2012: August

A partnership future for the BFBB, depressing reading and fighting percussionists — what more could you ask for...?

Partnership future for BFBB?

I have spent most of my working life in charitable organisations and am employed by one charity and also a trustee of another charity turning over approx £8m per year.

I am well aware of the roles of charitable trustees and relationships between them and employed staff. In terms of the BFBB/Registry staff situation I wouldn’t be surprised if there were strong personal relationships and political alliances that have made this a particularly difficult situation to manage.
I am acutely aware that where a charity is large enough to have a small number of paid staff, but not large enough to have a paid Chief Officer, the balance of power and tensions within the board of trustees and between the trustees and paid staff can be particularly difficult to manage.

Staff who are working on something day in and day out can often find it difficult to influence the strategy and policy direction of a board whose members are voluntary and whose involvement is part time. 

Because their involvement is part time and voluntary, board members can find it difficult to understand and accept ideas that are outside their personal experience.

This can be even more difficult if the majority of trustees have little other experience as trustees of charities that employ staff. The role of a paid Chief Officer is to facilitate this relationship so that it remains positive and productive.
I’m not saying this to point the finger anywhere – this is simply a generic observation, from my personal experience in the sector.
I am also very much aware that many organisations within the charity sector are working more closely together to improve efficiency and management. Last year Age Concern and Help the Aged came together to form Age UK.

In my area, the organisation that provides development support to local community and voluntary groups is joining with the volunteer centre to form a new organisation focusing on voluntary and community action. Small local charities are also getting together to make joint bids for contracts to deliver services.

This is the smart 21st century way for many smaller charities who employ staff. It’s about good business, it’s about alliances, it’s about synergy and it’s about survival so they can continue to serve their beneficiaries.
Yes – charities serve beneficiaries. Bands, band members are audiences are the BFBB’s beneficiaries. 

If the proposals to morph into Brass bands England succeed, the charitable beneficiaries will still be the same.

I would like to urge all involved in the BFBB (trustees and staff) to take a step back at the moment, to reflect on whatever action they intend to take (both individually and collectively) and ask themselves ‘In what way will this proposed course of action improve what we offer to our beneficiaries? 

How will it do that better than the other proposals on the table?’
This is a difficult situation to resolve and I think it requires people on all sides (including the bands and the media) to be prepared to reassess their position. 

I think that the solution will be based on dynamic, visionary leadership that understands the need to move on and to modernise, isn’t afraid to make changes (with a clear and accepted rationale behind them), can manage complex relationships with a diverse range of people and organisations and who can inspire us all to work together.
I don’t know who this remarkable individual is or how the BFBB can attract them.

I’m pretty sure that they have a proven track record in voluntary sector management; they know about music (but are probably outside the brass band world). 

Whether this can be done as a voluntary role, I’m uncertain – I think this is about the BFBB having the vision and courage to take the step towards a professional management.

My vision is that the BFBB/BBE trustees set aims, goals, policy and strategy and a professional manager (with relevant knowledge, skills and experience) is given full delegated powers (and accountability) to manage operational activities which deliver those goals.
But thinking smartly, this may not be about employing a BFBB/BBE Chief Officer – maybe this is about being bold enough to develop working partnerships with other voluntary arts organisations, accessing their management resources and expertise?
Pete Denton

Depressing reading

The excellent report from Iwan Fox from the BFBB Press Conference made for depressing reading.

Despite the well meaning approach of the people involved it was fairly obvious that this is an organisation desperately in need of leadership and vision, professional help and proactive support.

The trouble is that the BFBB themselves do not know where to find it. Now it is desperately trying to get people to come to its AGM, which for some bizarre reason is being held on a Tuesday evening in the middle of Birmingham after a Bank Holiday.   

No wonder the BFBB finds itself in a big, dark hole of its own making.

Leslie Roberts

Take up the percussion fight

Sorry to be so late in responding this but Jon Kitchen's comment raised my eyebrows somewhat   he says.....

"Erm, haven't you forgotten something..? Or is it 25 musicians plus percussion!"

So as I read this, brass players are musicians but percussionists are not?

I would have thought that other drummers would have taken up the fight earlier.
(PS...I'm a euph player)
Jim Owen

No one is laughing at this joke

What is going on at the British Brass Band Registry? 

Am I the only person to be totally bewildered by the BFBB’s approach – sacking a line manager, alienating hard working part time staff and causing bands all sorts of problems with their approach to a situation that could have been sorted out with arbitration and dialogue some time ago?

We hear promises from the BFBB that never amount to anything, and questions must be asked to whether or not they are the right people to run English banding – and the British Registry. 

This latest mess makes me believe they are not.

Give the Registry to people who can run it properly and let’s get some new blood into an organisation that has become nothing more than a joke.

This has become a farce – but no one is laughing.

