Welcome to Complaints in Wonderland

2015-08-01 Ealing Jazz Fest 7944

Welcome to Complaints in Wonderland. Over the years I have been writing letters of complaint to companies and  non-commercial organisations,  I soon learnt that some  people take themselves so seriously that the only way to deal with them is to inject as much humour as possible into the correspondence and then sometimes, as these people seem to have the armour plating of a Dreadnought,  frankness is required. In the interests of fairness  I have also published letters of complaint that have been dealt with in a positive and exemplary manner.The postings are in no particular chronological order but I kick off with NatWest in 2000. So just keep scrolling down for many and various posts. I have redacted names where appropriate as invariably it is a case of  the “donkeys” in the boardrooms leading the “lions” on the shop floor. What a marvellous word redacted is. It brings to mind a take on an Eric Morecombe joke; “Has he or she been redacted? No,it’s just the way they walk”.

I also use this site to comment on various matters aired in the press as well as economics, politics, idiocy in general and the funding of jazz in the UK  by Arts Council England  and Arts Council Wales. To say there is room for improvement with  regard to the funding of jazz in the UK is the understatement of the 21st Century

Regrettably I will not be able to answer postings or comments and if I do it will have to be brief. However any abusive remarks containing strong language will not be answered, the correspondent will just have to satisfy themselves with the fact that if I did respond it would be along the lines that their comments, “are the nicest thing that any one has ever said about me”.

If you have enjoyed reading these letters, articles and  letters in the press. I would be grateful if you could donate to the National Jazz Archive to help them raise the profile  jazz in the UK. Just click on the website button and give what ever you can. This site is paid for by me. Rest assured your donations will be going to help musicians make sure jazz is performed in the UK  fifty two weeks in the year.

Chris Hodgkins

The BBC and Andrew Marr on jazz

Andrew Marr on his Sunday morning television show on the 13th March 2011 gave a wholly convincing performance that demonstrated that his knowledge of jazz is restricted to cheap laughs. The link below is to the Guardian where it was reported.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/mediamonkeyblog/2012/jan/31/andrew-marr-clarkson

I wrote to the Mark Thompson Director General and took it through every stage of the complaints process. The whole exercise was a prima facie case for an independent BBC Complaints Ombudsman. There is an even stronger case to have the remuneration of  people like Marr scrutinised as there seems to be a  gravy train that rolls down the tracks regardless of the fact that the TV License payer has to fork out for their vastly  inflated pay. The role of the BBC Complaints Ombudsman has now expanded to the BBC Complaints and Pay Review Ombudsman.

“It was clear from the Programme that Marr does not like jazz and was allowed by the producers to vent his prejudices on a programme that was watched by a great number of people who not only like jazz; who expect from the BBC something better than Marr’s ill informed views and sloppy journalism……………..” To read more

Please click on “The BBC and Andrew Marr on jazz” to access the correspondence

 

Donate to the National Jazz Archive

The National Jazz Archive holds the UK’s finest collection of written, printed and visual material on jazz, blues and related music, from the 1920s to the present day. Founded in 1988 by trumpeter Digby Fairweather, the Archive’s vision is to ensure that the rich tangible cultural heritage of jazz is safeguarded for future generations of enthusiasts, professionals and researchers.

In 2011 the Archive received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to conserve and catalogue the collection. As a result many photographs, journals, documents and learning resources are being made available on this site.

The National Jazz Archive is  a registered charity, number 327894 and is managed by a group of expert trustees with backgrounds in heritage, archives, jazz, law and education.

The Archive exists to help researchers, students, the media and the general Enthusiast – and is based at Loughton in Essex, just inside the M25.

Please donate to the National Jazz Archive here: National Jazz Archive

Ministers have come to the rescue. Artists must seize this chance – up to a point Lord Copper

The leader article, “Ministers have come to the rescue. Artists must seize this chance” in the Guardian on the 2nd June (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/06/the-guardian-view-on-15bn-for-the-arts-the-shows-will-go-on) sounds reasonable till you analyse the Arts Council’s 10 year strategy “Lets Create”.

