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 marvelous 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 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  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 Jazz Services, now re-branded as JazzUK or to the National Jazz Archive to help them keep jazz on the road 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

 

Jazz Services is off the starting blocks and back in business as JazzUK

After the failure to gain NPO status in the last round Jazz Services has regrouped, restructured and re launched as Jazz UK  with the help and advice of the jazz community and funding from the Arts Council. You can see the exciting projects they will be delivering at their new site www.jazzuk.org.uk  The first one is the #Jazz Festival, a new explosive festival in Coventry on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th November 2015

Please consider making a GiftAid donation. Even a small donation of just £15 will make a huge difference. As a registered charity they can then reclaim tax on your donation, making it even more valuable. Please go to www.jazzuk.org.uk

 

 

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

No taxation without representation

Extensive coverage in The Observer, 25th September 2016, of the Labour Party leadership and the debate over who should elect the shadow cabinet. It seems that a number of people have failed to grasp a few simple facts.

At the last general election 232 Labour MPs were elected with 9,347,304 votes that was 30.4% of the turnout. The total number of members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters of the Labour Party is 506,438 which equates to just 5.4% the 9 million people who voted for Labour. It is also worth noting that of Labour Party membership only 56% are fully paid up members. MPs salaries are paid for by the tax payer not by members of the Labour Party.

For real democracy to prevail the 9 million people who voted for Labour MPs should have their MPs decide on the election of the Labour shadow cabinet. Clause 14 of the 1215 Magna Carta promulgated the idea of no taxation without representation,

Radio 3 locked in the past and they have lost the key

Charlotte Higgins ran an article in the Guardian on the 24th September 2016,  saying that after 70 years Radio 3 needs a rethink . The rethink, whereby composers would be  put in charge, reminded me of a rearguard heroically defending a lost cause.

The BBC gave us the iplayer internet streaming catchup service and yet is bounded by the rationality of yesterday. For example, it could devolve Radios 1, 2 and 6 to its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide. Radio 4 could be retained and  Radio 3 reconfigured into a digital platform for jazz, folk, world music, classical music and opera. The BBC could also assist fledgling online radio stations in delivering the widest range of music and serving every niche and genre.

A multigenre channel could be developed, called something like BBC Music Live to ensure that cultural assets such as the BBC orchestras and live music output were retained and enhanced with the opportunity for new work of all kinds. A prime  example is the Proms which should be a vibrant reflection of the diversity of the UK music scene instead (bar a few cosmetic changes) being locked in the past.

 

The Labour Party leadership contest – “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”

 

“Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” is an American popular song  with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Ted Koehler. Cab Calloway first recorded it in 1931. The Boswell Sisters recorded the song with The Dorsey Brothers in 1932. Frank Sinatra also recorded the song in 1959. Ella Fitzgerald recorded it for her 1961 Verve album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook. Thelonious Monk plays it on his 1967 album, Straight, No Chaser and George Harrison recorded it on his  final album  “Brainwashed”. This popular song would make a fitting soundtrack to the current leadership contest.

I just hit the reply button to your email and the address that popped up was Owen Smith’s campaign address. Bizarre to say the least hence my reason for including Owen Smith in my email to Jeremy Corbyn.

Dear Mr Corbyn

Regrettably your campaign seems unable to answer my questions I  sent to you by email and post. Now you are seeking my views. Here they are; although if you run true to form you will pay no heed as your campaign team appear unable to process the correspondence:

As a Labour Party member for over thirty years, what I want  from yourself and Owen Smith  is a rigorously costed, prioritised, concrete action programme with the detail of the wherewithal to finance the delivery of your pledges. I expect to see as a matter of priority a programme of re-industrialisation – for the avoidance of doubt, I am not talking about infrastructure projects but rebuilding a strong manufacturing base with a trained work force, a strong, well funded research and development policy – and an end to the housing scandal that has been ignored by politicians of every stripe for some years.

I expect the Parliamentary Labour Party to stand behind whoever wins the leadership election. The unpalatable truth is that no matter who wins the leadership election they will lose the next general election as they conveniently  forget that positioning in the minds of Labour Party members is one thing  but positioning a credible manifesto in the minds of the electorate is another. I then trust that a caretaker leader will be elected whose task is to ensure there is a leadership election with a slate of credible candidates – including female and diverse candidates – who have substantial hinterland and will provide this member with real choice.

