*
banner

Fuel in the tank
Brass Bands England Conference 2021

Petrol may have been in short supply on the weekend, but collective confidence certainly wasn't at the BBE Annual Conference.


There was plenty of confidence in the BBE tank at their annual conference

Unlike the frantic search for petrol seen on the roads heading towards Manchester on Saturday morning, collective confidence was certainly not in short supply at the 2021 Brass Bands England Conference.

Polished presentation and coherent messaging ensured that those who wanted to top-up on how the English banding movement is likely to be fuelled in the coming years were left in no doubt about BBE’s ambition to provide persuasive answers.

Diplomatic messaging

And whilst the obvious tensions with Kapitol Promotions may still require the skills of a latter day Kofi Annan to help resolve, the diplomatic messaging that emanated from an equally polished on-line broadcast was subtly veneered in the language of inclusion and cooperation. 

It was also backed by statistics that relayed BBE’s success in financial and organisational terms: There is money in the bank, membership has grown, initiatives (including the provision of Covid-19 specific information) and projects (such as Crowdfunding) have been implemented, funding streams accessed, staff taken on and music commissioned. 

And whilst the obvious tensions with Kapitol Promotions may still require the skills of a latter day Kofi Annan to help resolve, the diplomatic messaging that emanated from an equally polished on-line broadcast was subtly veneered in the language of inclusion and cooperation. 

Reserves top £180,000 (although this includes cash in the bank plus adequate emergency contingencies and funding initiatives); there are 15 staff on the books; turnover is up over 137%; new funding sources have been accessed; close on 100 events were organised and there are now over 550 member bands from around 440 organisations which represent approximately 17,000 members.  


Polished presentation added to the display of corporate confidence

Corporate confident

A corporate-confident BBE can now look forward to the next cycle of Arts Council England (ACE) funding (2023-2027) backed by a CV that ticks a great deal of the boxes that will keep the financial fuel flowing in the years to come.

According to BBE, that is also because those boxes are now regularly inspected by ACE – the Relationship Manager Richard Brown referred to as a “critical friend”. And that was deliberately meant in more ways than one. 

It has also consigned the dark days of the ludicrous ‘band in every postcode’ ambitions to history; replaced by cold-headed targeted engagement and resource accounting, outcome analysis and forward planning.  

It has also consigned the dark days of the ludicrous ‘band in every postcode’ ambitions to history; replaced by cold-headed targeted engagement and resource accounting, outcome analysis and forward planning.  

That may still not be enough to quell the ire of its fiercest critics who believe that BBE’s ultimate ambition is to ‘run’ English contesting, but the message here seemed far removed from that particular point of focus – for the time being at least. 

Different ambition

This was a conference with a very different ambition to sell. Not everyone still wants to buy into it of course – but you cannot argue that it isn’t being advertised with a great deal of effectiveness. 

On this occasion ‘Improving our Art’ was the compact headline, but one backed on the day by a detailed commitment to explore issues such as equality, education and safeguarding.

The discussion led by Sarah Baumann about the creative case for diversity, inclusivity and relevance in the brass band sector was as important as anything surrounding the future of our major contests.

The discussion led by Sarah Baumann about the creative case for diversity, inclusivity and relevance in the brass band sector was as important as anything surrounding the future of our major contests.

Hopefully it will be built on in the future.      

BBE believes these are the core strands that they can use to help enable brass bands to work towards reflecting the communities in which they are based, rather than in which section of a contest they wish to compete. 


Important discussions were highlighted on diversity and inclusion

And to emphasise their point, additional funding resources support the argument: £180,000 from The Backstage Trust and Garfield Weston and Foyle Foundations. 

Tone and content

Little wonder the written reports of the BBE trustees and CEO were equally confident in tone and content. 

The trustees were “delighted with and extremely proud of the organisations’ growth” and that the “exceptional progress made over the past year particularly in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic sees the brass band sector at the leading edge of many area within the arts and culture arena”.

The trustees were “delighted with and extremely proud of the organisations’ growth” and that the “exceptional progress made over the past year particularly in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic sees the brass band sector at the leading edge of many area within the arts and culture arena”.

CEO Kenny Crookston concluded his report by stating that he was “thrilled to manage a team that contains outstanding professionals who deliver exceptional services, information and education, unfailingly laying the foundations for better banding for the entire BBE membership.”

The day was an impressive showcase of achievement – one reinforced by the presentation of its annual awards which saw youngsters such as Olivia and Matthew Hurst rub on-line red carpet shoulders with Samantha Harrison, John Ward, Julie Allen MBE, Richard Evans and Astley Unlimited Band. 


Award winners were announced

European neutrality?

Twelve months is a long time not just in politics however, and BBE’s relationship with another leading contest promoter will also come under scrutiny when it welcomes the European-wide banding movement to a revamped Symphony Hall in Birmingham next year.

