Bring back Norman...

There is a bit of a historical precedent of brass bands finding it hard to get money from a Tory government it seems, despite having an unlikely alley of our cause in 1973...

  Brass bands had an unlikely alley in the form of Tory MP Norman St John Stevas...

If people think that it is only the current Conservative Government that doesn't have a high regard to the plight of the brass band movement then this little episode taken from Hansard in July 1973 (the official report of debates from the House of Commons) may be enlightening.

More money

It was reported in The Times newspaper that the Conservative MP for Ilford North, the Hon Thomas Lascelles Isa Shandon Viliant Iremonger, asked the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Science, Rt Hon Mr Norman St John-Stevas (Conservative) how he could "get some money for the Redbridge Youth Band?"

The request Hansard noted, was met with laughter in the chamber, as the Minister replied; "Not from me — nor from the Arts Council..."

Pressed further by Mr David Clark (Colne Valley, Labour) the Minster was asked if, "...he could draw to the attention of the Arts Council the importance of the brass band movement to the cultural life of this country and request them to give money either the regional councils to individual brass bands or to the National Youth Brass Band?"

The Minster replied that was "sanguine"that a request to the Arts Council Music Panel for funding for the National Youth Band "...will eventually have a happy outcome", but that other funding for brass bands should come from local councils.


His announcement received one sycophantic show of support from Mr Cooke (Bristol West, Conservative) who gushed: "This is a classic example of where popular art has received greater emphasis under this Government."

The Minister (accompanied by yet more laughter according to Hansard) replied: "I think we need both popular and elite art".

Sympathetic alley?

Despite the crass laughter that came from the Tory benches, Norman St John Stevas (1929-2012) was regarded as a sympathetic champion for the Arts — and brass bands — when he was appointed Minster of State in late 1973.

He had been to a performance of Gilbert Vinter's 'The Trumpets' earlier in the year as part of the 'Fanfare for Europe' concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

On his Ministerial appointment the Labour MP, William Price, who had championed Arts Council resources for the National Youth Band of Great Britain, said; "It goes against the grain to compliment a Tory member, but brass bands have a very valuable ally in Mr Norman St John Stevas".

The Minister (accompanied by yet more laughter according to Hansard) replied: "I think we need both popular and elite art"4BR

Prize giver

He later served a second term as Minster for the Arts from 1979 to 1981, presenting the prizes at the National Finals in 1979 before becoming ennobled as The Lord St John of Fawsley in 1987.

He famously nicknamed Mrs Thatcher 'TINA' — as in 'There is no alternative' — and said she no interest in the arts.

At a time when freelance musicians are being told that they need to be 'viable' or retain to become cyber workers perhaps we could do with another Norman St John Stevas on the Tory benches?

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