music file and found an old recording of A Dales Suite by Besses O' Th' Barn Band. I was surprised that this was the only recording of this piece in my collection.
It was on a Long Play record that I converted to digital and is now long out of print.
Welcome to the real world
It was with interest and some amusement that I watched the television news which included an interview from the Grimethorpe Band Manager, who was moaning to the nation that the band was on the verge of folding because of the lack of sponsorship.
He was distressed that the band had to turn out on 50 occasions a year to make ends meet.
Forgive me for being very unsympathetic, but it serves them right.
Over the years, they have had wonderful sponsorship in monetary terms and I would hazard a guess that quite a chunk of that has gone on retainers to their players.
Perhaps they should have tucked some away for a rainy day instead of trying to buy their way to the top and I dare say are still doing so.
In my opinion, there are a few things they can do in order to stave off the impending doom
1. Stop retainers and save (I would imagine) tens of thousands
2. Get them to pay subs like they do at my little band
3. I run the ladies section at my band both for the senior band and the juniors. Perhaps they could do the same
4. Fund raising. It's a great way of getting some cash in
5. Write off for some grants
6. Get a new sponsor
These are all things that a good committee and a well run management team should be doing, not coming on television cap in hand almost begging for a sponsor. They have had it good for many years.
Welcome to the real world
Take a pay cut
I was rather saddened by the public plea of poverty from Grimethorpe this month, which had a very hollow ring to it.
Looking through the Charities Commission accounts for 2011, the band had commercial income of over 300k and managed to spend in excess of this. Further examination of the accounts revealed that they paid players in excess of 90k, almost a third of its income, and dipped into reserves to balance the books.
Grimethorpe must be one of the top three earning bands in the country and if they want to fritter their monies away paying huge retainers to players, then that is their business, but don't then come onto national and regional media saying you are in danger of closing because 30k of sponsorship has been withdrawn.
If you need the additional 30k then simply cut players retainers by 30% and hey presto, the books balance.
That is if the players and management themselves want to do this or simply ask for more outside assistance so that they can keep paying themselves in excess of 90k per annum.
Sorry chaps, but whoever advised you to take this route for additional funding has done you no favours whatsoever.
If you are so concerned about the development of youth within your district, then simply take a pay cut from your hobby!!!
Writing on the wall
The writing was on the wall in Grimethorpe’s report to the Charity Commission dated 28th June 2010.
The auditor wrote “......we have considered the adequacy of the disclosures made .....and the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. These conditions .....indicate the existence of material uncertainty which may cast doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
If players want to make personal profit out of music, that’s fine - but they shouldn’t look to brass bands to be the medium.
4barsrest has pointed out that a number of bands much more modest than Grimethorpe can balance their books: It all comes down to paying players.
Grimey will have to cut 20% off the number of engagements to make life socially more acceptable, and 90% off the players retainers.
Sick of Dictatorship
If Philip Morris truly has the brass band movement at heart he needs to resign or be removed by Kapitol Promotions.
Bands have signed up to his registry, not through enthusiasm, but through threats and coercion.
He is only interested in Championship Section banding (he uses the fact that Black Dyke and Fodens have signed up), yet it is lower section bands who have effectively managed to change the rules of entry to the North West Area, simply by not entering the forthcoming contest at Blackpool.
We don’t like a dictatorship.
Kapitol are like the energy supplier knocking on your door – they give no details of unit costs they’re offering, just ‘we'll be better than your current supplier.’
BBE’s registry on the other hand is similar to the NHS – everyone says they have had no problems themselves and have been served well, but have heard horror stories from other sources.
From his press releases Mr. Morris comes across as belligerent, bullying and dogmatic and displays a total misreading of the situation. People do not like their hand being forced and he can't see it.
If his judgement and reading of a situation is so poor, how can he be trusted when he/they have a complete contest monopoly?
He doesn't like the NWABBA - having a member of BBBR on its committee, yet allows the Welsh Region, of which he is Secretary/Contest Controller, to vote on changing National rules.
When I phoned this new registry to enquire about the closing date for registering a band for the North West Area (same number as the Welsh registry), I was told, ‘sooner rather than later.’
Just as well I don’t run by business in such a vague manner or I’d be emailing this letter from the debtor’s prison.
As a web designer, I am considering running a forum where all bandsmen can have their say and have a vote of confidence in Kapitol and its chairmanship.
Although it won't mean anything to them - they neither accepted the BBE/BFBB vote nor offered one themselves after all - it will give a fairer representation of individual’s feelings than any of Kapitol’s ‘feedback’.
I feel proud to be associated with a democratic region that has stood up to them by allowing registrations from both organisations.
As Leo Amery once said to a discredited Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain: “You have sat here too long for any good you are doing. Depart I say and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
I believe these words are more than fitting for the obdurate Mr Morris.
I am a simple enough bandsman, turn up at band practice, turn up at band jobs and go to contests - see my registration card. I was informed via the band Secretary that I had to complete a new registration form for ‘the new Registry’.