That ambition is also cloaked in organisational confidence, as the future relationship with the European Brass Band Association will be interesting to monitor, especially given BBE’s insistence on hosting an equally revamped ‘cost-neutral’ event. 

Making sure it doesn’t lose money is one thing – making sure it also provides the type of legacy the conference spoke of to benefit English banding, is another. 

Making sure it doesn’t lose money is one thing – making sure it also provides the type of legacy the conference spoke of to benefit English banding, is another. 

That though was addressed in part with the announcement of its musical centrepiece (as well as the other works to be used), although the insistence in dropping the European Youth Band and moving the youth championships into the main part of the weekend, was borne of more of financial pragmatism.


When the saints...

‘Saints Triumphant’  by Prof Philip Wilby was commissioned and produced ahead of schedule, and understandably announced with some degree of pride after he had given an engrossing keynote address that touched on his ‘art’ of composition.  

Art of composition

And whilst the announcement of future European qualification coming through the British Open rather than National Championships did appear a little mischievous (and the potential can of worms that could be opened by the results of the BBE survey seem to have been kicked down the road), it did mean that in future the invited English representative would have close on 19 months to raise funds to attend the competition.  

The anomaly of the youth band representation having the same period of grace may take a little more working out though.   


Smiles all round: Mike Kilroy with award winners John Ward and Helen Minshall

Broad smile

In 2015 4BR reported from a BBE Conference that spoke of organisational optimism, but could not be backed by any comprehensive list of hard facts and figures except those that made for very uncomfortable reading.

At that event BBE Chairperson Mike Kilroy wore the look of a man who knew that the organisation was teetering on the edge of financial oblivion, lacked realistic ambition and even more damaging, lacked relevance.

Since then repair and reconstruction has become renewal and development and finally purpose and prosperity.  

And on this weekend in Sale, not even the prospect of trying to find a petrol station to fill up his car for the journey home changed that. 

Focus

In 2021 he wore a broad smile based on financial competency, organisational robustness and coherent messaging – from Cheltenham to Covid-19 and much more besides.  

So much so that in tacitly accepting that perhaps the BBE should have had some representation at the recent National Finals at Cheltenham, he was also confident enough to make a reasoned case to why on this particular occasion they were not.  

The focus he said at this immediate moment in time are very much on other issues (continued Covid-19 awareness included) - and in ensuring BBE and its resources could be made available to all its members each and every day – not just on one particular weekend.   

And on this weekend in Sale, not even the prospect of trying to find a petrol station to fill up his car for the journey home changed that. 

Iwan Fox 

Support us for less than a cup of coffee...

4BR wants to ensure that the brass band movement remains vibrant and relevant. We also want to be able to question, challenge and critically examine those who run and play in it, producing high quality journalism that informs as well as entertains our readers.

So if like us you value a strong, independent perspective on the brass band world - then why not consider becoming a supporter and help make our future and that of a burgeoning brass band movement more secure.

So one less cappuccino then?

Support us    



Glossop Old Band - Skelmersdale Prize Band

Monday 1 November • Glossop Band Club. Derby Street, Glossop SK13 8LP


Regent Hall Concerts - Royal Air Force Salon Orchestra

Friday 5 November • Regent Hall (The Salvation Army). 275 Oxford Street. London. WC1 2 DJ WC1 2 DJ


Glossop Old Band - St John's Mossley Band

Sunday 7 November • Glossop Band Club, Derby Street, Glossop SK13 8LP


Regent Hall Concerts - Royal Greenwich Brass Band

Sunday 7 November • St Alfege Church. Greenwich Church St. London SE10 9BJ


Abertillery Town Band - 50th Anniversary Celebration Concert

Saturday 13 November • Metropole Cultural and Conference Centre, Mitre St, Abertillery NP13 1AL


City of Bristol Brass Band

October 27 • A TENOR HORN player is required by City of Bristol Brass Band (competing in the First Section) with immediate effect. The successful applicant will join a successful, friendly band with some exciting concerts and contests already in the diary.


Cheltenham Silver Band

October 27 • Musical Director for 3rd section band.. Enthusiastic MD to work closely with the band to give an enjoyable, supportive and creative atmosphere in rehearsals, concerts and contests.. We would like to appoint someone to take us to the Areas in 2022..


Glossop Old Band

October 27 • GLOSSOP OLD BAND, 1st Section Midlands Area, are looking to recruit the following players with immediate effect.. One experienced Front Row Cornet player, position negotiable. (Principal seat available to right applicant) and a 2nd Euphonium player..


John Durrant

MA LLCM TD CertEd (Dist)
Conductor, Band Trainer, Composer, Trumpet and Cornet Soloist, Arranger, Adjudicator


               

 © 2021 4barsrest.com Ltd