In terms of gender and diversity the Labour Party is strong on bombast and  magniloquence but well short on action.  I recently made a Freedom of Information enquiry on special advisers. I was informed that special advisers are recruited as temporary civil servants. Special advisers are personal appointments made by Ministers under the Constitutional Reform and Government Act 2010 and are exempt from the requirement to be appointed through fair and open competition. No information on the pay, appointment, gender or ethnicity of special advisers is held by Government. However contrary to this reply the Cabinet Office published Special adviser numbers and costs for December 2015.The estimated pay bill for 2015/16 is £8.4 Million. Opposition parties, to which the same non-rules apply, are entitled to £7.1 million from Short Money allocations for 2015/16.

A total of £15.1 million pounds will have been spent on unelected “personal” appointments that fly in the face of the Equality Act 2010.

If you and Owen Smith, a political adviser to Paul Murphy the former Northern Ireland secretary, wants to ensure gender equality and diversity then you should both ensure special advisers are appointed through open and fair competition and that becoming a special adviser is not a tawdry, backdoor  into the House of Commons.

The political establishment is bounded by the rationality of the past. The first past the system is now an anachronism. Labour is now entrenched in its old ways. The Conservatives foisted on the nation a needless referendum and will be hard put to extricate themselves from the mess of their own making. Add to this a growing number of politicians on all sides who have slid into politics via public relations, as special advisers, short lived media jobs and think- tanks. Few of them appear to have got their hands dirty working in manufacturing, agriculture, services or not for profit work. This lack of “real” world experience and an informed view of how people live has created an electorate that is disenchanted and alienated by a political system which has failed the country and the electorate.

The solution is reform. A federal system for England that gives regions a strong voice; replace the House of Lords with an elected Second Chamber, the “first past the post system” replaced with proportional representation, public funding of political parties. Compulsory voting where every citizen has to vote even if it is to register an abstention. Different ways of electing parliamentary candidates that bypasses the sclerotic party machinery, for example, Sara Wollaston was elected MP for Totnes in May 2010 after winning the UK’s first American-style primary election open to every voter in Totnes for the conservative candidacy.

With regard to voting for a leader of the Labour Party, I voted for Owen Smith, marginally the best of the two appallingly weak candidates.  The reason is the utter lack of leadership that is the hall mark of the current Parliamentary Labour Party and the Party at large. With the charge of the light Brigade they at least knew in which direction they were heading.

 

A UK political reformation is needed

The Observer leader and other commentators on Brexit (3.7.16) like the political establishment are bounded by the rationality of the past. The first past the system is now an anachronism. Labour is entrenched in its old ways. The Conservatives foisted on the nation a needless referendum and will be hard put to extricate themselves from the mess of their own making. Add to this a growing number of politicians on all sides who have slid into politics via public relations, as special advisers, short lived media jobs and think- tanks. Few of them appear to have got their hands dirty working in manufacturing, agriculture, services or not for profit work. This lack of “real” world experience and an informed view of how people live has created an electorate that is disenchanted and alienated by a political system which has failed the country and the electorate.

The solution is reform. A federal system for England that gives regions a strong voice; replace the House of Lords with an elected Second Chamber, the “first past the post system” replaced with proportional representation, public funding of political parties. Compulsory voting where every citizen has to vote even if it is to register an abstention. Different ways of electing parliamentary candidates that bypasses the sclerotic party machinery, for example, Sara Wollaston was elected MP for Totnes in May 2010 after winning the UK’s first American-style primary election open to every voter in Totnes for the conservative candidacy.

The malaise and its treatment rests entirely with the politicians to provide political reform where it counts; at the ballot box.

Loose talk could ruin the Labour Party

Owen Smith in the recent Labour Party Leadership, has like the child who cried wolf too often, been talking about a split in the Labours Party.

As a Labour Party member for over thirty years the antics of Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn have led to a “head in the hands moment.” What I want to see from both candidates is a costed, prioritised, concrete action programme with the detail of the wherewithal to finance the delivery of their pledges. I expect to see as a matter of priority a programme of re-industrialisation and an end to the housing scandal that has been ignored by politicians of every stripe for some years. Back in 2012 the stock of buy to let housing accounted for 12.5% of the total market of 11.2 million mortgages worth £1.2 trillion.

