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Brass Bands England
An open reply to Brighouse & Rastrick Band

Brass Bands England provide a robust defence of their work, responsibilities and ambitions as they reply to the questions posed by Brighouse & Rastrick Band.

Brass Bands England has issued its response to the open letter written by the General Committee of Brighouse & Rastrick Band.

The West Riding Band had questioned aspects of BBE’s work, ambitions and published response to an update on Government Covid-19 advice that also contained what they felt were “thinly veiled attacks” on them following a recent online broadcast concert performance.

4BR asked Brass Bands England for a response which they said they would make.

This is published in full below. It was signed by Kenneth Crookston (CEO) and Mike Kilroy (Chairman)


Brass Bands England statement:

An open reply to Brighouse & Rastrick Band

Brass Bands England (BBE) acknowledges the open letter issued by the General Committee of Brighouse & Rastrick Band (B&R) on 6th July. Through this communication the band attempts to make a number of points, some of which require clarification by BBE.

BBE’s first responsibility is to help to ensure the health and safety of our 446 member organisations, encompassing approximately 550 individual banding groups and in excess of 15,000 individuals. 

Our update published on 16th June was a reiteration of guidance from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for brass bands, following an extension of restrictions until at least 19th July. 

This update included clarification on a number of areas on which BBE had received a very high volume of questions from our members and the wider banding community.

Having received literally hundreds of communications from member organisations and individuals seeking clarification of the Government’s social-distancing rules in the wake of B&R’s online concert on 12th June, it was important that, in our subsequent communications, we emphasised the requirement to follow the brass band-specific guidance sourced by BBE from the DCMS on behalf of all brass bands. 

We had no desire to highlight any member organisations by naming them specifically.

Having received literally hundreds of communications from member organisations and individuals seeking clarification of the Government’s social-distancing rules in the wake of B&R’s online concert on 12th June, it was important that, in our subsequent communications, we emphasised the requirement to follow the brass band-specific guidance sourced by BBE from the DCMS on behalf of all brass bands. 

Within the open letter, B&R questions BBE’s support of member bands.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic BBE has published frequent and timely advice to all bands, has been contacted directly by the majority of our members (and many non-members) to address specific Covid-related points, and has run regular online drop-in sessions, which as recently as three weeks ago were still attracting almost 100 attendees each time. 

These have been welcomed as valuable services to the whole brass band community (and by many from other music genres). During these sessions, members of the BBE team have also recommended lateral flow tests as an additional means of reducing transmission risks, although these were not specified directly in the DCMS guidance for brass bands.


BBE Chief Executive Officer: Kenneth Crookston

B&R rightly points out that BBE is not a governing body. To clarify, we have never claimed to be and have no current ambition to become one.

Despite being very successful in some other banding nations, it hasn’t yet been truly established that a ‘governing’ body would be the best way forward for brass bands in England. 

B&R rightly points out that BBE is not a governing body. To clarify, we have never claimed to be and have no current ambition to become one.

All bands, and BBE, are however subject to the laws as determined by the Government and guidance from the DCMS. We are all, therefore, accountable to these agencies.

BBE is, in fact, a not-for-profit, Arts Council England-funded Sector Support Organisation. 

As such, 100% of our funding and any surplus from our events is directed at supporting brass bands in all of their activities and helping to provide a more rewarding and sustainable banding experience for everyone.

This we do through our numerous services, including but not limited to:

  • Substantial savings on insurance and other discounts for members 
  • Funding support and advice
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion resources and training
  • The Brass Band Conference
  • Youth development programme, including our new, pilot Brass Foundations project connecting bands with local music hubs (already introducing hundreds of new brass players in five different parts of the country)
  • Safeguarding advice and support, including significant administrative savings on Child Performance Licensing via BBE’s nationwide BOPA for members in England and Wales (no individual band could have been able to achieve this) and access to BBE’s highly-acclaimed BandSafe training
  • Free DBS checks for volunteers
  • Project support and advice
  • Player and Artistic Development seminars with Dr. Roger Webster, Paul Cosh and Philip Harper
  • Webinars on a variety of banding-related subjects, which have attracted over 400,000 views in the past 12 months
  • Hosting the National Youth Championships, redeveloped in 2019 and now connecting brass bands to new, diverse participants and audiences
  • Administering England’s representation at the European Brass Band Championships and hosting the 2022 event in Birmingham
  • Admin and volunteer support for major banding events including Butlin’s, Brass in Concert and UniBrass
  • Partnership with Crowdfunder that raised over £140,000 for brass bands in our pre-Christmas campaign in 2020. Further campaigns are in planning.
  • Custodians of the Brass Band Archive, now in the process of being relocated at Huddersfield University’s Heritage Quay with ongoing support from BBE
  • Administrative support for the Brass Band Conductors’ Association, which has more than doubled in membership in the 12 months since BBE became involved
  • Brass Band Emergency Fund and Norman Jones Trust support for bands and artistic projects
  • Direct links with Arts Council England, NSPCC, DCMS, PHE, DfE and other national bodies, opening doors on a national level for further artistic, support and funding opportunities for all brass bands


BBE Chairman: Mike Kilroy

On the subject of democracy, we would point out that, as possibly the world’s largest brass band-specific membership organisation, we are also entirely democratic. 

Our ten skilled and experienced board members are subject to an open election process at our Annual General Meeting, which will take place this year on 25 September.

We welcome the participation of all member organisations in this online event, full details of which will be released in due course.

The subject of bell covers has clearly been a source of mixed opinion in recent months. It should be noted that they are just one of a number of mitigations that meet the DCMS guidance and aren’t required specifically when proper barriers or enhanced ventilation are in place. 

The subject of bell covers has clearly been a source of mixed opinion in recent months. It should be noted that they are just one of a number of mitigations that meet the DCMS guidance and aren’t required specifically when proper barriers or enhanced ventilation are in place. 

One important role they have played is in BBE’s close engagement with policy makers at the DCMS, who recognised that BBE was one of the first arts organisations to approach them with potential solutions rather than only problems. 

As such, the mere existence of bell covers, now sold and advertised widely by a variety of manufacturers, have been instrumental both in brass bands being given their own specific guidance from the DCMS and in getting back to at least some form of safe activity sooner than many other musical art-forms.

The past months have been extremely challenging for all sectors, individuals and communities. It cannot be overlooked that we are witnessing a pandemic that has claimed in the region of 130,000 lives in the UK alone and impacted negatively on many more. 

Over the past 16 months, BBE has worked diligently, and with multiple agencies, to provide brass bands with robust advice in order to keep our community as safe as possible. 

Our organisation exists to support all areas of the brass banding community and has no wish to engage in conflict or be a source of division.

However, highlighting politely and respectfully that the overwhelming majority should not follow a particular example is not something for which any organisation should apologise. 

Our organisation exists to support all areas of the brass banding community and has no wish to engage in conflict or be a source of division.

We will, though, continue to strive to support all bands and until at least 19 July this will include emphasising DCMS guidance, which states: ‘Activities can take place with multiple permitted groups, provided the groups are kept separate throughout the activity… In all settings, social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a bubble.’

We wish anyone at B&R who has recently tested positive for Covid-19 a full and speedy recovery and also thank the band for giving us this opportunity to bring clarity to our role for a wider audience.

Like Brighouse & Rastrick Band, we also welcome future dialogue with the organisation and with anyone who may have questions around the role and aims of Brass Bands England. 

Our door is always open to everyone.

Kenny Crookston 
Chief Executive Officer

Mike Kilroy
Chairman

Brass Bands England
8th July 2021

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