“Let’s Create” reads as if written by people remote from the practical issues  which the arts face every day and given its limited resources, its goals are unachievable.

Musicians, dancer, painters, poets, writer, singers have been conveniently dumped into a box marked “Creative practitioners”. This is one size fits all and ignores the diversity of expression. Culture has been reduced to a homogenous blob and creativity has been simplified to a uniform act, a level playing field in which the participants are all the same.

The fundamental flaw is the absence of any art form policy and the Arts Council’s failure to resolve inequalities in its last ten-year plan, should be publicly scrutinised and held to account

Furthermore I see no concrete thinking of where we want to be?  Now the money is in place the arts requires the development of a national arts plan that brings all the components of the arts together from pubs to cinemas; from opera houses to folk and jazz clubs, from theatres to art galleries. To make this happen the arts deserve a reformation in arts funding with an organisation that can deliver a rolling, realistic and coherent national plan for the arts where under-represented musics and art forms finally get a place in the sun.


Congratulations to Oliver Dowden on the £1.5 billion rescue package for the arts and culture

Congratulation to Oliver Dowden Secretary of State Culture, Media and Sport on listening and delivering a £1.5 billion rescue package for the arts. However there are caveats; where and how will the money be spent, who will deliver the money to beleaguered organisations and musicians? Will under-represented musics find a place in the sun?

Stress Testing

I recently appeared in a podcast with Nicoleta Porojanu a psychologist and therapist from London. It was an interesting interview where the topic of stress was discussed. Stress is explored and what is causing stress in our modern world and the terrible impact it has on our mental activity, emotional life and physical body. Music is the perfect antidote and the power of music helps in healing and coping with stress. The podcast looked at ways learn to spot stress early and act timely to remove this silent killer from your life.

You can hear the podcast hear:

Dowden does not want to let anyone down – cue laughter

There was an article in the Guardian on the 18th June 2020, “Act to save industry, leading lights of stage urge government” https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/jun/17/cultural-catastrophe-uk-theatre-faces-ruin-amid-coronavirus-crisis . Dowden was quoted as saying  “he does not want to let anyone down”. Well his insouciance to date has let a whole raft of jazz musicians and volunteer jazz promoters down and almost out for the count. I see no concrete thinking of where we want to be?

What is required is leadership and bold actions. Firstly there needs to be a Marshall Aid Plan for the arts, secondly the development of a national arts plan that brings all the components of the arts together from pubs to cinemas; from opera houses to folk and jazz clubs, from theatres to art galleries. Thirdly, a national arts festival to reboot the arts. Finally there needs to be a reformation in the funding of the arts with an organisation that can deliver a rolling, realistic and coherent national plan for the arts that ensures equitable funding where under-represented musics and art forms finally get a place in the sun.

For the avoidance of doubt in 2018/19, Opera received £57.1 million, classical music £19 million and jazz £1.6 million. Classical music concerts are attended by 3.4 million people, 2.1 million people attend jazz concerts and 1.7 million people attend opera.

After the war the arts came back stronger?

Charlotte Higgins in her article, “After the war the arts came back stronger” had a self-prophesying ring about it. (Please see https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/18/war-arts-stronger-covid-19-devastated-theatres-museums-imagination) Ms Higgins erroneously says that the war was the last time cultural organisations ground to a halt. The Arts Council developed from the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) that was set up during World War 2. In June 1945 CEMA became the Arts Council of Great Britain. Maynard Keynes, in a palpable conflict of interests, became the first Chair of the Arts Council and also the Chair of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.

In 1945/46 the English Folk Song and Dance Society (EFSDS) received £500 and the Royal Opera House £30,000. In today’s money this would equate to £22,098 for the EFSDS and £1,265,888 for the Royal Opera House. The grant for the Royal Opera House in 2017/18 was £24,772,000, a nineteen-fold increase on 1946 and the English Folk Song and Dance Society was £432,046, representing a nineteen-fold increase. The level of funding for each organisation has remained the same.

