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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.

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Contest: North West Regional Championships

Sunday 23 February • Winter Gardens Complex, Church Street, Blackpool FY1 1HU


Black Dyke Band - The Hawth, Crawley

Sunday 23 February • The Hawth, Hawth Avenue, Crawley RH10 7Yz


Contest: scaba Own Choice Test & March

Sunday 23 February • The Hawth in Crawley, West Sussex RH10 6YZ


Regent Hall Concerts - Royal Academy of Music Horn Ensemble

Friday 28 February • Charlton House. Charlton Road. London. SE7 8RE SE7 8RE


The GUS Band - Northampton International Academy

Saturday 29 February • Northampton International Academy. 55 Barrack Rd. Northampton NN1 1AA


Upper Rhondda Brass Band

February 20 • Upper Rhondda NEEDS YOU. To help consolidate the Band, and its position within the grading system at the next Welsh Area Championships, the Band urgently require the following players, Soprano, Solo Cornet, Solo Euphonium and a Percussionist..


Longridge Band

February 20 • Due to retirement the Longridge Band (1st Section North West) require a back row cornet player (position negotiable), Eb bass & percussionist . We have a good mixture of contests/ concerts and a tour to Belgium planned for later in the year.


Escafeld Brass Band Sheffield

February 20 • Escafeld Brass Band Sheffield has vacancies for all instruments. We are a friendly, non-contesting band who practice Friday evenings near Sheffield city centre. Our numbers have declined in recent years but we are very keen to grow again with our new MD.


Craig Roberts

BA (Hons), MA
Conductor / Adjudicator


               

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