2005 British Federation of Brass Bands - AGM


John James was at the BFBB AGM and reports on what proved to be a tension filled meeting as Chairman Robert Morgan took the gloves off in his annual report and had a eloquent bash at a few sacred cows of the movement.

British Federation of Brass Band
Annual General Meeting
16th April 2005
Board Room,
Birmingham Conservatoire,
Paradise Place, Birmingham.

The day actually opened at 10.30hrs on the morning with a delegates meeting of the Local Associations and 4BR were allowed to sit in on this meeting as observers.

Much of the agenda was highlighted and addressed later in the AGM but particular reference here was made to the camaraderie at the Youth Championships, the proposed bid for the 2007 Europeans and the forthcoming guidance on Child Protection being tailored by Gary Walczak.

Fortunately for the British Brass Band movement there are a cohort of very dedicated individuals who give of their time, experience and expertise asking very little in return for their efforts.

This was more than apparent at the British Federation of Brass Bands Annual general meeting held on Saturday.

One could not deny that at times particularly in some of the more ‘controversial' issues discussed there was tension in the air but with such strong personalities around the table would one expect anything else?

The venue for the meeting was the Boardroom of the Birmingham Conservatoire; a functionally furnished room tucked away in the corner of the lecture room facilities of the music institution.

As one left the room at lunchtime the foyer of the Conservatoire was a hive of activity as students and attendees milled around waiting for performance calls.

There were few attendees at the AGM other than those present at the delegates meeting in the morning, which perhaps was not unexpected but nevertheless a little disappointing, but each and everyone had an opportunity at some point in the proceeding to make contributions.

The agenda, as with any AGM, was formal and a constitutionally planned affair. Robert Morgan was returned unanimously as Chairman of the Federation, as were, other than Greta Russell, the other members of the committee.

Duncan Beckley stepped down from the Federation Committee as did Brian Eggleshaw from the Appeals Committee, his place being taken by Peter Bates.

Robert Morgan: Report of the Executive Committee

Perhaps the most telling section of the agenda, and speaking with a warm and open manner, was the comprehensive' Report of the Executive Committee' delivered by Robert Morgan.

Given the important content of this report we publish it here in full.

"I can report a good and successful year for the British Federation of Brass Bands. The Executive Committee have again been very busy, with us not having the services of a full-time Development officer.

Let me detail our achievements:-


The Registry has again been the shining light of the BFBB. Our Registry Manager, Colin Johnson, has pulled out all the stops for contest organisers and with the help of part-time staff and volunteers the work of the Registry has been very successful. The Registry Line Manager, Frank Hodges, has again carried out his role diligently and is now assisted by an action group solely dedicated to issues relating to the Registry. Frank is the Chairman and other members are Robert Morgan, Greta Russell, Arnold Tattersall and Ken Hirst.

The National Championships

I don't think that we can admit to the partnership between the Regional Committees, Kapitol and Besson being too successful to date. We admittedly got off to a bad start when in May last year all parties (except Besson) discussed rule changes. Although I personally said that these changes would take place, three of the decisions were not ratified by the Executive Committee of the Federation and were therefore not implemented.

These were:
1) Number of adjudicators at Regional Contests
2) Definition of a new player
3) Qualification to the National Finals by Championship Section Bands

These items remain on the table for a further meeting, which will take place on the 7th May. Unfortunately the West of England and Wales have declined to send a representative along to this meeting. We may have differences of opinion, but for Regions not to send a representative is, in BFBB's opinion counter productive. All Regions should be represented to discuss rules and judiciary, which will obviously concern their bands.

We have had a very protracted and costly legal battle over the "Ibstock Affair" with the Midlands Committee. BFBB took no pleasure in this, but were not prepared to have a Regional Committee flout the rules of the National Brass Band Championships and the BFBB (the Judge's words not the BFBB's)

We now have a situation where BFBB have issued concise guidelines on promotion and relegation to avoid further misunderstanding. Unfortunately the Council of the West of England Brass Band Associations, in a letter dated 11th April 2005 stated: "has unanimously agreed to continue calculating our grading tables as over the past few years and disregard the advice given by the Federation". In other words the bands in the West of England will be treated differently to bands in other regions and therefore the region risks the possibility of further appeals.

Besson Musical Instruments Ltd. And Kapitol Promotions Ltd. must now stand up and be counted. Their support to the BFBB, who are contracted to run the rules and judiciary, must be positive and unwavering. The Regional Committees are known to be autonomous, but this autonomy I'm afraid does not extend to the rules and judiciary of the National Championships.

