Brass Band Summit Conference - One small step...


4BR Editor Iwan Fox reports from the Brass Band Summit Conference held in Birmingham on July 3rd, where the brass band movement took one small, but highly significant step into the 21st century.

Working Party
The umbrella men: The fledgling working party stand to deliver

One small step.

It may not appear to be a great deal in print, but if the consensus of opinion at the first Brass Band Summit Conference was anything to go by, the formation of a working party to start formulating concrete aims and objectives for an overseeing representative national body, could well have taken a giant leap forward.

Right place

Over 40 bodies, as diverse as private contest promoters and various banding associations, to representatives of the adjudicator and conductor organisations, met just a stone’s throw away from Symphony Hall, at St Chads Salvation Army citadel in Birmingham.

And a citadel was perhaps the right place to hold such an event.

What could have turned out to be an entertaining, but highly unproductive talking shop of opinions and generalised pet topics, eventually produced a concerted effort to meet the summit’s mission statement - ‘Time to move forward’ - that could well provide lasting effectiveness for the banding movement.


Much of the credit goes to the Association of Brass Band Adjudicators and the British Federation of Brass Bands, under the chairmanship of Stan Lippeatt and Robert Morgan MBE, who led the conference as hosts and participants.

After brief, sparky introductions from both, and a musical contribution from trombonist Davur Magnussen, it was down to business under the expert control of independent facilitator, Valerie Monti Holland.  

Not too much of a problem

Miss Holland has at times worked with such diverse organisations as theatre groups and inmates at various establishments of Her Majesty’s Prison Service, so 40 odd opinionated brass band enthusiasts wasn’t too much of a problem.


Still, she had her work cut out though from the beginning, after a rather clumsily worded statement; ‘The brass band movement in the UK is very insular and now is the time to come under one body’, raised more than a few hackles amongst the banding brethren.

Thankfully, after a hour or so of small group discussions, the first signs of commonality, with a focussed set of aims and objectives replacing the more obvious and dated, ‘pet topics’, that were at times in danger of derailing the mission statement of the conference, started to appear.

However, a number of those ‘topics’ (neatly described by one delegate as ‘drilling down to the minutia of banding’) were aired by each group - from problems surrounding adjudication and financial sustainability to the need for more informed national media promotion and increased grass roots participation.  

Important as they were, it was the identification of the need for an umbrella organisation that encompassed leadership, organisation, structure, ownership and vision, which struck the resonant chord in the room.

4BR quote

With Robert Morgan earlier quoting directly from a 4BR editorial that suggested that if a summit was to work then everyone involved had to actively submit to the need to give up some measure of individual autonomy for the greater good, the first inkling of significant progress had been made.

A fine buffet lunch allowed further informal discussions over salmon sandwiches and mini chocolate éclairs, so by the time delegates returned for the afternoon session, it was evident that the desire to ‘move forward’, to quote the mission statement, was starting to become more focussed.

The writing is on the wall for adjudication as minutia drilling took place at times

Stopped in tracks

Thankfully, a rather pointless ‘open forum’ was stopped in its tracks, as the danger signs of ‘minutia drilling’ on a BP scale of disaster were averted by some helpful interventions.

Instead, a further series of group discussions, this time concentrating on just how an ‘umbrella group’ could and should function, resulted in a quite remarkable degree of pertinent analysis and opinion.


And remarkable is perhaps the right word to describe it too.

It’s hard to imagine any other occasion when Philip Morris of Kapitol Promotions and organisers of the National Championships offered ideas from an eclectic gathering on one table that brought nods of agreement from groups on others, led by Andrew White of the National Association of Brass Band Conductors, Nigel Morgan of the BFBB and Trevor Caffull of Salvation Army Publishing and Supplies.

All of a sudden real progress was being made, with general agreement over the need for a working party to be set up that would look closely at issues around sustainability of funding, representation, structure, vision and ownership.

2010 Brass Band Summit
Summit to say? The delegates pose for a historic picture


Then, that one small step became a reality - with the proposal by C. Brian Buckley that such a body be set up.

Amazingly, there was no opposition, and despite a few issues over its composition and reporting arrangements, the proposal was eventually seconded by Peter Fraser of the Scottish Brass Band Association.

The delegate’s acceptance vote followed (although not unanimously – with 5 abstentions due to some delegates wishing to report back to their own bodies before taking a decision on their behalf), before those who wished to be a part, made themselves known.


As electoral hustings go it was well mannered and highly informal, but those who did stand (Alan Edmond and George Burt of the Scottish Brass Band Association, Pedr Roberts of the Welsh Federation, Robert Morgan of the BFBB, Martin Mortimer of the British Open, Trevor Caffull of SP&S Ltd, Andrew White of the NABBC, Philip Morris of Kapitol Promotions and SEWBBA and Stan Lippeatt of ABBA) were generally accepted as representing very nearly all of the banding movement’s vested interests (although it was agreed that youth representation would be addressed as a matter of urgency).

Another quick show of hands later, and the first identifiable footprint of progress had well and truly been made on the 21st century banding landscape.

Starting work: The first opinions are aired by the working party

First meeting

And with the working party taking the opportunity to meet in discussion almost without time for a round of self congratulatory back slapping, the first concrete decision was made too.

Although deciding on a date for the first formal meeting on the 5th September in Birmingham, a day after the British Open, may not be up there in historic terms with the Declaration of Independence or the signing of the Magna Carta, in brass banding terms, it was perhaps just as significant.

Precise moment

With time for a last round of discussion topics on the future of the movement, a very satisfied room of delegates sat in line for a group picture that could well be seen in years to come as the precise moment in time when brass banding took the first steps of moving from the 19th to the 21st century.

And as small steps go, that could be one heck of a giant leap.

Iwan Fox


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