For other forms of music such as jazz, folk and brass bands to get a place in the sun their needs to be a paradigm shift and reformation in the funding of the arts in England. The Arts Council’s latest strategy, Let’s Create, is a document full of pious hope and shallow intellectual tropes is the intellectual equivalent of chewing rubber spaghetti – a document written by arts bureaucrats for arts bureaucrats. There are no art form policies. In fact, all arts forms have been boiled down to just two elements: culture and creative practitioners. To recover from the pandemic, a Marshall Aid Plan for the arts in England is essential, coupled with a realistic strategy and tactics that ensures equitable funding for under-represented music and art forms. Once that is in place, an organisation is required that can deliver it. This may not be the Arts Council, which for the past 75 years appear to have been preoccupied with their flagship organisations to the detriment of all the other arts, art forms and creators.

The All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group urge Arts Council England to reinstate National Lottery Projects Grants

Press Release

The All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group urge Arts Council England to reinstate National Lottery Projects Grants

When Arts Council England announced its £160 million emergency rescue package to deal with the coronavirus crisis in March 2020, arts organisations and individuals alike were rightly delighted by such a swift and positive response.

However, an important creative cause is in danger of falling through the cracks. Jazz music, an increasingly dynamic cultural force, and a renowned and invaluable stimulus to many kinds of musicmaking beyond its own borders, has in recent years been significantly dependent on the National Lottery Projects Grants Scheme for the planning of tours and creative projects. The scheme has now been suspended to release funding for the emergency measures – but no provision for its jazz commitments has been suggested in Arts Council England’s responses to queries.

The All-Party Parliamentary Appreciation Group (APPJAG), the influential jazz enthusiasts’ lobby group of MPs and Peers, is now urging Arts Council England to restore the National Lottery Projects Grants Scheme at the earliest opportunity. Individuals and bands seeking to organise tours 12 months or longer ahead cannot wait for the present crisis to be resolved and need to begin approaching promoters and venues now.

On March 28, APPJAG co-chairs John Spellar MP and Lord Mann, and deputy chair Chi Onwurah MP wrote to Darren Henley, Chief Executive Officer of Arts Council England, to raise these concerns. Following an exchange of correspondence on the subject, Darren Henley’s closing response on April 20 observed that protecting the infrastructure of venues used by performing artists required the Arts Council’s full capacity at present, and that although future planning would be difficult for some time, ‘our view is that wider and much greater uncertainties remain, such as what government restrictions may be in operation in the future, and the economic consequences of the intervening period on culture’s infrastructure.’

APPJAG is of the opinion that this response is particularly unhelpful in the jazz context, and will continue to urge Arts Council England to expedite the restoration of the National Lottery Project Grants Scheme with urgency, if ACE is not to make worse an already bad situation for jazz music in the culture-funding pecking-order. It would be ironic if bands and musicians whose current live work has been cancelled, should  also find themselves with no work next year – hopefully in post-Covid-19 conditions – due to the withholding of a relatively modest investment that would enable them to set up their 2021 bookings now.

For further information please contact:

Chris Hodgkins

Tel: 0208 840 4643

Email: chris.hodgkins3@googlemail.com

Notes to editors


The All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) currently has over 116 members from the House of Commons and House of Lords across all political parties. Their aim is to encourage wider and deeper enjoyment of jazz, to increase Parliamentarians’ understanding of the jazz industry and issues surrounding it, to promote jazz as a musical form and to raise its profile inside and outside Parliament. The Group’s officers as at the inaugural meeting on 26th February are  Co-Chairs, John Spellar  MP and Lord Mann, Vice Chairs, Alison Thewless MP and Chi Onwurah MP, the Secretary, Sir Greg Knight MP, the Treasurer is Ian Paisley MP. Officers are: Lord Colwyn, Baroness Howe and Baroness Healy.APPJAG run the Parliamentary Jazz Awards that celebrate and recognise the vibrancy, diversity, talent and breadth of the jazz scene throughout the United Kingdom. The awards have been running since 2005.