On a positive note, the very first review of the National Championships was carried out during the year by the BFBB and our Vice President, David Stanley and the results have been well publicised. This will be a useful document as discussions with Regional committee, Besson and Kapitol Promotions continue.

BBIS Insurance

Again partnership between BBIS and the Federation has been financially successful. Bands who are members of the BFBB can now see insurance premiums reduced by up to a third, more than compensating for their membership fees to the Federation. Thanks are due to John and Janet Beeston fort heir help and support with this scheme.


Our new man in Europe, David Dobson, has worked hard, with other members of EBBA to secure this year's European Championships in Groningen, Holland. For some unknown reason Besson have discontinued their support of EBBA and placed the European Championships in the hands of a private company, Kapitol Promotions Ltd.

EBBA, since its formation in 1995, have made the European Championships the most successful band festival in Europe, moving form what was described as a "one day shunt" by Ulf Rosenburg of Norway, to a thriving and successful week long festival with a European Youth Band, Conductor, Composer and Soloist Competitions as well as a section for developing brass band countries.

Perhaps one day someone will tell me why Besson, if they needed to withdraw sponsorship, did not give EBBA the opportunity to run the event privately on behalf of European bands.

BFBB are firmly behind EBBA and in particular, the commitment made to Belfast for 2006. If rumours are correct that Besson are about to announce a competitive European Championships on the same weekend as Belfast, it would be astounding, and in the BFBB's opinion, a publicity disaster for Besson.

It is the BFBB's intention to bid for the European Championships to take place in England in 1007. Symphony Hall has already been provisionally booked and David Dobson will present BFBB's bid to EBBA at the AGM in two weeks time.

National Youth Championships

This is the flagship event for the BFBB and one of that we are proud to be involved in. It was said last week that this event is the most important contest in the brass band calendar, providing the players for our best bands during the next 10 years, and of course, all other bands too.

Thanks to Gary Walczak and his team for their excellent organisation. The event has now become a victim of its own success and I'm sure that there will be a lot of hard thinking before next year's event to try and decide how best to accommodate all the players and supporters wishing to attend this magnificent musical festival.


Work is moving forward for production of a new directory in September this year. Shirley Woodward is co-ordinating the project in conjunction with Colin Johnson and Ken Hirst. If bands have a change of secretary or other details, it is their responsibility to inform Shirley of the changes. Publicity on this will be forthcoming during the summer months.

Consultancy Project

At the request of the Arts Council and with finance provided by them, we had a good look at ourselves last year with the assistance of Richard Sobey, a professional consultant. Richard was like a breath of fresh air to our Executive and looked at everything from a completely different angle. We now have a new Strategic Plan and a Business plan that has been presented to the Arts Council and accepted by them. During the next few months and indeed years, we will be moving forward developing our strategic plan.

Arts Council

Arts Council England, Yorkshire have been very patient with us during the last couple of years, when we have been without a Development Office, but hey have also been encouraging and helpful at all times. It is with great pleasure that I am able to officially announce today that Arts Council, England, Yorkshire have agreed to continue their funding for a further three years 05/06, 06/07, 07/08, with a approximate increase of 5% year on year. This is good news for the BFBB and banding generally. It will provide the base funding for our Development Officer post and help us work towards the Strategic Plan that we have in place.

Brass Week – "Brass Alive in 2005" (21st may – 29th May)

This is an important "week" in the brass band calendar. Following an initiative from our colleagues in Scotland we have enthusiastically joined with them for this project. All bands in England, who are members of the Federation or registered with the BBBR, have been informed of the event. The idea is simple –organise a concert or event in your community and gain maximum publicity for your band form local newspapers, radio and TV stations. In other words, make sure that everyone knows that  "Brass is Alive in 2005". Bands can log their event on 4BarsRest or on the BFBB website.


Membership hovers around the 300 mark, but with over 500 bands registered with the BBBR, we are still some way short of our target. This, of course, does not take into account non-contesting bands. Thanks are due to Ken Hirst for his work on membership and hopefully, over the next 12 months, a drive for further members can be implemented.

And now a look forward to the future:-

I make no apology in repeating that the time has come for our top bands to give some young players back to the movement. They can no longer "cherry pick" the best young players from other bands and not train young people themselves to play brass instruments. So a challenge to our elite bands – how about starting a youth academy in the next 12 months? Okay it will cost some money and need some serious commitment, but the band movement will benefit – let's see who's first.

Communication – our communication channels with members is at times not good. We will be very positive with this during the next 12 months and my pledge to all member bands and associate members, is that we will make this our number one priority this year. Communication needs to be two-way and, of course, to be successful we also need feedback from member bands.

