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 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

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 that if you have no medical insurance you are consigned to a 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”

Peter Bazelgette on empathy and the arts

In the Observer (22nd January 2017  Peter Bazalgett’s  wrote an article “The power of culture – what I learned after four years at the helm of our arts”, this was a plug for his book “The Empathy Instinct”. You can read reviews of the book elsewhere. However for all his talk of “empathy” and the arts, his four years at the Arts Council regrettably highlighted his lack of empathy with underrepresented musics and the continuing 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 English National Opera 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”. The Arts Council after four years of Peter Bazelgett’s leadership and in an age of harsh austerity still funds two opera houses cheek by jowl in London. This demonstrates that the Arts Council is still bounded by the rationality of the past 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.

Letter to America

A friend of mine wrote to Barrack Obama to congratulate him on his tenure as President of the USA.  The letter is a superb, succinct summary of Barrack Obama’s achievements. I have redacted the name and address.

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC. USA

January 6 2017

Dear President Obama

I suspect you are getting quite a lot of these sorts of letters. I am hoping you will receive this one before you leave office. Anyway, here goes.

I’m not a US citizen, but I’ve had the privilege of many visits to your country over the past half-century. I simply want to thank you, profoundly, for your achievements. My favourites are:

  • Saving the world’s most important economy when it was plunged by the folly and insouciance of your predecessor into the worst recession since the 1930s.
  • Creating the conditions for 11 million new jobs.
  • Cutting the unemployment rate from one of its highest levels since the Second World War to one of its lowest.
  • Saving the world’s greatest auto industry and preventing the Rust Belt from becoming an industrial desert.
  • Saving the US financial system, which – for all its grievous faults – is a vital component of  properly functioning international economy.
  • Extending healthcare to millions of uninsured Americans in the face of bitter opposition from vested interests and their Congressional mouthpieces. I will never forget the calm dignity with which you responded to the boorish oaf who interrupted your 2009 address to Congress.
  • Taking care not to put the lives of your fellow citizens – and particularly their sons and daughters – in harm’s way. Not instigating, launching or fomenting new foreign conflicts – in contrast to Truman (China), Eisenhower (Korea), Kennedy and Johnson (Vietnam), Nixon (Vietnam, Laos, South America), Reagan (Nicaragua, Salvador, Lebanon), GHW Bush (Salvador, Guatemala, Iraq/Iran), GW Bush (Middle East). Many of us will never forget your courageous and lonely opposition to the insane invasion of Iraq unleashed by your predecessor.
  • Neutralising Al-Qaeda and bringing belated retribution to its leader.
  • The huge achievement of a settlement with Iran.
  • Ending half a century of US bullying of its small neighbour, Cuba.
  • A humane and constructive policy toward the children of unauthorised immigrants.
  • Securing the first major international climate change agreement and unprecedented terrestrial and marine conservation measures at home.
  • Bringing a measure of humanity and justice to a deeply flawed policing and judicial system, and to the causes of minority rights.
  • Confronting a monstrous gun lobby and its murderous intransigence.
  • A demeanour, style and personal probity over eight years in the White House that can only be described as exemplary.
  • Always being cool, calm and collected, wise, witty and well-informed and easy, eloquent and even-handed. And dignified, resolute and courteous in the face of some of the most disgusting personal attacks ever experienced by a holder of the highest office. Exactly what I would have expected after reading your moving and memorable story in Dreams from my Father.

Again, sir, thank you.

And please thank Michelle Obama for her outstanding contribution!

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

Banging your head against a brick wall – again and again and again

In 2010  the Culture, Media and Sport Committee held and enquiry into the Funding of the arts and heritage. I submitted two reports to the enquiry, from Jazz Services and the Association of British Jazz Musicians. They were published on 22 March 2011. There were 239 written submissions and apart from Jazz Services and the Association of British Jazz Musicians no other jazz organisation submitted written evidence. The voice crying in the wilderness springs to mind.