Owen Smith should desist from his scaremongering that the Labour Party will “bust apart and disappear”. I expect the Parliamentary Labour Party to stand behind whoever wins the leadership election. The unpalatable truth is that who ever wins the leadership election will lose the next general election as they conveniently forget that positioning in the minds of Labour Party members is one thing and but positioning a credible manifesto in the minds of the electorate is another. I trust that the leader of the Labour Party after the next general election will remain in post and ensure there is a leadership election with a slate of credible candidates – including female and diverse candidates – who have substantial hinterland and will provide this member with real choice.

Special advisers – “Nice work if you can get it”

It was recently reported in the press – 16th July 2016 that Cameron overruled Whitehall to boost aides’ pay-outs to £1 million and an encore  for top players in Prime Minister’ s Home Office team.

I recently made a Freedom of Information enquiry on special advisers. I was informed that special advisers are recruited as temporary civil servants. As special advisers are personal appointments made by Ministers under the Constitutional Reform and Government Act 2010 they are exempt from the requirement to be appointed through fair and open competition. Also no information on the pay, appointment, gender or ethnicity of special advisers is held by Government. However contrary to the reply I received the Cabinet Office published Special adviser data releases: numbers and costs for December 2015. The special adviser pay bill for the Cameron Government for 2014/15 was £9.2 million, excluding the cost of severance, which was £1.9 million (net of repayments from special advisers who were reappointed in May 2015. The estimated pay bill for 2015/16 is £8.4 Million. Opposition parties are entitled to £7.1 million from Short Money allocations for 2015/16.

A total of £15.1 million pounds will have been spent on unelected “personal” appointments that fly in the face of the Equality Act 2010.

Many of these special advisers on all sides slide into Parliament as MPs. It should come as no surprise that this egregious behaviour has helped create an electorate that is disenchanted and alienated by the current political system.

The media and the political establishment stuck fast in the same rut

Much of the media like the political establishment are bounded by the rationality of the past. The first past the post system is now an anachronism. Labour is entrenched in its old ways. The Conservatives foisted on the nation a needless referendum and will be hard put to extricate themselves from the mess of their own making. Add to this a growing number of politicians on all sides who have slid into politics via public relations, as special advisers, short lived media jobs and think- tanks. Few of them appear to have got their hands dirty working in manufacturing, agriculture, services or not for profit work. This lack of “real” world experience and an informed view of how people live has created an electorate that is disenchanted and alienated by a political system which has failed the country and the electorate.

The solution is reform. A federal system for England that gives regions a strong voice; replace the House of Lords with an elected Second Chamber, the “first past the post system” replaced with  proportional representation, public funding of political parties. Compulsory voting where every citizen has to vote even if it is to register an abstention. Different ways of electing parliamentary candidates that bypasses the sclerotic party machinery, for example, Sara Wollaston was elected MP for Totnes in May 2010 after winning the UK’s first American-style primary election open to every voter in Totnes for the conservative candidacy.

The malaise and its treatment rests entirely with the politicians to provide political reform where it counts; at the ballot box.

Response to the Culture White Paper

 

On the 2nd April I wrote to the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport. My letter is printed below.

“Dear Mr Whittingdale

Re: The Culture White Paper

I read the Culture White Paper and I have a number of comments that I trust you will find helpful. Perhaps it might help to explain my background to put my comments in context. I am currently a jazz musician, composer, band leader, record producer, and broadcaster. Until my retirement in May 2014 I was the Director of Jazz Services the national organisation funded by Arts Council England for 29 years. My details can be found at www.chrishodgkins.co.uk

1 I was disappointed to see that in the list of consultees there was no representation from jazz organisations, folk music organisations or Brass Band England all of whom are funded by Arts Council England. Also from the list of consultees no consultation with the Musicians’ Union or Equity.

