Editorial ~ 2010: June


This month we give our opinions on All quiet on the Preston Front; A National Liaion Officer and praise the soon to be demonised vuvuzela...

All quiet on the Preston Front

Then there was nine.

What now for the beleaguered English National Championship?

It seems cursed by bad luck, poor judgement, spineless support and misfortune.

It would be easy to blame all its problems on the shoulders of the organisers - the British Federation of Brass Bands.

Although they must take their fair share of culpability for what has progressively become an almost farcical situation, they have been poorly served by many elements of the banding movement – prime amongst them the bands themselves.

Some of the so called ‘reasons’ for not taking up their invitations to compete at Preston later this month have been disingenuous to say the least:

Some bands haven’t even had the decency to publicly state any reason at all to why they have decided to pull out just a couple of weeks before the event.

A number of bands have acted honourably and have stated clearly from the outset why they did not wish to compete – from the financial to the organisational (although you can suspect that a few may also have found out just how hard ‘Eden’ was as a test piece too), but some have also been a touch mendacious and obfuscated the real reasons for their non participation.

The end result has been the same though – a gradual erosion of the contest’s relevance as a means of legitimately choosing an English band to compete at the European Championships.

At the recent AGM of the British Federation it was stated clearly that a review concerning the continued feasibility of the contest would take place after this year’s event.

With just nine competing bands, the answer may already be known.

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A National Liaison Officer?

The advertisement by the British Federation of Brass Bands to seek the appointment of a Liaison Officer should be welcomed by bands – although not perhaps those currently in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Funded by the Arts Council for England, the post is advertised as being ‘exciting’ and ‘challenging’ and an opportunity for a ‘dynamic and resourceful person to join the only national organisation for brass bands in the UK’.

Hang on a minute.

The only national organisation for brass bands in the UK did they say?

You can hear the bristle of indignation North of Hadrian’s Wall as you read this – because that’s not quite true is it now?

And it all becomes a little more clear when you find out a little more about the post from the details published on the BFBB website.

There is not a single mention of the Celtic regions in the job description, whilst it is clearly stated that the key tasks will include, ‘establishing valuable and operational links, on behalf of brass bands, with all Arts Council England regions and their Music Officers, Local Authority Arts Officers and Local Education Authorities.’

The highlighted pronoun (by us) is the giveaway.

There is no mention of bodies in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Given the source of the funding, the nature of the job description, the person specifications and the continued reluctance of the BFBB to provide details when asked for the past two year’s at its AGM, about the geographical make up of its membership, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for the BFBB to be clear about who they actually represent.

In all but name it is an English organisation for English bands. Let’s not kid ourselves that it is anything other than that, because that in itself should make liasing things a little clearer for the successful applicant.

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In praise of the vuvuzela

For the next month or so around 50% of the population of this country (and many more around the world) will be sat in front of a television screen, shouting in support (and at times in anger and desperation) of their teams in the World Cup.

The accompaniment to the football will of course by aided by ample quantities of liquid refreshment, snacks, badly fitting team shirts and the drone of the vuvuzela – the ubiquitous South African horn that will be heard from dawn till dusk blown in seeming perpetuity in the stadia and through the surround sound systems of your front room.

It’s an integral part of the sound of football in the country – a 21st century South African version of the British football rattle, obscene terrace chant and even the Barmy Army’s trumpet player.

It may well drone like a million bees around a pile of elephant dung, but without it, the atmosphere at the games would be like that found at Wembley Stadium just after half time.

All the kill joys want it banned.

Even the Observer magazine, put the boot in, studs up, rather like Roy Keane at his best: "The noise from this plastic trumpet is even more annoying than the output of the England fan’s brass band."

Just think what it would be like if England wins the right to host the 2018 World Cup and ‘Jonnie Foreigner’ starts complaining about the traditional brass band banging out the ‘Great Escape’ continuously for an hour and a half in the crowd?

Let the vuvuzela alone, because if that’s banned now, brass bands may well follow…

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