The reports can be seen at: Written evidence submitted by Jazz Services Ltd (arts 91)  and Written evidence submitted by the Association of British Jazz Musicians (arts 71)

Something I forgot to mention about the Arts Council of Wales

I wrote to the chief executive of Arts Council of Wales (ACW)  on 5 August 2012 to make a formal complaint about the way it dealt with the requests he made for information over the preceding 20 months. ACW’s chief executive responded on 15 August 2012. I was not satisfied with the response, so I wrote to the chief executive on 27 August to ask him to look at his complaint again. The chief executive replied on 31 August to say that he
did not think this would be helpful and suggested that I write to the Independent Complaint Review Service (ICRS) instead. I did so on 17 September.

After initial assessment my complaint was accepted for investigation under stage three of the complaints procedure. The terms of reference for the investigation were agreed with myself and ACW on 16 October and they began their investigation on 17 October 2012.

My complaint was about aspects of ACW’s work in my capacity as a trustee of the Welsh Jazz Society. The report details the tortuous correspondence I had with the ACW to wring some information  from them.

There were three recommendations arising from the report:

“R1 ACW should apologise to Mr Hodgkins for not responding to his complaint in full.
R2 ACW should give Mr Hodgkins as much information as possible about the intended and
actual use of the £28,000 allocation referred to in Mr Dafydd’s letter of 29 June 2010.
R3 ACW should consider introducing some simple guidance for staff on dealing with stage one
and stage two complaints that incorporates the ombudsman’s guidance on administration
and remedy.”

To  see the full report click Independent Complaint Review Service – C. Hodgkins,

Does history repeat it self when you are dealing with the BBC?

I was searching  on the web for music organisations for suitable “links” for an appendices in my forthcoming publication Where do you want to be – a business planning manual for jazz music students and musicians and up popped a response I had made to the BBC Trusts Review of Radios 3,4 and 7 in 2010. I thought I might as well share it with you. I am not one for looking back as I always believe in moving forward, onward and upwards, however it is sometimes useful to remind ourselves of the past so we do not screw up the future; yet again.

Please click here to read the response: Jazz Services Response To The BBC Trust’s Review of Radio 3, 4 and 7

What goes around remains the same

On  the 20 May 1999 the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee were looking into the Performing Right Society  and the abolition of the classical music subsidy. Jazz Services, the Association of British Jazz Musicians and English Folk Dance and Song Society had made written submissions to the enquiry led by Gerald Kaufman who was the Committee Chair.

The only reason that I am posting this is that little has changed in terms of the arguments for a level playing field for the funding of jazz, folk music and other under-represented musics. Myself, Julian Joseph, pianist and composer, Martin Frost, Chief Executive and Brenda Godrich  Chair, English Folk Dance and Song Society gave evidence and were  examined. There may have been a modest increase in the funding of jazz but there is still no policy for jazz or indeed music per se.

The evidence can be found here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199899/cmselect/cmcumeds/468/9052010.htm

Even after 16 years it makes interesting reading leaving you with an overwhelming sense of deja vu.

A point of view

On the 1st September 2010 I received an email canvassing for the party leadership from my MP,  Mr Virendra Sharma. It had been sent by one of his employees. I replied to the email with the following questions:

“How my e-mail address was obtained , especially in view of the data protection act. What is the protocol with regard to MPs using a parliamentary e-mail address to promote a political party’s candidate in a leadership contest which clearly has no relevance to the work of the Houses of Parliament.”

Needless to say a reply was not forthcoming so I wrote to  the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. The correspondence can be seen by going to the following link: https://www.parliament.uk/documents/pcfs/written-evidence/2010-11/rectified/sharma-hodgkins-090910.pdf

The irritating thing about all this is that MPs are happy to send their viewpoint  through to you but do not like to reply  to your point of view. This is just another example of the inability of politicians to listen to people. When the person happens to be a constituent and a member of the same political party it only serves to increase  irritation, denude trust and the notion of accountability.

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.