2 In 2015 I published a paper on public investment of jazz. I enclosed a revised paper, Public Investment in Jazz.  In summary the paper deals with a number of issues pertinent to the lack of funding of jazz by the funding system and covers the following topics:

  • A level playing field for jazz
  • The paucity of public funding for jazz
  • The lack of a coherent policy for jazz and music in the UK
  • The education sector and the supply of jazz musicians and live music
  • Keep music live

3 To summarise the position as succinctly as possible here is my letter to the Guardian 20th February 2016

Darren Henley’s article, “The ENO must evolve for its own sake” (17.02.16) is disingenuous and highlights the problem with the Arts Council and arts funding; a lack of an art form policy that holds the organisation to account for its funding decisions. Before the last funding round in 2015 the Arts Council conducted a comprehensive review of ENO resulting in a £5 million cut in its funding from £17 million to £12 million, but ENO was offered an inducement of £7.6 million to help in the transition of its business plan. In 2015 ENO was awarded National Portfolio Status judged against strict criteria, two of which were an effective business plan and sound governance. Shortly after passing these tests ENO was put into “special measures”. Darren Henley seems to think in this age of harsh austerity two opera houses cheek by jowl in London is fine; this all demonstrates that it is the Arts Council that lacks credible ideas. The Royal Opera House has absorbed vast amounts of lottery and revenue funding and is ripe for privatisation. It is time that the Arts Council is replaced with a leaner, innovative organisation that can deliver a policy for the arts that ensures equitable distribution of public funds across regions and art forms.

I trust that these points will be take into account and the under representation in terms of public funding for jazz, folk music and brass bands is addressed in any legislation arising from the Culture White Paper.”

Please click on Public Investment in Jazz  to read the revised paper

 

The BBC and the Proms – a major music festival that does not reflect the musical tastes of the 25,507,726 BBC TV Licence payers

On the 28th August 2015 I wrote to the BBC regarding the lack of diversity in the music programming of the Proms. My  complaint was:

“It was impossible to glean Tony Halls contact details from the BBC website but the BBC Trust was more transparent.

The BBC publicity states “While the Proms celebrates its 120th year in 2015, it still remains true to its original aim: to present the widest range of music, performed to the highest standards, to large audiences”. Here we are in 2015 with a programme of 76 Proms of which 7 are non-classical music. To give some idea of this year’s broad range the late night Bhangra and Bollywood is with the BBC Philharmonic. But where is the reflection of the “widest range of music”; no brass bands, no folk music, world musics, jazz in the shape of Frank Sinatra and swing – nothing adventurous, no opera that I could see, in fact no recognition of the incredible range of musics enjoyed by the UK public who pay for the Proms.

For the avoidance of doubt 15% of the uk population is made up of people of diverse ethnicity and the audience for opera is 1.67 million attenders, for classical music 3.29 million and for jazz 2.67 million.

I would be grateful for an explanation for the lack of diversity in the music programming of the Proms and what the BBC proposes to do about this lack of diversity.

Further I emailed the trust and received an unhelpful reply from the BBC Trust Unit. I enclose copies of my email and the response.

I then wrote to the BBC Trust’s chairman due to the fact that the BBC is not particularly transparent when it comes to contact details for its executive officers. I enclose the letter and the reply

Currently the BBC is under fire from the Culture and Sport Select Committee and I would have thought that every sinew would have been strained to ensure that you keep the public on board.

I would be grateful for a full reply.”

If I printed the full correspondence you would probably lose the will to live. Suffice it to say I took the correspondence as far as I could go and the response from the BBC trust is attached. Please see: BBC Decision Page 1,  BBC Decision Page 2BBC Decision Page 3BBC Decision Page 4.

 

Disingenuous Darren

Darren Henley’s article in the Guardian on the 17th February, “The ENO must evolve for its own sake”,  is disingenuous and highlights the problem with the Arts Council and arts funding; a lack of an art form policy that holds the organisation to account for its funding decisions. Before the last funding round in 2015 the Arts Council conducted a comprehensive review of ENO resulting in a £5 million cut in its funding from £17 million to £12 million, but ENO was offered an inducement of £7.6 million to help in the transition of its business plan. In 2015 ENO was awarded National Portfolio Status judged against strict criteria, two of which were an effective business plan and sound governance. Shortly after passing these tests ENO was put into “special measures”. Darren Henley seems to think in this age of harsh austerity two opera houses cheek by jowl in London is fine; this all demonstrates that it is the Arts Council that lacks credible ideas. The Royal Opera House has absorbed vast amounts of lottery and revenue funding and is ripe for privatisation. It is time that the Arts Council is replaced with a leaner, innovative organisation that can deliver a policy for the arts that ensures equitable distribution of public funds across regions and art forms.