The English National Brass Band Championships – this event has been well documented in the band press just recently and further press releases are due in the next couple of weeks.

When the opportunity arose to organise this event, and with financial backing in place, BFBB had no hesitation in moving the event forward. The Championship will take place on 1st July next year in the Lyric Theatre of the Lowry Centre, Manchester. Invitations have just gone out to those bands qualifying for the event and with prize money of over £10,000 and qualification for the EBBA European Championships for 2007 (hopefully in Birmingham), we hope that all invited bands will be keen to support this new event.

Unlike any other major brass band championships in England, all proceeds form the event will be ploughed back into the movement for youth/adult training days or events.

Development Officer – it is with great pleasure that I am able to introduce our new Development Officer, Philip Watson. Philip accepted the position a couple of weeks ago and we now have a contract of employment in place. It is envisaged that Philip will commence employment for the BFBB and its member bands in early May. His office will be in Barnsley, but he will also work form home and when possible he will visit Associations, bands and various events. BFBB look forward to working with Philip and I am sure that we have made a good choice for this most important role.

Finally I would like to thank our team at the Federation, all the staff and the Executive Committee for their hard work, energy and commitment to brass bands, not only in England , but throughout Europe. I would personally like to thank our President, Major Peter Parkes and Vice President, David Stanley fir their help and support during the past 12 months.

A special thanks also to our retiring Secretary, Greta Russell. Who will be greatly missed by us all – her professionalism and dedication have been second to none, especially during the last 12 months when personal circumstances have not been easy.

Thanks to our colleagues from the press, British Bandsman, Brass Band World and 4BarsRest. They have all been supportive and sometimes critical and we thank them for their interest in promoting the BFBB cause.

People sometimes ask me "what does the Federation do?" – hopefully this report will shoe what we have done and our ambitions for the future.

Robert Morgan
Chairman, British Federation of Brass Bands

16th April 2005

Other issues and announcements:

The new Development Officer Philip Watson came over as a most amiable fellow and hopes are high that is outward enthusiasm is a sign some interesting developments to come.

He took the opportunity at the AGM to describe his background.

From the Lake District he took up cornet at the age of 11yrs firstly at school and also with the junior section of Kendal Town Band. A career as an army musician latterly on clarinet and saxophone as well as cornet, he served across Europe, Canada and was a Medic in the  ‘91 Gulf War.

He sees the BFBB as a super organisation and feels his experience and enthusiasm are well placed to support the BFBB to look after the interests of Brass Bands in the UK as he said "I wouldn't have accepted otherwise". As closing plea he asked that we learn to talk the BFBB up and don't dumb it down.
One can certainly believe from his bearing and manner that he will work hard for the movement.

Greta Russell did not seek re-election as secretary. She explained that work and private issues had turned life upside down. Whilst she had hoped that she could overcome these it wasn't to be.

She thanked everyone in the room and in particular Robert Morgan.  She described her disappointment that the BFBB gets criticism from the few and urged its critics come on board see first-hand what is required.

Greta will continue as Chair of the Midlands Committee but did conclude that if her situation changes she would not rue out seeking re-election.

Being a Treasurer is an onerous task but Dave Shaw is helped in this regard with sub-committees  that do the book-keeping for three different areas namely Registry Accounts, BFBB Contest Accounts and the General Federation Accounts.

Obviously the loss of £5000 from National Championships from Besson to Kapitol Promotions affected the financial position of the Federation but the accounts certainly did appear to be well controlled with just a small loss over the year.

Expenditure in the main fairly appeared stable but given the serious changes with loss of the Nationals it will, one would have to conclude, cut down somewhat on planned expenditure for this financial year.

Despite increase in fees, more legal costs in the year increased the overheads however it was reiterated that the BFBB is not intended to be profit making organisation.

It was agreed that the membership fees would remain the same this year but a discussion did take place on how to generate an associate membership of individual bandsmen and how this might be implemented further.

Returning President of the BFBB Major Peter Parkes was most upbeat in his address and was forthright in his view that the BFBB had a wealth of knowledge and common sense to call on.

He reinforced the words of Philip Watson that any actions in 2005/06 work to the BFBB advantage and place them in a strong position to go forward.

His delight in being President of the BFBB was abundantly clear.

A brief open forum saw a discussion about raising the profile of the nomination process for awards within the Brass Band Movement. An item brought forward by Robert  Mulholland as a result of a number of enquiries to Brass Band World.

The end of official business came at 15:30hrs as this most illuminating day reached its conclusion.