The Secretariat is Chris Hodgkins with the assistance of Will Riley-Smith and Louis Flood. The contact address is: appjag1@gmail.com the web address is: https://appjag.wordpress.com/

“Britain dwells on its past, but has no vision for its future”

Timothy Garton Ash in his article “Britain dwells on its past, but has no vision for its future” (The Guardian, 22nd May 2020), sets out where we are now but fights shy of a vision of where we want to be. Asking Keir Starmer to propose a future will undoubtedly provide some useful policies but I fear it will not provide the UK with the representative structure to expedite them.

What is required is a political reformation that will deliver a federal system of government, a reformed and slimmed down House of Commons, an elected second chamber, proportional representation, the voting age lowered to 16 and all citizens resident in the UK who pay taxes – no matter what their nationality – have the right to vote; finally voting is made compulsory by law.

For years Governments of every political stripe have ignored the deindustrialisation of the UK and held themselves in thrall to the city and the service sector. The first priority should be a programme of “green” reindustrialisation including fostering, reinforcing and developing the industry that we have. Make it much harder for the City to treat companies as gambling chips, set up a seriously big industrial development bank that will lend for industrial investment rather than property speculation and require publicly financed services to buy domestic.

“The world looks to British theatre. So let’s get it back on track…”

“The world looks to British theatre. So let’s get it back on track…”

So ran the headline in the Observer on Sunday 24th May 2020. It was an article by Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital Culture Media and Sport. (  https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/may/24/the-world-looks-to-british-theatre-so-lets-get-it-back-on-track ) The article presented the new task force and working groups which was the same old storey with the usual suspects in place. Of course the arts needs to find ways, innovative or otherwise to get back to where people can turn up and experience a live performance. What is required is not spin but substance; a bold vision and bolder actions. Firstly there needs to be a Marshall Aid Plan for the arts, secondly the development of a joined up national arts plan that brings all the components of the arts togeather from pubs to cinemas; from opera houses to folk and jazz clubs, from theatres to art galleries. Thirdly, a national arts festival embracing Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, a festival where all arts forms, in their widest possible sense, and musics are equally represented. The Festival, like the Festival Britain in 1951, should embrace not just the arts but science and technology. Finally there needs to be a reformation in the funding of the arts with an organisation that can deliver a rolling, realistic and coherent national plan for the arts that ensures equitable funding where under-represented musics and art forms finally get a place in the sun.

Reinstatement of Arts Council national lottery grants to help jazz musicians and volunteer jazz promoters.

The Arts Council has announced a rescue package but has suspended national lottery grants that would help jazz musicians and jazz promoters organise tours and plan ahead – to organise a tour or project you have to plan over a year ahead. The suspension of the national lottery grants will now add to the misery.
The Arts Council needs to reinstate national lottery grants immediately or they will make a bad situation even worse.  Any help in this area to reinstate national lottery grants would be welcomed by jazz musicians and  jazz promoters. 

Briefing on the Arts Council’s rescue package.
The Guardian article:https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/24/arts-council-england-promises-160m-to-buoy-public-during-lockdown
The Arts Council have offered a rescue package of £160 million paid for by emergency reserves and suspended national lottery grants by which they mean National Lottery Project Grants, The Arts Council budget for 2019/20 had National Portfolio Organisations receiving £409 million (£341 million grant in aid plus £68 million national lottery funding); £97.3 million in lottery funding and strategic funding of £72.2million. The Arts Councils rescue package is welcome but a little odd as £90 million for National Portfolio Organisations is already in the budget. The rescue package is therefore £70 million.  Strangely enough the £70 million of strategic funding appears not to have been touched. A judicious use of the strategic funds and their emergency funds would have delivered the rescue package and negated the need to suspend national lottery grants.
The Arts Council has suspended the fund that would be of crucial help to jazz musicians and promoters.  

Your Chance To Perform – A Chance To Help Jazz Musicians And Promoters