BRASS BAND ENGLAND. Does it have a future?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Frontman, Apr 1, 2013.

  1. Frontman

    Frontman Member

    Numerous discussions have taken place for several months now and still BBE have not made a statement or given any direction into which direction bands should go. After several high level meetings Kevin Holdgate and myself have released the following statement in order to evaluate the support towards our suggestion.
    If anyone would care to reply to either one of us with letters of support from yourselves or your respective Band please send via email as listed at bottom of statement. We would also like to receive comments from BBE Members on your opinions of the problem


    With the Regional Championships now completed time has now come to restart the debate with regards to the future direction of the brass band movement in England and the position of Brass Band England (BBE). What became very clear in the lengthy debate that took place at the start of this year with regards to Kapitol, the BBBR and the Regional competitions was that BBE was not fit for purpose with its current management structure.

    The chaotic meeting that took place in Barnsley was evidence enough that the management of BBE were more interested in making ‘unfounded’ and ‘unproven’ allegations against individuals not there to defend themselves, than they were in offering any semblance of a solution to the issues that were meant to be discussed. It was very apparent that committee members and management of BBE present on the day had their own agendas, which they were quite happy to pursue regardless of the purpose of the meeting. They had no answers to the fundamental questions being posed by the bandsmen and women there, nor could they offer any retort to the position put forward by Mr Morris of Kapitol.

    It became very clear during the course of the meeting at Barnsley that any concept of trust that we may have held in the supposed ‘custodians’ of the movement in England was misplaced. In our view, and that of many other people we spoke to at the meeting, and in the ensuing months that have passed that there is no place in the movement for the ongoing ‘power struggles’ and uncalled for ‘mud slinging’ from the officials of BBE who are charged with the development of brass bands in England.

    The concept of BBE as an organisation is a sound one. Anyone who believes that the brass band movement should be preserved, nurtured and developed in England will recognise that a well organised, co-ordinated approach through a parent body must be the best way ahead. However we are more than ever convinced that this task cannot be entrusted to the current management at BBE.

    BBE currently has a membership of 243 bands, associations and individuals. This represents less than 10% of the estimated number of brass bands in England, which could hardly be described as representative. By way of comparison the Scottish Brass Band Association boasts a 100% representation level, the Welsh Association is also close to 100%. Both of these associations are in full control of their own competitions, youth development structures, registry's and futures. Both of these associations have received substantial financial support from the Arts Council of Great Britain in recent times.

    What have BBE been doing in the mean time?

    From what we can see, lots of talk about Kapitol, lots of talk about how well they are operating the BBBR, but very little by way of visible action. The recent appointment of a new Development Officer with experience of education is perhaps a welcome move, particularly after meeting the previous post holder at the Barnsley meeting, however given the somewhat limited funding available for England currently we remain sceptical of what can be achieved in this role at the present time.

    What are the possible alternatives?

    First of all we must congratulate Mr Morris for bringing into sharp focus how totally ineffective BBE is, as a ‘parent’ body for the brass band movement in England.

    Robert Morgan and the executive members of BBE have failed to operate an effective organisation that can be trusted with the administration of the movement.

    The problems at BBBR are the subject of an industrial tribunal being held in July, and at this stage therefore should not and cannot be discussed here, however the result of the actions taken by the executive committee of BBE led directly to the formation of the new Brass Band Players Registry, controlled by Mr Morris.

    We have no confidence in the executive committee of BBE. We know that this is a view held by many other people within the movement and we believe that there are many more people in the movement who hold the same view. Now is time for everyone to step forward and voice that view. Nothing will change unless the executive committee of BBE is removed by a vote of no confidence.

    A number of meetings have taken place to discuss how best to proceed towards this goal and it is now proposed to hold a meeting at the Spring Festival Competition in Blackpool on 11th May.

    More details of the time and venue will be announced in the next few weeks.

    In the meantime if you wish to express your views on this matter we would be very happy to discuss this with all interested parties. It would also be advantageous if BBE Members would contact us with their point of view.