Stephen M Robson

BFBB out of touch

I don't know the exact ins and outs of what is happening at BFBB, but I do know that Frank Hodges is perhaps the most hard working, honest and widely respected administrator/contest organiser that I've come across, and I'm sure there are lots of players and conductors out there who would agree with me.

To be removed from the executive committee of the BFBB is rich reward indeed for someone who has put so much into the brass band 'movement'.

The Executive Committee of the BFBB has shown itself to be out of touch with the needs of a modern brass band movement. 

Paul Saunders

Do we need a Registry?

Doesn’t the latest set of problems at the British Brass Band Registry really just show us that we don’t really need a Registry of players at all?

You can borrow and transfer, re-sign, cancel and import player registrations at a drop of a hat nowadays, so why is anyone really worried that the Registry is failing to function.

The connection between contest rules and player registration ceased to have any real relevance a long time ago.

All this has shown us is that we are a movement run by people who still think we live and play in the 1950’s.

Brian Wilkes

Grimethorpe chuckle

After reading Grimethorpe's band manager's self-aggrandising news item on 4BR ahead of the band's subsequent non-appearance on the television at the Olympic opening ceremony, I will admit I did afford myself a chuckle.

'It's going to be sensational', 'All the world will be watching', said the band. A lesson in humility and self restraint is now needed perhaps.

Increasingly, 4BR seems to be flooded with 'news' items that are little more than shameless plugs for a given band.

OK, so perhaps a brass band appearing in the ceremony was newsworthy in the circumstances, but the article was so OTT and self-congratulating.

I recall Grimethorpe were also due to perform at the Champions League Final a year or two ago and pulled out when they realised they were only going to be playing outside the stadium, calling it 'insulting'.

I wonder if they'd have pulled out of this one if they'd have realised they weren't going to be on telly for even a split second.

I suggest future press releases like this should be a little more restrained - pride comes before a fall!

James Klein

Proud of Grimey

Having read about Grimethorpe’s appearance at the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, I was looking forward to seeing the band in action on Friday night.

It was disappointing that the cameras didn’t pick up their contribution, but then again I am sure it didn’t pick up on a lot of others things that were going on in what was a fantastic presentation from Danny Boyle.

Much to their shame, I already see that people are trying to belittle Grimethorpe’s part in what was a truly global event.

This was a something to be very proud of for the banding movement as a whole.

Lindsey Stevens

Is it my Life Divine?

Further to previous comments regarding the book 'Life Divine', I especially like the comment by Dan Wilson: "There were even bits of it where I wondered if the authors had based it on my family"

How many times have us brass banders said about what goes on behind the doors of the bandroom: "If we wrote this down, people wouldn't believe it was true!"

The authors have a connection with Newtown Silver Band, based in Mid Wales - readers of the book might already see where Midtown Silver Band may just have it roots!
Many of the elements, as well as the characters, of the story are quite familiar to those of us in the band.

Rob and Phil Edwards have simply done, albeit rather superbly, what we as bandsman have often thought about doing and written down the stories of what goes on, not just in the band they know but seemingly in nearly every band in the country.

Everyone in banding should read this book as there will be elements of the story we can all relate to.

The rumour mill says a sequel is in the pipeline, but let’s also hope a few other potential authors take pen to paper and add to the brass band literature.

You don't need to make it up - the stories are already there. Just remember to change the names!

Neil Simkin


Saturday 20 April • Pemberton band room. Enfield street. Wigan WN5 8DZ

PEMBERTON OLD WIGAN DW BRASS BANDS - Guest soloista Glyn and Helen Williams

Saturday 20 April • Pemberton Old Wigan Band. Enfield Street,. Pemberton,. Wigan WN5 8DZ

Boarshurst Silver Band - Sunday Brass Concert: Pemberton Old Wigan DWB

Sunday 21 April • Boarshurst Band Club Greenbridge Lane Greenfield Saddleworth Ol37EW

Barnsley Brass -

Sunday 21 April • Holiday Inn, Barnsley Road, Dodworth, Barnsley S75 3JT

Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band - Reading Festival of Brass: Open Workshop Rehearsal

Saturday 27 April • St Laurence Church, Reading RG1 3EJ

Croft Silver Band

April 20 • Solo Cornet & Back Row Cornet player. We have a vacancy on both of our cornet benches. Following on from a rebuilding process, this is the last area of our band that we need to fill after some solid contest results recently at the area and at ConsTest.


April 18 • Hoover Band Bolton are seeking a 2nd Euphonium, Bb Bass and a kit player to complete our line-up in this friendly but committed band. We rehearse on Tuesdays & Thursdays 2000-2145 in our own bandroom at the Ukrainian Club in Bolton.

West Midlands Police Band

April 18 • Are you a dedicated musician seeking an exciting opportunity? We're on the lookout for a 2nd Euphonium, BBb or Eb Bass, and Percussion (kit). Rehearsals take place on Wednesdays in a welcoming atmosphere at Chelmsley Wood Police Station.

Sandy Smith

Conductor, teacher, adjudicator and arranger


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