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 they 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

Response to the Industrial Strategy – Creative Industries Sector Deal

Industrial Strategy – Creative Industries Sector Deal

Set out below is my response to the recently published (March 2018) Creative Industries Sector Deal that forms part of the Government’s industrial strategy. The document can be downloaded at:https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/695097/creative-industries-sector-deal-print.pdf

1 Analysis of the Creative Industries Deal

The first step in any strategy formulation is to ask and answer two questions:

Where are we now?

Where do we want to be?

It appears that the first question is for the main part addressed by the recommendations in Sir Peter Bazelgette’s “Independent Review of the Creative industries” in 2017. The second question is answered by the stated goals for each section of the Creative Industries Deal, places, ideas, business environment and people:

Places – developing more world-class creative industries clusters to narrow the gap between London, the South East and other regions.

Ideas – sustain growth: achieve forecast Gross Value Added (GVA) of £150bn by 2023.

Business Environment – sustain growth: forecast GVA of £150bn by 2023. Boost job creation: higher than average growth rate implies 600,000 new creative jobs by 2023.

People – strengthen the talent pipeline to address current and future skills needs, as well as ensure that it is more representative of UK society.

The flaw is there is no mention of the performing arts generally in terms of orchestras, opera, theatre West End shows and in particular a musician as creator, sole trader and promoter. In 2012/13 there were 4,094 jazz musicians active in the UK. In 2010 there were 869 active jazz promoters and 3,473 active venues who promoted jazz. The creative industries in the UK is an ecology and it seems that crucial parts of the ecology have been left out in the Creative Industries Deal. It would appear that in the creation of the Creative Industries deal they omitted to ask of the performing arts “where are we now”? and “where do we want to be?”

The only reference to musicians was the mention of the Momentum Fund operated by the Performing Right Society Foundation. The fund has funded 215 artistes since 2013 but there were 3,316 applications which give a success rate of 6.5%. The fund will support recording, touring (UK only), marketing and marketing promotions but not touring abroad. There appears to be no analysis of arts and culture that I can discern.

For jazz there is a clear need for:

Promoting excellent music (whether tours, gigs, festivals)

Developing current and future audiences

Leading and supporting education

Building strategic partnerships and networks

From the report of the needs of the community published by Jazz Services in 2016 the following was identified that also chimed with the Arts Councils goals in their strategic plan, Great Art and Culture for Everyone

“1.1       Broadly speaking the needs expressed by respondents fall into two main areas.  The first area highlights the problems of performing Jazz in the current economic and cultural climate and the second concerns the future of Jazz in the UK ten and more years hence.  In terms of the Arts Council England’s key objectives the needs of Jazz in the UK are as follows:

1.2        Funding.  While large events such as major jazz festivals have the resources and expertise to secure funding, smaller events and organisations struggle.  There is a need to help small organisations with the process of securing the funding they need.  Additionally Jazz must receive its fair share of the funding that is available.  Jazz Services has been widely praised for its activities.  Goal 1

1.3        Audience.  Many respondents complain about the problems of attracting and retaining new audiences.  This is all about marketing Jazz, appropriate venues and programme content and the use of new and existing media to reach the audience. Goal 2

1.4        Sponsorship. In reality, with many Jazz related organisations already run on a shoestring there is very little scope for cutting costs so there should be vigorous efforts to attract sponsorship from all available sources. Goal 3

1.5        Management and equal opportunity.  Some initiatives, both urban and rural, highlighted in this report, have been very successful in promoting Jazz and increasing the number of gigs available for young musicians to perform in, audiences have also increased.  Nationally however there are minorities who do not have sufficient opportunities.  Typically females and black ethnic groups are under-represented in all roles but another group feeling excluded is the Traditional Jazz performer. Goal 4

1.6        Education and Participation.  To many, educating young people is of supreme importance for the long term health of Jazz in the UK  Once again there are pockets of optimism where young people have been inspired to play Jazz, some university departments and local education authority arts organisations are thriving, but so much more needs to be done.  Provision of music and instruments in schools is a top priority, not just for Jazz, but for all music genres.  However while children and young people are enthusiastic about playing music of all types there are problems for young people when it comes to participation in Jazz as part of an audience. Goal 5.

The full Jazz Needs Report is available at:http://www.chrishodgkins.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Final-Report-Jazz-Needs-16th-September-2016.pdf

Chris Hodgkins

2nd April 2018

 

 

 

 

Arts Council England – The Next Ten Years – The Conversation, Discussing a future strategy for arts, museums, libraries 2020 to 2030

Arts Council England has been conducting a “conversation” which is arts speak for consultation. The word that should have been used is debate. The consultation has been running for 12 weeks and concludes on the 12th April 2018.

The Arts Council asked a number of questions under the following subject headings:

Looking to the future.
Role of the sector.
The role of public funding in arts, museums and libraries.
Funding strategy – ‘great’ arts, museums and libraries.
Arts Council England’s role beyond funding.

Please see Arts Council England pdf below for my response to three of the questions; Looking to the future, funding strategy and Arts Council England’s role.