    Our email addresses are :-

    Kevin Holdgate & David W Ashworth.
  2. IanHeard

    IanHeard Member

    Interesting spin there fella`s!
    I fail to see how you can criticise BBE for being an ineffective 'parent body' when they have been blocked at every opportunity by Kapitol and certain elements on the regional committees whenever any attempt has been made to empower them to run things.
    The reason the Scots (and the Welsh in the future perhaps) have 100% membership of their contesting bands is because they don`t have a private company in and across their national contest interfering, and weren't there rumours that the real reason Kapitol binned BBBR was the suggestion by a BBE insider that BBE membership be a condition of a bands registration renewal every year?
    The current management of BBE may very well be ****, but English bandings problems begin and end with a certain Mr Morris in my opinion.
  3. Frontman

    Frontman Member

    The first point I need to bring to your attention, is that Brass Band England as a 'Parent Body' have done absolutely nothing to keep bands informed since well before the start of the Registry farce, which was long before Kapitol got involved. The question you need to ask yourself is did BBE do anything to sort out a problem which was brought on by themselves? The answer to that is a definate NO.

    The Second point is that the reason that Scotland have 100% and Wales have almost 100% membership is that the bands have total faith in the SBBA and WBBA and has absolutely nothing to do with Kapitol. In case you are not aware, the Welsh and Scottish Bands who win their National Championships are invited by Kapitol to partake in the National Championships. They do not hold Regional Qualifying contest like we have in England.
  4. Archer

    Archer Member

    I see what you did there - great April fools mate.

    Who said Morris and co don't have a sense of humour.
  5. IanHeard

    IanHeard Member

    BBE aren't a parent body, this was blocked when Kapitol and the regions withdrew from the UKBBA initiative.
    There is also a school of thought that the problems with the registry were caused when two people went 'rogue' and as a result Kapitol took advantage. Two people who incidently were quite happy to share a platform with Mr Morris before xmas....go figure!

    Regarding your second point, the biggest factor in the 100% membership enjoyed by the celtic nations is that it is a condition of entry for their national/regional contest to be a member. You`re expecting rather a high level of membership and engagement in the BBE from English bands considering the limited power and influence on our hobby we`ve entrusted them with aren't you?
    Comparing the fully empowered SBBA and WBBA with BBE is laughable on your part.
  6. Frontman

    Frontman Member

    Ian, I have no intention of getting into a slanging match, however, I thank you for your points of view which will be noted and discussed in a future meeting.

    Regarding the Registry comment, I am sure that the truth will come out on 15th July this year when the industrial tribunal is heard.
  7. Archer

    Archer Member

    I'm on my mobile so can't really get into any long replies however those two points alone jumped out at me as well when reading this.

    While I'm not shocked that 4BR published this as we all know who they side with on this debate, I'm a little annoyed that people who are obviously under-informed are afforded a press release on 4BR simply because of who they are.

    My advice to BBE is to follow Kapitol and the NoE's example and refuse to accept any vote, ruling or call for a meeting - see how the other camp like it.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  8. IanHeard

    IanHeard Member

    I have to agree, Mr Morris causes perhaps the biggest schism in the history of English banding and these two chaps single out BBE!
  9. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Uh-huh. What about Robert Alexander? Where were BFBB then? Or when Boosey and Hawkes Band Festivals went pear-shaped? The registry saga is the latest in a long history of BFBB missed opportunities, wasted funds and incompetence. BBE do a few things well - running the Youth Championships, for instance, thanks to Gary Walzcak and the team - but many things that they could and should be looking after are totally out of their purview. They have no involvement in the NYBBGB, for example, nor have they stepped in to save the Archive in Wigan now it's running out of money. In theory BBE is a great idea, but I'm really struggling to see how it benefitted banding before the current debacle, and even less so now. I couldn't care less about the Registry, I'd scrap the lot tomorrow, it's a bl00dy great shackle round the ankle of banding, but the current management of BBE have proven pretty conclusively that they can't properly manage even that simple task. And it is a simple task. With a couple of moderately talented SQL, Python and Objective-C programmers I could have it set up to run over the internet and mobile apps in a week. No more faffing with cards and paper records; job done.

    The main reason the registry argument got to the point that it did was that leadership of the BFBB (as it then was) wanted to make membership a condition of using the registry for English bands, and Frank and Colin opposed them, feeling that the BFBB didn't have the mandate to do this. I actually think this was a sensible idea, and the last hope for the BFBB to be truly representative of 100% of English bands. For all our mute admiration of SBBA, how many of really believe that they would have 100% membership if they hadn't made it compulsory for bands wishing to enter the Scottish Championship (and, effectively, use the Scottish Registry)? The only way to get every contesting band in England as members of the BFBB, and hence build a workable mandate, would be to make either entering the Nationals OR using the Registry conditional on membership. By digging their heels in to oppose this, Frank and Colin scuppered it and effectively the whole future plans of the BFBB/BBE including their promises to the Arts Council about how many members they were going to get, and I get the impression that Robert Morgan has taken this personally - hence the relentless and bitter fight to get bands to reject the BBP registry. Frank and Colin did indeed initially side with Kapitol, presumably using the US Foreign Policy principle of "my enemy's enemy is my friend", but once they realised that BBP was going to be based in Wales and was unlikely to involve the previous registry's staff in any way, cooled pretty quickly.