I didn't know until this time that there was any issue with the existing registry and I have transferred from band to band a number of times.
My question is therefore could the two "warring" parties, presumably Kapitol Promotions and whoever the ran/runs the existing registry tell me the following please:
1. What kicked off all this hoo-ha?
2. What are the interested parties doing to resolve whatever the issues are?
3. Is signing up with one of the Registries likely to exclude bands from certain events because the event committee only recognise one registry or the other?
It appears to me, and I may be sat in complete ignorance of what's gone off and who is doing what, that bands are being asked to sign up to something without enough information to make an informed decision.
A new approach?
I have been aware of the skirmishing between the two factions over the control of registration and the comments about future cost rises.
It has been stated by one of the combatants that costs will certainly not rise during the next two years.
However, as a monopoly, it is anyone's guess as to how much future registrations will cost after that, despite the presence of a committee representing the regions.
During this struggle I was expecting some input from the Band Associations, because I believed that they had the interests of the bands at heart.
Alas, it was not to happen, and it seems their leaders are allowing themselves, just like their member bands to be lead by the nose to further the interests of a private company.
Registration is a personal and private matter. If a band takes part in a competition proof of membership is confirmed by showing the registration card that they supply. That process is necessary to ensure that a player is a bona fide member of the band. It does not need a National Registration card.
Therefore, all that a band is required to do is to issue its own registration card to its own members.
The reason for registration cards is to stop cheating. What will be required is for the local Band Association to confirm that the player is a current member of the band. This can be done by sending an up to date list of its registered members to the local Association twice a year.
The registered players on the list in December are available to play with the band until the following June. Any changes will be shown when the list is sent to the Association in the following June.
If a player leaves he/she cannot play with another band until the next list is sent to the Association. If a player joins a band after the list has been sent then that player cannot play in a contest until the next list is drawn up. In effect it means that there are two windows for players to leave and join other bands.
This process obviates the need for transfer forms.
Adopting this kind of system is much cheaper. The labour element is with the band and the Association has just a' perusal of records' task to confirm or deny if a player is correctly registered.
Also, an annual registration card is unnecessary. The card remains with the band and used by the player year after year at no extra cost.
If all Brass Band Associations were to adopt this kind of system then they would be in a much stronger position. If contest controllers were to try to insist that a particular registration card was necessary then the Associations could use their power and all Association bands would veto that particular contest.
After all, for any contest to become viable it must have the support of the bands. Without band support there will be no contests.
This is an outline of a possible system for bands to adopt in order to be in control of their own scene.
I hope that this gives some food for thought. I wish to make it clear that I am not trying to lead any crusade, but looking objectively at the present system.
Worried and fed up
I would like to make it clear from the outset that the views are my own and are not in any way connected with any musical organisation that I have an affiliation to.
It is clear to me that our movement stands at a crossroads. Whilst it is obvious that there does need to be change at an organisational level particularly at the Registry, I am dismayed at the autocratic attitudes being displayed on both sides of the argument over the future of our movement.
It does no good for either side to present their arguments as, ‘the only way forward’.
I would just like to offer one vision of the future as I see it.
Kapitol Promotions are not a ‘not for profit’ organisation: They are in banding to make money.
This is not a criticism, just a statement of fact. I see that almost all the Regional committees are now urging bands to sign up to the new registry, and Kapitol are stating that registration levies will be at the same level as the old registry for the next renewal.
All well and good: But what about after that?
I also see that the top English bands are in the main, not offering any opposition to BBP Ltd: Well why would they? They are hardly going to struggle to find increased registration fees are they?
Also, whilst I was not there, I have been told by those who were, that there was no top section representation at the meeting in Barnsley. Why, if this is true, was that the case?
I also have it on good authority, that there was a separate meeting between Kapitol and top section bands at an earlier date: If this is true, and I sincerely hope it is not, why was that meeting not publicized?
I have also heard representations from those connected to various Regional Committees saying, ‘well what can we do?’
I would suggest standing up for all your members, and not allowing any organisation or group of individuals to railroad you into a course of action before consulting with all interested parties.
I know that I am probably a ‘lone voice’, but I for one would like to see a lot more consultation with those who this will affect the most - all bands, and genuine dialogue between BBE & Kapitol and quite a lot less of the insidious rumour mongering and veiled threats that seem to be the norm at the moment.
Everyone I have spoken to all says the same thing: Yes, changes have to made at the Registry, but for Kapitol to decide that they, and they alone are the sole arbiters of what is right and what is wrong is plain and simple arrogance on their part, and the autocratic manner they have conducted their business thus far does not fill me with hope for the future.
BBE also needs to have a good long look in the mirror.
I do hope that the allegations of data and financial ‘mismanagement’ are wholly wrong, but should they prove to be correct, surely they would acknowledge that they too are not without fault?
Surely with all the protestations of their respective loves of our glorious hobby, it is not beyond the wit of either Kapitol, and or BBE to come to a mutually beneficial outcome?
Perhaps a sharing of responsibilities is the way forward? More clarity and a more inclusive attitude (from all sides) would be appreciated!
