I hope that you and your families are safe and well and are surviving these strange times. Please forgive the long post so you might want to get a coffee and settle down to read!
Owing to the pandemic, brass banding has, like many other activities taken a huge hit due to lock-down and the restrictions on playing brass/wind instruments indoors. It is now coming up to 5 months (March 22) since I tried to arrange a gathering of interested parties to meet in Cardiff, to discuss the formation of a unified Welsh brass band organisation. Sadly lock-down was implemented just before we were able to meet therefore we initiated Plan B and met online through a Zoom Meeting. This was admittedly with limited success owing to technical issues and was met with some scepticism and even derision from certain quarters.
My reason for writing is that since then, absolutely nothing has happened in moving this proposal forward and I don’t think I’m over-egging the pudding by saying that the movement is in a significantly more precarious position, than we were 5 months ago, with the prospects of “normal” banding as we know it a distant dream as things stand. There is also the concern whether players (particularly the younger ones), conductors and officers will return to the fold, having now discovered other activities and interests to occupy their time and attention. Concert/Contest venues may not even be in existence for us to perform anywhere decent in the future and with further public spending cuts highly likely, to cover the huge costs of the pandemic; music in education will be non-existent. We are also approaching the Autumn months, meaning our potential activities will be curtailed even further, further affecting revenue and membership retention/recruitment.
I have been “encouraged” by a few colleagues (some who were a part of that initial meeting in March, as well as some new faces) to once again ask the question whether now is the time for action and get the ball finally rolling, before it gets too late to salvage what is already a serious situation for brass banding in Wales. The meeting on March 22 was the warning call that an “iceberg” was on the horizon and action was required. Covid-19 happened and I believe we have now truly hit that “iceberg” and if we don’t act now, then with no representative body the “ship” WILL eventually sink, with almost all hands on board.
The response following the last meeting was to wait until restrictions and lock-down etc. had ended and then to have a face-to-face meeting to discuss the matter. Great, who’s going to suggest an appropriate central venue in Wales and then jump in the car for a potential minimum 2-3+ hour drive, plus the drive back, plus to agree a convenient date to wipe off their schedule, so that we can discuss things? It was a minor miracle that I got 20+ people to agree to meet initially in Cardiff. Yes Cardiff, not central I grant you and I got it in the neck for that too, but the geographical spread of respondents able to attend meant that it was the BEST place for those to attend.
So, is there anything really wrong, now that people are so much more tech-aware and receptive to Zoom or Teams, that we can’t meet once again, being older and wiser with it all and get things moving finally?
OR DO WE INDEED LOOK AT PREFERRED PLAN A?
Are you truly happy to invest in the future of Welsh banding? To invest your time, money and energy by jumping in the car and driving to Newtown or somewhere similar in order that we can discuss these matters face to face? I believe the Welsh Regional Council met this week (observing social distancing of course); therefore it seems people are prepared to get out and about in the name of Welsh banding! Either way, the choice is yours.
The “encouragers” who have prodded me to write to you have also added that as nobody else has initiated any progress do we need to wait for the approval or blessing of others? Frankly, no we don’t and as long as we can gather a decent sized cross-section of the banding world in Wales to get things started in a democratically and constituted manner, then why not? The detractors will continue to detract, the whingers will whinge and the cynics and critics will be ever cynical and critical. In fact the cynics probably won’t bother turning up because “what’s the point, nobody else will?”!!!! We are no longer a brass band movement as the hand-brake is well and truly up. We need action and fast!
This is a massive undertaking; however change can only be implemented by drawing a line in the sand and making that first step, followed by one more step, followed …… I hope you see where I’m going with this? But, yes it is really as simple as that!
We may well be looking at the long term goals, where a Welsh Brass Band Organisation is able to; organise the 2025 Welsh Youth Brass Band Festival, to provide online resources for member bands covering a geographical area from Ynys Môn to Chepstow to Pembroke Dock, to secure funding streams from Arts Council Wales on behalf of member bands or to send a Welsh Representative to the next European Brass Band Association AGM however, if we have no central organisation with proper governance, these will be just “dreams”.
If there is a majority agreement from you to have another go and make a fist of things, great, then let’s crack on with it. If not, that’s fine too, as I’m not claiming to have all the answers or any magic spell to make things right, however to sit back and suck our thumbs whilst watching the ship go down, in my view is a dereliction of duty to the pastime that we so love. By the way, did anyone ring the coastguard to say we’re sinking? Perhaps we should have a vote as to who rings? No, let’s wait until we can meet face-to-face!
This is not intended to be a “join me or I’ll have a hissy fit, throw my toys out of the pram” letter, but it is to encourage you to do SOMETHING. If I’m not your cup of tea to do something, fine, just find someone who is and who will take that first step in making some progress and I will be happy to pitch in and help them if asked.
So after all that sabre-rattling, I will close by inviting you to take action and join me and other willing participants for a meaningful and productive discussion:
When: Saturday 12th of September 2020
Time: 11.00am – 4.00pm
Where: Plas Dolerw
Or Online where we hope to live-stream the meeting for those who can’t travel.
Yes, I bit the bullet in an effort to appease everyone and it’s provisionally booked!
The venue can safely accommodate a maximum of 12 people observing social-distancing. “But that’s limiting how many can attend!” I hear the whingers and nay-sayers immediately cry! I’ll counter that with “So what if I book the Royal Albert Hall and only 8 people turn up ….?”
I’d be delighted if we were over-subscribed, but on current track-records, people won’t be queuing round the block!
So if you’re ready, willing and able to commit, please respond ASAP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07973 869621 or easier still, fill in the contact form below.
The clock is ticking! Tick-tock, tick-tock ……..