4BR Comment:

The Executive Report by Robert Morgan really encapsulated the whole mood and arena of discussion at the Birmingham Conservatoire. There were some very strong points made and it may be interesting to consider this report in a little more depth.

To quote Robert Morgan: "All Regions should be represented to discuss rules and judiciary which will obviously concern their bands."

The membership of the Federation is essentially the bands themselves but the bands in the West of England and Wales are now no longer represented at a committee level at the BFBB. This is because their local associations have chosen to disassociate themselves from the BFBB.

As it stands following this AGM, if the BFBB discusses the rules and judiciary and changes are made, the bands of these regions will have to accept any and all the changes without any say.

To quote Robert Morgan: "BFBB have issued concise guidelines on promotion and relegation to avoid further misunderstanding……… the bands in the West of England will be treated differently to bands in other regions and therefore the region risks the possibility of further appeals."

One begs the question if the bands of these areas are fully aware and fully appreciate the position they now find themselves in with regard to the BFBB as custodian of the rules.

Robert Morgan again states – "We have had a very protracted and costly legal battle… … … (we) took no pleasure in this, but were not prepared to have a Regional Committee flout the rules of the National Brass Band Championships"

Bluntly and surely not in their best interests, a number of bands will, if this situation continues, have to accept any and all rule changes without a means of discussion.

To quote Robert Morgan regarding possible rule changes –

"Number of adjudicators at Regional Contests
 Definition of a new player
 Qualification to the National Finals by Championship Section Bands
These items remain on the table for a further meeting which will take place on the 7th May"

Perhaps a conversation with their Local Association might be prudent.

The BFBB are looking for good things to come from the appointment of the new Development Officer Philip Watson.

Robert Morgan again: "We now have a new Strategic Plan and a Business plan……  and this together with ……"the very first review of the National Championships.

These certainly open up a massive portfolio for Philip Watson and we wish him well in his new post.

The European Championship bid for the EBBA 2007 contest and festival week does reinforce the BFBB position with regard to these Championships and surely sends a message to serious message to Besson and Kapitol Promotions.

Robert Morgan again: "BFBB are firmly behind EBBA"

The whole question as to the reasoning behind the contract changes for the European Championship remains pretty well unanswered.

Robert Morgan:  "Perhaps one day someone will tell me why Besson……withdraw sponsorship(and) did not give EBBA the opportunity to run the event privately"

As Robert Morgan states in his report "Besson Musical Instruments Ltd. And Kapitol Promotions Ltd. must now stand up and be counted."

Does one read into this that he is suggesting that Besson Musical Instruments Ltd. And Kapitol Promotions Ltd cannot shy away from the accountability that goes with running major contests.

They must never point a finger, take the position of a judicious silence and/or look in the direction of the BFBB and allow them to be the "fall guys" if things go awry.

If it's a question regarding the registry or of the rules – fair enough – but anything else i.e. entry fees, venues, ticket prices, bands person ticket allocation, selection of test pieces etc etc. those are down to Kapitol Promotions and no one else.

As Robert Morgan infers the financial impact of this change in business has impacted on the BFBB resources and planning but now Besson Musical Instruments Ltd. And Kapitol Promotions must accept the responsibility that goes with the territory.

With regard to the National Youth Championships Robert Morgan says: "there will be a lot of hard thinking before next year's event"

A good deal of discussion took place revolving around the question of integrating Youth Music and "Senior" bands. Youth Academies and encouraging young players being the pre-requisite rather than

Robet Morgan: "the best bands cherry pick the best young players from other bands"

This is an area Gary Walczak and his Youth focused team are charged with addressing. It is understood that Besson have a meeting set very soon with the Federation to discuss the Youth Championships. As Robert Morgan called it the "flagship event for the BFBB"

Let's hope that Besson don't have another privatisation bombshell to drop at this meeting like the award of these Championships to Kapitol Promotions as well!

The announcement regarding the Arts Council is really good news for the movement -

Robert Morgan: "Arts Council, England, Yorkshire have agreed to continue their funding for a further three years"

 - and this together the new Strategic Plan, Business Plan and Devlopment Officer surely places the BFBB in a very positive light with this important body.

To conclude, communication is an issue no matter what walk of life you tread and this issue was not ignored by Robert Morgan

To quote – "our communication channels with members is at times not good………my pledge to all member bands and associate members, is that we will make this our number one priority this year.

It is vital over the next twelve months that the BFBB keep communication and open dialogue with bands at the very front of their work.

Let's take stock in twelve months time and revisit his document when hopefully the report can focus on hopefully a more settled and a less turbulent year.

John James


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