    The reason Kapitol were so quick off the mark with their own registry is twofold - 1) they were right when they said that the registry in the run-up to the lower section finals was a complete and utter shambles, and if they'd insisted on using it there would have been irregularities, complaints, and disqualifications all over the place, but mainly 2) if BBE had succeeded in making every contesting band become members in order to use the registry they'd have been in the same strong position as Scotland is now, and able to dictate terms to the National Championships in a previously unprecedented fashion.

    However, there's an almost compulsive desire on the part of some here to immediately hijack any further debate so as to get more anti-Morris/Kapitol vitriol going. Why? Couldn't we just all try to be pro-brass bands, for a few days? The whole problem was of BFBB's instigation as part of a poorly executed "master plan" and Morris merely took advantage of a business opportunity when it presented itself; there seems to be this odd idea that Kapitol have some sacred holy duty not to make money all of a sudden. Not so; they are simply the latest custodians to attempt to make money out of the Nationals, and one of the few to succeed. This isn't a new thing. The Daily Herald did; Vaughan Morris did, or at least tried to; Robert Alexander didn't but not for want of aggressive trying, B&H did at first. The history of the Nationals is one of "outsiders" doing their level best to make a profit by promoting a contest, and the registry was launched as a corollary to that by the Daily Herald in 1945. At no point during that turbulent history has the BFBB, or the National Brass Band Club, or any other "national" body proved itself willing or able to run both together. If Kapitol fail, there won't be some sudden miraculous epiphany of democracy while BBE smoothly step in and take it all over, because they don't have the funds or the organisation to do it. There just won't be a National Championships, for a while, until/unless the next lot of "outsiders" try their luck.

    As far as a vote of no confidence goes, I am in agreement with David. Those who currently run BBE have proved over and over again that they are out of their depth. The reason Kapitol have been able to put a spanner so firmly in the works is that BBE failed in their own internal planning and management so spectacularly. The concept of the organisation isn't fundamentally flawed, but the current management is. However, I'm pretty sure that only members of member bands could put down a motion of no confidence.

    Interesting to see Archer suggesting that BBE should simply ignore any such motion - I suspect that the Charities Commission and Arts Council would take a dim view of this, and if this happened and was made public, it would be the end of BBE politically. The constitution of most committee-based organisations allows for motions of no-confidence to be put at extraordinary meetings assuming that enough members call for it. The NoE Regional Committee may well have ignored requests for an EGM (I genuinely don't know, and I'm sure that concerned bands and individuals in that region will have plenty to say about that at the region's AGM) but since Alan Hope has now resigned, the end result has more or less worked out the same. It'll be interesting to see how many other regional committees are hauled over the coals in the next few months. And Kapitol was never under any obligation to have any meetings or consultations about anything. They're the owners. not a democratically mandated supervisory group. The only sanction bands have is not to enter their competition, a sanction that very few appear to have chosen in the end.
  10. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    Quite so. Although you omitted to mention John Henry Iles, a man with no previous interest in brass bands, who made his money by providing entertainment to the general public (fairground rides, greyhound race meetings etc.), and without whom the national contest would never have come about, because up until then (and forever after) bandsmen had shown no interest or ability to organise things for themselves. But this will all be water off a duck's back to Ian - he has made it clear to me more than once that he is not interested in history, so there I will stop. Good luck.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  11. IanHeard

    IanHeard Member

    Don`t worry James, although Anno gave a good account of himself with his last post, you for me are still the 'go to man' when it comes to a none too interesting and broadly irrelevant banding history lesson.
    I do accept that the National has had it`s problems in the past, but stand by my comment that this event has caused the biggest division amongst ordinary bandspeople in England.
    Perhaps it might be for the best if the BBE Executive were to move over and in the interests of building a consensus with the other stakeholders in English banding give someone else a go, but I can`t condemn them too much when they, unlike the much lauded SBBA have never been empowered to do the things that some people seem to think they`re so cr*p at.
  12. Pauli Walnuts

    Pauli Walnuts Moderator Staff Member

    No, it has caused some division among some ordinary bandspeople. In the bands I am involved with, just 2 people have any serious opinion on this whole matter. That represents a very small percentage.

