The theme of 'Resilience and Stability' was certainly endorsed at the recent Annual General Meeting of Brass Bands England.
A 114% increase in membership and 75% upturn in turnover from the previous Arts Council England (ACE) funding cycle were the eye-catching headline figures helpfully published as graphics to illustrate their ongoing work.
However, to the 45 delegates and representatives (including one from Tokyo), who linked up online, it was the significant rise in information-sharing output, events and partnership working that provided the marker of BBE's success in the past year.
The AGM also revealed a little more about BBE's operating procedures and outlook; from a welcome increase in staff working hours to the age profile of trustees, its success at implementing BOPA Child Performance Licences to the geographical spread of training events and even its CO2 footprint.
Little wonder both BBE Chairman Mike Kilroy and CEO, Kenny Crookston were more than willing to take questions about the organisation's results, as well as its future activities and challenges.
Mike's introductory address saw him speak with understandable pride in the BBE staff, as well as what he believed was the increasing awareness of the banding moment in England and beyond of BBE's work.
He was also keen to point out the importance of the ongoing relationship and support offered by Arts Council England at regional and national level — although that was rather undermined a little later in the day by an insipid, cliched ridden 8-minute 'keynote address' by ACE'S Chief Executive Darren Henley OBE.
Kenny Crookston also took the opportunity to thank his staff as he outlined some of the areas in his comprehensive CEO report which confirmed those headline figures.
Membership at the end of the reporting year stood at 392 organisations representing 553 individual bands (there are multiple membership packages) and 30 individual organisations — a 42% increase in the last 12 months.
BBE also staged 44 events across England, which attracted 472 people from over 200 bands to find out more about the BandSafe and receive BOPA training. And whilst the 2020 National Youth Championships had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, ACE had provided £10,700 to meet incurred costs.
Partnership links had been increased and strengthened both with ACE and a number of commercial and representative organisations, whilst it was revealed that BBE was willing to discuss a potential proposal to host the European Championships in 2025 rather than 2024 due to the cancellation of the event in Palanga.
Michael Walsh, Marie Bedford and Nigel Stevens were re-elected as trustees.
The financial report was given by recently appointed treasurer Marie Bedford and also made for encouraging reading.
Although reserves were understandably "not of operating standards" due to COVID-19, it was hoped that over the course of the next funding cycle that they would be able to provide an emergency buffer of around 6-9 months of turnover costs.
As a result BBE posted a small net loss for the financial year ending March 2020.
The trustees report also pinpointed the staff team of "exceptional individuals that deliver to the highest standards possible" and who had "achieved results far beyond the requirements of the Arts Council England funding terms"- including 38 workshops and BOPA licensing seminars to music advocacy and partnership events.
For those who squirrelled deeper into the numbers, the accounts revealed that trustees claimed £2,370 in reimbursement of expenses and that no member of the management committee received any remuneration.
Meanwhile, donations, legacies and trading activity amounted to £297,402 in income (including £207,000 from Arts Council England funding), whilst wages and salaries, social security payments and pension costs amounted to £146,443.
The total amount for employee benefits received by key management personnel (the CEO) was £58,843.
In answering questions, Mike Kilroy revealed that the Norman Jones Trust was still operational with around £30,000 in its coffers that could be applied for, whilst the extra year of ACE funding (given to all NPOs) would not impact on their proposals and ambitions for the next round funding applications.
Membership at the end of the reporting year stood at 392 organisations representing 553 individual bands (there are multiple membership packages) and 30 individual organisations — a 42% increase in the last 12 months4BR
Reduce funding dependency
Kenny Crookston confirmed that BBE was hoping to reduce its ACE funding dependency further — from its current 73% to around 60% of total turnover, although BBE was aware that success was a doubled-edged sword, as shown with many successful arts organisations who had found great difficulty during the Coronavirus pandemic.
And although it was difficult to breakdown the overall £585K of primary and secondary funding received by the brass bands sector from ACE (which showed five 'regions' where funding was spent rather than the six 'areas' the banding movement could more readily identify with) they would enquire to see if this was possible in time and given resources.
Interestingly though was the admittance by Kenny Crookston that although BBE was "always willing to work with others"in the brass band movement (although he did mention the encouraging progress being made in Northern Ireland and Wales), no other organisation, contest promoter or representative body had yet approached them to do so.
He also stated that the Westminster Parliament, APP Group on Brass Bands was now effectively defunct although BBE would explore more effective future ways to initiate links to parliamentarians.