FORMIDABLE FODEN'S - Full coverage from the 2021 National Brass Band Championships

Issue 6112

HOW TO IMPRESS - Amos Miller on flourishing in a conservatoire audition

COMPOSER CAST - Liz Lane on her fascinating early musical life

DEPARTURE - Cornet star Kirsty Abbotts leaves Carlton Main

Opinion: Don't blame bands for funding feat

Saturday 10 April, 2021

Some of England’s most prominent banding names had cause for celebration recently after it was announced they were to receive major financial lifelines.

As reported previously by British Bandsman, several organisations were awarded tens of thousands of pounds to help them navigate their way through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brighouse and Rastrick Band was awarded £68,600 while Black Dyke Band received £38,040. Brass Bands England was awarded £43,136 and Grimethorpe Colliery Band benefited from £47,515. Kapitol Promotions Ltd, which runs the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, received £50,000.

Also among those benefiting from the funding was SATCoL Ltd, which owns World of Brass, World of Sound, SP&S and Studio Music; it received £87,976. The Royal Northern College of Music, meanwhile, received £133,033.

More than £300 million was awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country in the latest round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund, announced on April 2.

Such sums will play a vital part in keeping those organisations on an even keel at a time when the boat has been well and truly rocked. The COVID-19 pandemic – with its ensuing lockdowns – has taken an enormous toll on the arts and bands have not been immune, with many normal income streams having dried up for more than a year.

For all the positivity, news of the funding awards didn’t draw universal praise from the banding community. Cue angry mutterings on social media, frustrated at some ‘big hitters’ receiving decent slices of the pie while others were left without. “Yet again, the big bands get it all while others get nothing,” was one comment. “Why doesn’t X band look after the banding movement and split its funding with lower sections bands?” was another. A further commentator admitted he had no idea that such funding was available – but was still angry that his band had been overlooked.

Bands in the First to Fourth sections, along with youth and non-competing ensembles, are part of the fabric of the movement; there should be a band for every age and stage and without bands across sections One to Four, there would be no ‘top flight’. To criticise Championship Section bands for being successful in obtaining funding, however, seems unfortunate and some of the comments displayed a lack of knowledge about how funding applications work, from the Culture Recovery Fund or otherwise.

First of all, it’s necessary to submit an application, the preparation of which can be an arduous process. Prospective recipients usually have to be specific in how any funding would be used, and when; cries of “We’ve done nothing for a year, we’re skint, help us out” won’t cut it.

Further derision came when it was suggested the successful bands would have done better to keep their funding successes private instead of shouting from the rooftops, at a time when others are struggling. While the sentiment is understandable, it is often a condition of a funding award that a successful applicant shares the news via media channels; a cursory glance at the social media sites of many of England’s leading arts organisations around the Culture Recovery Fund announcement would have offered up many messages of a similar nature.

For those complaining of being unaware about funding being available, there is little sympathy. It may have put the brakes on in-person, non-professional music making but the pandemic has not stopped committees from talking. Some have done it especially well, with more than one story of committees keeping in touch far more regularly over the past year than was the case previously, thanks to the rise of Zoom, Teams and similar offerings. Perhaps now more than ever, bands’ committees must be proactive – sitting and waiting for a funding award to drop into one’s lap shows contempt for their organisation and those within it.

Some may have applied for the Culture Recovery Fund, only to be rejected or find that they didn’t match the criteria. Rejection can be a bitter pill to swallow but those that missed out should take heart; there are other sources of support out there. From local authorities to charitable trusts, funding pots big and small do exist – albeit they often take some unearthing.

Applying for grant funding often requires a particular style of writing, in addition to a considerable level of detail. Not every band may possess the skills required – but someone else might. A friend, family member or business associate might be able to offer useful guidance on what to include to give a band the best possible chance of succeeding in obtaining that funding award. Brass Bands England is also on hand to offer advice and support; it has previously held webinars for bands looking for more advice on the matter.

That brass bands – and umbrella associations like Brass Bands England – are among the organisations being recognised at a national level is to be celebrated. Those that were successful have a responsibility to use the money wisely and it remains to be seen how effectively some will create lasting legacies which better their organisations and their communities. Let’s support them in their quest, learn from their trials and tribulations and hopefully next time, even more bands will benefit from support at the very highest level.

Mark Good