Arts Council England – The Next Ten Years – The Conversation, Discussing a future strategy for arts, museums, libraries 2020 to 2030 1.4.2018

“Opera is many things to me. Elitist is not one of them” – please debate

In the Guardian on the 21st March 2018 there was an article, “Opera is many things to me. Elitist is not one of them”. Opera is not elitest as music it is the inequality of funding that sets it apart and one could argue that it is conspicuous consuption writ large with two opera houses existing almost side by side.

Opera receives a disproportionate amount of public subsidy compared to other art form. In a time of continued austerity there are two opera house in London soaking up substantial public funding.

The Arts Council’s funding decisions are based on the bounded rationality of the past. The lack of art form polices guiding funding decisions has bedevilled the arts in England since the instigation of the National Portfolio bidding process in 2012.

The National Portfolio scheme was an abrogation of the Arts Council’s duty to ensure funding by art form on an equitable basis. The result is that in 2018/19, Opera will receive a total of £57.1 million of which 32.5% will be spent outside of London. Classical music will receive £19 million of which 55% is allocated to the English regions and jazz will receive a total of £1.6 million of which 30% is spent outside of London; 3.4 million people attend classical music concerts, 2.1 million people attend jazz concerts and 1.7 million people attend opera.

Equality for female and male composers promotes quality in the arts?

There was a leader article in the Guardian on the 8th March 2018,  “Equality for female and male composers promotes quality in the arts”.

Whilst gratifying to read it was regrettable that the article was only concerned with classical music; the problem is a lot deeper than public performance. For example the Huddersfield Contempary Music Festival has seven trustees of whom only two are women. In terms of jazz, an analysis of the teaching staff in January 2018 of the jazz departments at the 4 English Conservatoires  produced a total of 133 tutors of whom 122 were male and 11 were female – only 8.2% of teaching staff were female. The Scott Trust that funds the Guardian, has eleven trustees of whom four are women.  The Performing Rights Society Foundation has eleven trustees of whom only three are women. There needs to be a reformation in the sclerotic culture that still in this day and age ignores the fact fifty percent of the population in the UK are women.

Arts Council England funding of National Portfolio Organisations for jazz 2014/2018

Arts Council England funding of National Portfolio Organisations (NPO) for jazz 2014/2018

National Portfolio Organisations for jazz NPO

funding

14/15

£

NPO

funding

15/16

£

% increase or (decrease) on 14/15 NPO

funding

16/17

£

% increase or (decrease) on 15/16 NPO

funding

17/18

£

% increase or (decrease)

On 16/17

Total % increase or (decrease)

14/15

Emjazz 77,448 77,446 0 77,446 0 77,446 0 0
Jazz Services 287,028 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jazz North 190,000 190,000 0 190,000 0 190,000 0 0
Jazz re:freshed 0 95,795 100 95,795 0 95,795 0 100
J Night 51,648 68,749 33 68,749 0 68,749 0 33
Manchester Jazz Festival 90,522 90,522 0 90,522 0 90,522 0 0
National Youth Collective 128,880 124,690 (3.25) 124,690 0 124,690 0 (3.25)
National Youth Jazz Orchestra 52,972 125,000 235.9 125,000 0 125,000 0 235.9
Serious Events Ltd 452,778 452,778 0 452,778 0 452,778 0 0
Tomorrows Warriors 178,244 208,744 17.1 208,744 0 208,744 0 17.1
Jazz Lines

Performance Birmingham Ltd

80,464 80,464 0 80,464 0 80,464 0 0
Brownswood Music Ltd 0 89,000 100 89,000 0 89,000 0 100
Otto Projects 0 74,933 100 74,933 0 74,933 0 100
Total 1,473,987 1.678,121 13.8% 1.678,121 0 1.678,121 0 13.8%

Table 1. Source: Arts Council England

 Notes to table 1

1 Jazz Services funds for 2014/15 are net of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra that was a NPO under the umbrella of Jazz Services.

2 Jazz North whilst technically not a NPO was funded as such

Notes to the National Portfolio Organisations (NPO) for jazz 2014/2018

The funding of the National Portfolio Organisations for 2015 to 2018 is compared to 2014/2015, the last year of the previous round. Please note only those organisations are included whose activity is a give or a take a percent, 100% jazz activity. They are the core jazz National Portfolio Organisations. Whilst the Turner Sims and other organisations such as the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and Bristol Music Trust do an invaluable job, jazz is merely a portion of their regular programming and not their core activity. As table 1 shows the increase in Grant in Aid for core jazz organisations is 13.8%. However as a percentage of total funding of NPOs opera is at 64% and jazz at 1.8%

Please note that of the funding of core jazz NPOs only 30.2% of the funds went to organisations outside of London. Organisations based in London received 69.8% of the total funding of £1.678 million.

In 2018/19, Opera will receive a total of £57.1 million of which 32.5% will be spent outside of London. Classical music will receive £19 million of which 55% is allocated to the English regions and jazz will receive a total of £1.6 million of which 30% is spent outside of London. For the avoidance of doubt 3.4 million people attend classical music concerts, 2.1 million people attend jazz concerts and 1.7 million people attend opera.