    A well written post @Anno Draconis - deserving of more than just a "like" button.
  13. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    That definitely differs from my experience. I have to that apart from Mike Lyons, I don't personally know anyone in banding who could care less about who runs the registry - and most of my banding friends are in the North West, which appears to have been one of the regions where it was a big issue. Without any actual hard data we're all extrapolating from personal experience here, but I really don't see the division that you mention. I have no knowledge of how things are on the ground in the SW, of course, it may well be significantly different.

    Chicken and egg, though, isn't it? They were never empowered because they never gave enough bands enough incentives to join, and thereby give them that mandate. If they were demonstrably an awesome force for good in the brass banding world, maybe they'd have more members, but given the general apathy I suspect not that many more than now. As I said above, enforcing membership as a condition of using the registry would have been the only way I could see of really building membership so that BBE represented 100% of contesting bands, and that boat has been well and truly scuppered.
  14. IanHeard

    IanHeard Member

    I guess we all have different perceptions as to what constitutes a schism in banding terms Andrew, we`ve had bands entering their area contest with registry cards that aren't recognised by the owners of the National and in one instance a band foregoing their place at the Nationals because of it, entries were down on last years National I think I`m right in saying, a situation perhaps not helped by the registry debacle.
    We`ve had local officials abused and sworn at by bandspeople and unless I`ve misread the runes on here, I don`t think your Area committee has to healthy a relationship with their counterparts across the Pennines, apologies if I`ve got that wrong though.
    We`ve had resignations from another Area committee amid allegations of due process not being followed, we`ve had umpteen pages of healthy argument on these boards on the subject and the protagonists on both sides have used the banding media to put their side of the story across ad infinitum, not forgetting of course the upcoming industrial tribunal case you mentioned.
    Not your average build up to the Area contests I would suggest.
  15. matti_raz

    matti_raz Member

    This. Quite simply the most erudite and fair comment in over 100 pages of similar comment on this website. I wrote something like this a while ago, but found myself getting wound up at what seemed simple common sense. Nail and head, sir.

    Perhaps we're all ready to start having serious grown up discussion now? I can only hope.
  16. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    And you have no idea how alone that currently makes me feel, Andy. Despite a lot of 'noises off' there are very few who stuck to their principles over this issue. Not who runs the registry as such, but how someone thinks they can walk rough-shod over people - me, in particular - and expect me to just roll over and play dead. It is not going to happen. It seems to me that a number of bands said they wouldn't play ball and then, once they realised that they might now stand a chance of a placing they otherwise might not get (or deserve), practically knotted themselves in a back-snapping U-turn. I think a couple of bands also tried to hedge their bets by committing to Blackpool with both sets of cards in their pockets - but then found out that they couldn't get away with that. Well played, Krapitol!
  17. mattthebass

    mattthebass Member

    You're not alone Mike! I didn't enter Blackpool until I could on my Barnsley card and registered with it on the day. We could start up a Tuba duo together, bagsy not being the comedy fall guy!
  18. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Unfortunately, some members of my band decided that, after our good result at Preston, we were in with a shot (and we were) and the committee voted to go on BBPL cards. That meant I couldn't play and so I ended up in the audience. Nice to know I've got company. If we get two more tubists we might be in business! Despite some evidence to the contrary, I would probably be better at the straight man role! :D
  19. Hey, Mike.....don't feel lonely our whole band took a vote and decided not to enter....

    Andrew summed it up nicely as he always does and has raised the pertinent question once again "How does David Ashworth intend to get bands or bandspeople interested?"

    In essence having being indirectly linked to the BFBB/BBE and being interested in banding for a significant number of years I have to say that after all of this I really have to join with Howard Snell and Richard Evans in the view that bands have no interest in a collective body for any purpose not even a registry.

    Sadly those who were trying to move the BFBB/BBE into being a body wider than a contesting collective are those that have been driven away and the new Liaison Officer lauded by Mr Ashworth only has a funded role because of the hard work of the previous Liaison Officer and the retiring Treasurer. In reality funded roles of any kind only exist because of the hard work of the Treasurer and Chairman....go figure!

    Yes, progress has been slow....but it was being made even to the point of the changes in August last year to the constitution of the new BBE to allow for postal/proxy voting at General Meetings. A major step forward since getting anymore than a handful of people to attend any meeting in relation to brass bands or pretty much any other community group is nigh on impossible.

    Good luck David, but a more positive proposal as to what you intend to do with BBE as Chairman would have been more useful and inspiring.


    Hadrian Walters
  20. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    Anyone feel this is rather soft response to what is clearly a serious attempt to beef up BBE? BBE response