I am one very worried and fed up bandsman.
Swallow some pride
The Registry debate is becoming tiresome, but also very worrying!
For over 50 years the Registry has been a part of brass banding contesting in this country, run by respected people like Ethel Behan, Colin Johnson and others.
It has been there, but not heard, because it has done its job and been respected by everyone, from the famous bands and their famous name members, to the village bands and first-time juniors, serving the band movement across the board without question to its authority or organisation.
As a brass band contester for nearly fifty years, I could not give a damn who owns or runs the Registry! I don`t even care whether they make a profit or not! I just want a fair contest, run under registry rules that everyone can respect and abide by, as we have done for the last umpteen years.
Now we find we are in a position where this small subsidiary of our organisational structure may be the catalyst for the end of our beloved National & Regional Championships. How can this happen?
Philip Morris and Robert Morgan, who are both personal friends, need to get themselves together to negotiate a way out of this mess to save the future of our banding and main contest of the year. A contest that every bands person, young, old, good or inexperienced, strives to and works for the whole year round.
They are both charged with saving the National Brass Band Championships! And it needs doing quickly, before the closing dates of the Regional Contests!
Will either of them be able to live with themselves if any Area Contest or the National Finals disappear because they can`t negotiate or swallow some pride for the good of our national movement and heritage!
What a complete shambles this Registry saga has become!
On one side you have BBE who have clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of running a ‘brewery party’ (polite version!!!) and seem intent on continuing to inflict damage on the brass band movement by their actions; sob stories and scheming.
On the other side you have Kapitol – who, having seen an opportunity – have capitalised on the shambles at BBE and offered an alternative (BBP).
Kapitol, for all their faults, have rejuvenated the National / Regional Championships in recent years and, for this feat alone, Bands should be prepared to go with them.
Why does it seem to be such an issue?
BBE were no good at it, had appalling man-management skills and lost their most important asset – the people who did the job! BBP have stepped into the void and we should be grateful for attempt at continuity!
What is the most important is the brass band movement and so long as these spats continue and split the movement it will suffer. I have been a player/follower for 60+ years now and do have concerns for the movement if we continue this silly feuding.
When I first became a secretary (at a young age I hasten to add) we were under the control of the Daily Herald. There is a lot to be said for the respect we had for that process but we all knew the rules and were happy to abide by them. It is not rocket science - it is a simple means of control and - hopefully - fair play.
Personally, my hope is that Kapitol succeed and also improve/tighten the rules regarding player qualification.
I know this is another debate but maybe now is the time to do away with the bounty hunting players who have absolutely no loyalty to any band but go (sometimes only for a couple of practices and the contest) to the highest bidder.
Welsh youth in decline or flourishing?
I was interested to read about the launch of the Cory Youth Band – any initiative that gives more young people the opportunity to learn to play an instrument is always welcome.
I would however like to take issue with one comment – ‘the move bids to halt the decline of Brass educational services in the band’s locality in recent years.’
I have the privilege of being the brass peripatetic teacher in Cory Band’s local comprehensive school – Treorchy Comprehensive and I am pleased to say that in recent years Brass playing at the school is by no means in decline, but is actually flourishing at a very encouraging rate!
For example at the annual Christmas Concert held at a packed Parc & Dare Theatre the audience witnessed performances by not only the School Senior Band of 30 players but also the Junior Band of 20 players – not really a sign of decline?
Four years ago, as a result of the increasing number of talented young brass players in the authority, the Music Service responded by re-starting the RCT Senior Band, with the pupils from Treorchy forming the nucleus of the Band.
This ensemble is now firmly established with a membership of over 40 players. Following the success of this initiative it has also been possible [after an absence of 18 years] to revive the Four Counties Brass Band.
This band is made up from the best young brass players in RCT, Bridgend, Merthyr and Caerphilly. At our recent course in December, the band of 43 included 32 players from RCT.
Furthermore, the progress made by our young brass players was recognised when during 2012, 8 members of the band gained places in our national ensembles.
The progress made by the pupils has also been exemplified by outstanding Grade exam results, with more and more achieving success at the highest Grades – for example in 2012 Lewis Rees from Treorchy achieved the best exam result in the UK gaining full marks in his Grade 7 tuba exam.
I hope that these comments will serve to clarify any misconceptions about the current situation.
These are challenging times and many of our primary schools are under serious financial pressure when it comes to allocating resources for instrumental tuition. I believe working together with local bands is the best way forward.
I am pleased to say that at the moment I teach pupils who play for the following bands: Upper Rhondda, Mid Rhondda, Ynyshir, Lewis Merthyr, Parc and Dare, Pentre S.A., City of Cardiff, Llwydcoed and Treherbert.
I believe that the Cory initiative is more likely to benefit young brass players and bands throughout the Rhondda if it operates in partnership with the Music Service and not as an alternative.
Steve Martin B.Mus [Hons], FTCL, LTCL PGCE
I am trying to trace a copy of 'The Dales Suite' by Arthur Butterworth but without much success.
Can anyone help?
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