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2013: January

This month we give our opinions on Grimethorpe's impression of Mr Micawber, financial landmarks and praise the continued excellence of the RNCM Festival of Brass.

Grimethorpe's impression of Mr Micawber

There was a touch of Charles Dickins about Grimethorpe’s recent well publicised plea for funding help.

Just think of Mr Micawber’s homespun recipe for happiness in ‘David Copperfield’:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds, nineteen shillings and six pence - result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six - result misery.”

It doesn’t need a genius to work out that even with a savings account to occasionally dip into when times are hard, no band can keep spending above its means year after year and survive for long – not when income is £3,000 let alone £300,000 per annum.    

However, Grimethorpe is not alone in finding that the modern financial landscape of banding has become increasingly barren of oases of free flowing sponsorship cash.  11 of the top 12 UK bands that have charitable status made a loss in the last year of their published accounts.

On closer inspection, the ledgers of some reveal temporary, rather than permanent deficits as they seek to financially realign themselves by paying out less in retainers, expenses and fees, whilst others seek different ways of balancing the books through innovative grant applications.

Whisper it quietly – but some top bands are even asking their players to put their hands in their pockets now and again.

The reality is that no one is immune from a triple dip recession – although it may appear some bands still believe that they have an ‘entitlement’ to sponsorship or even Government grant aid just because they profess to be an integral part of Britain’s increasingly moribund ‘heritage’.

However, even those who currently find themselves in a bit of financial bother should take heart from Mr Micawber himself, who finally found a degree of financial good health in later life by listening to his long suffering wife’s maxim –‘One learns by experience’.

And Grimethorpe’s well publicised ‘financial plight’ is one experience we can all learn from...

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Financial landmarks?

The first ever £10,000 Championship Section top prize will be paid out at the Butlins Mineworkers Festival in Skegness this month.

It is a financial landmark in the history of brass band contesting in the UK – yet it has been a long time coming.

Using the official Bank of England UK inflation data, the first prize of £75 at the 1900 National Finals would be worth £7,600 today, whilst the first Pontins £1,000 winner’s cheque in 1977 would now be the equivalent of £5,600.

In contrast, the £2,000 first prize that has been paid out at the Albert Hall since 1980 is now only worth in real terms just over £500, whilst the British Open has been paying out £3,000 since 1998 – which should now be £4,300 to have kept in line with inflation.

In between we have had £500 paid out to the winners at the first Granada Band of the Year in 1971 (now worth over £6,000),  and the first £5,000 top prize at the one off Harry Ramsden Fish & Chip Shop Contest in 1998 – now worth £7,100.

The first £500 paid out at the Nationals in 1966 would be the equivalent of £7,600 today. 

£10,000 may well be a landmark figure, but given that 100 years ago, John Henry Isles rather cleverly published in the programme of the 1913 National Championships that the first prize ‘package’ was worth the equivalent of £1,130 (£106,981.02 in today’s money), perhaps we haven’t really come that far at all.

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In praise of the RNCM Festival of Brass

Just a week after the Championship Section monetary largesse of Butlins comes the ‘prize free’ Royal Northern College of Music Festival of Brass.

Black Dyke, Fairey, Tredegar, Foden’s, Cory  and Leyland – together with leading ensembles and world class soloists will perform works that stretch back to the year that competitive banding really took on an identity of its own – 1913 – and the first ‘bespoke’ test piece, ‘Labour & Love’.

Thankfully, under the excellent artistic direction of Paul Hindmarsh, the RNCM Festival remains resolutely committed to providing musical, rather than financial landmarks of its own.

This year sees no fewer than 11 world premieres, including a specially commissioned work by four of our leading young composers in Lucy Pankhurst, Simon Dobson, Paul McGhee and Gavin Higgins to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten.

The Festival has become the leading musical showcase of brass band music anywhere in the world – and has done so by not being afraid of pushing the boundaries of our musical expectations.

As a result, it deserves to be supported by just as many people who trek to Skegness to find out who wins the biggest pot of money since 1913 too.

What do you think?
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Contest: Whit Friday March Contests

Friday 24 May • Saddleworth & Tameside OL3


Boarshurst Silver Band - Canning City Brass and Boarshurst Silver Band

Sunday 26 May • Boarshurst Band Club, Greenbridge Lane, OL3 7EW OL3 7EW


PEMBERTON OLD WIGAN DW BRASS BANDS - Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra

Friday 7 June • St. Michaels Church. Duke street. Wigan WN1 2BJ


Wotton-under-Edge Silver Band - Foden's Band

Sunday 23 June • Renishaw Innovation Centre,. New Mills, Kingswood, Wotton-under-Edge,. Gloucestershire GL12 8JR


West Midlands Police Band - Sovereign Brass and Brett Baker (Trombone)

Sunday 23 June • Tipton Green Methodist Church. Park Lane West. Tipton. Sandwell. DY1 4QF


Audley Brass

May 20 • Audley Brass are seeking a Principal Cornet player to lead the band into the First Section in 2025. The band have several fantastic events in the diary including the National Finals and no less than 6 of our epic beer festival sing-along nights.


Linthwaite Band

May 20 • We currently have a vacancy for either a 2nd Euphonium or 2nd Baritone, we have a busy varied list of engagements lined up for the summer, and are a friendly 4th section contesting band based just outside of Huddersfield, and welcome any new players.


Epping Forest Band

May 19 • Required: We are a friendly 2nd section band who are in need of a tenor horn (position negotiable) and percussion to complete our line


Sandy Smith


Conductor, teacher, adjudicator and arranger


               

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