Chris Hodgkins
23rd January 2018

Welcome to Airstrip One

An article the UK leaving the EC in the Guardian on the 14th October –  “Brexit row breaks into war of words.”  Sadly  the politicians who favour Brexit do the electorate a disservice. Nigel Lawson and Iain Duncan Smith’s stance on Brexit is reprehensible, naive and febrile‎. They are dancing with the clapped out ideology of a no deal Brexit that will inexorably lead to Britain becoming the reality of Air Strip One  in George Orwell’s 1984. Their utter disregard for the well being and future of the generations who did not have a vote in the referendum is disgraceful and an abuse of their public positions. Regrettably it will be history that finally shows them up as the charlatans they are.

“Opera is often derided as elitist”

There was a leader article, “Opera is often derided as elitist”, in the Guardian on the 28th September 2017. Regrettably the article ignores the fact that opera in the UK receives a disproportionate amount of public subsidy compared to other art forms and like the banks are too big to fail. In a time of austerity there are two opera houses cheeks by jowl in London soaking up substantial amounts of public funding. If politicians allowed two Accident and Emergency units to operate in the same way they would be publicly derided.

The Arts Councils funding decisions are based on the bounded rationality of the past. The lack of art form polices guiding funding decisions has bedevilled the arts in England since the instigation of the National Portfolio bidding process in 2012.

The National Portfolio scheme was an abrogation of the Arts Council’s duty to ensure funding by art form on an equitable basis. The result of this flawed process is that in 2018/19, Opera will receive a total of £57.1 million of which 32.5% will be spent outside of London. Classical music will receive £19 million of which 55% is allocated to the English regions and jazz will receive a total of £1.6 million of which 30% is spent outside of London. For the avoidance of doubt 3.4 million people attend classical music concerts, 2.1 million people attend jazz concerts and 1.7 million people attend opera.

Arts Councils funding decisions are based on the bounded rationality of the past.

On the 16th July 2017 the Observer reported that the Arts Council had rejected an application from the Music Venue Trust for support for venues.  I am not surprised the Arts Council rejected the Music Venue Trust’s application, as the majority of the Arts Councils funding decisions are based on the bounded rationality of the past. I recently made a number of Freedom of Information enquiries asking if the Arts Council had art form policies, the answer was no. The lack of art form polices that should guide funding decisions has bedevilled the arts in England since the instigation of the National Portfolio bidding process in 2012.

The National Portfolio scheme was an abrogation of the Arts Council’s duty to ensure funding by art form on an equitable basis. The result of this flawed process is that in 2018/19, Opera will receive a total of £57.1 million of which 32.5% will be spent outside of London. Classical music will receive £19 million of which 55% is allocated to the English regions and jazz will receive a total of £1.6 million of which 30% is spent outside of London. For the avoidance of doubt 3.4 million people attend classical music concerts, 2.1 million people attend jazz concerts and 1.7 million people attend opera.

It is time that the Arts Council was put into “special measures” and its current operations rigorously reviewed

The Arts Council funds the arts in England for four years without coherent art form policies

The Arts Council has published funding for the four year national portfolio organisations (28th June 2017). The Arts Councils method of funding the Arts in England is fatally flawed. The problem is that the funding decisions are not informed by a coherent art form policy that would hold the Arts Council to account.‎ Further more the Arts Council has yet to publish an impact analysis of the organisations it funded in the last round. The pathetic increase in funding of 4.6% to organisations outside of London clearly demonstrates the woebegone, lackluster, line of least resistance approach by the Arts Council of England to funding the arts with out a policy for art forms.

The NHS needs your support

In America the biggest crime  is not larceny but to be poor. In the UK you hear loose talk from the right wing press about having an American style health service. What these people neglect to understand, is that if you have no medical insurance you are consigned to the human scrap heap. They ignore the blindingly obvious that if you want a productive nation you need  healthy citizens. I had a problem with my eyes and spent three days as an out patient at Guys and St Thomas’. I was impressed and I wrote the chief executive. My letter is published below and if you value the nations health then it is crucially important you defend the NHS.

“Dear Ms Pritchard

Forgive me for writing to you. I have spent three days as an outpatient  at Guys and St Thomas’. For the record I would like to thank and congratulate all the staff for sorting out my eye problem and resolving my fears.The Medical Eye Unit was led by Professor Stanford and the doctor who saw me first and expedited matters was Dr Miles Parnell. All staff were courteous, professional, helpful and put a great number of private sector companies to shame. The culture of the organisation is something that would make boards of directors in the commercial sector weep tears of envy.

The throughput of patients must be staggering and if you were in manufacturing you would have won a Queen’s Award for Industry.

I was impressed. The press – I use the word in its loosest sense – such as the Daily Mail, give the NHS a hard time which I find to be irritating and completely at variance with the facts. After my recent experience I will find their cant ,humbug, smugness and twaddle more than irritating but profoundly vexatious.

If you ever need a testament to the excellence of the hospital’s service or help in any campaign you may have to run, please count on my support.

Kindest regards”