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

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

The Guardian leader on culture was looking at music through rose tinted spectacles Monday 23rd March 2020

The leader article ( Amid the pandemic music send a message about things eternal, Monday 23rd March 2020 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/22/the-guardian-view-on-music-and-pandemics-the-global-prisoners-chorus) on culture and music completely missed the point which is the  meltdown of music; especially among underrepresented music such as jazz, blues and folk. The available research shows that jazz musicians had 45% of their incomes coming from live performance, 24% from teaching and 19% from royalties, broadcasting, recording and 12%from non musical sources. Their incomes along with the myriad of volunteer and small jazz promoters that make up the bulk of their work have all fallen off a cliff. The Government needs to address this problem with urgency, a scheme that pays an average of self employed musician’s annual income for the past three years over the next three months; or as long as it takes would hold the fort. Whilst this action is unparalleled it is crucial that the  hinterland of music talent, this national asset, is not laid waste by Government dithering. This incredible resource of talent would help, along with the rest of the arts and creative sector, in kick starting the economy and  acting as a key export.
Furthermore as soon as is humanly possible the Government and cultural institutions need to be looking at ensuring the creative industries and the  self employed such as jazz musicians, are enabled to revitalise the economy and the nation. For that you are going to need a Marshall Aid Plan for the arts and creative industries. To do that, the time would be right to take an iconoclastic approach to reshape, reconfigure and reform cultural organisation to deliver the plan

Does Jazz Get The Money Due To It – Jazzwise March 2020

I was bemused to read in the article “Time for Change” that Arts Council England gives 16% of its music funding to jazz. My last calculation in “Public Investment in Jazz 2012-2022” (see  https://www.chrishodgkins.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Public-investment-in-jazz-2012-to-2022.pdf) showed that of the total funding of music for Regularly Funded Organisations was £359 million of which jazz accounted for £6.9million or 1.9%.
For the avoidance of doubt the audience for opera is 1.67 million attenders, for classical music 3.29 million and for jazz 2.67 million. The subsidy per head for 2021/22 for opera is £21.35, for classical music is £5.80 and for jazz it is 64 pence per head. There is plenty of room for improvement.

Rebirth of the cool – Streaming helps jazz reach new audiences – up to a point Lord Copper

There was an article by Sarah Marsh in the Guardian on Monday 29th July 2019 that rising numbers of younger fans spark a UK jazz renaissance and streaming sites report growth in young listeners and festivals are signing up more jazz acts.

However there are two caveats. Streaming as a marketing tool allows jazz musicians to get their music heard by new audiences; the downside is that for the jazz musician to earn the National Average Wage of £27,600 in 2015 terms, they would have to have their music streamed 38 million times – if you are Ed Shearing, earning $6.6 million from “Shape of You”, this is not a problem as it took 1.318 billion streams to do it. But in a world where people are getting used to cheap or free music, streaming poses a problem of endemic proportions for jazz. There is also a major problem for the jazz musician with the “Value Gap”, which is the disparity between the value upload services such as YouTube takes out from music and the revenue that is returned to the music community.

The second caveat  is the notion of the “Product Life Cycle”,that helps understand the patterns of reinvention and renewal in jazz; where this creativity will lead to in terms of the career path of the jazz musician and how they are supported and sustained. Renaissance, revival or reemergence the music will look after itself, it is the infrastructure that needs to be developed and kept in constant repair.

How will our museums survive if they subject every donor to to an ethical audit?

There was an an article in The Observer by Mark Lawson “How will our museums survive if they subject every donor to to an ethical audit?” (24th March 2019) that drew attention to the ethical angst, dichotomy and perhaps hypocritical nature of arts patronage amongst established institutions. The industrialist Sir Henry Tate was the early benefactor of the Tate Collection. Tate’s fortune was founded on the importation and refining of sugar, a commodity inextricably linked to slave labour in the Caribbean.(Reference, www.antislavery.ac.uk). The British Museum is full of artifacts purloined from around the world. The problem is the there is no policy for the arts in the United Kingdom, a policy that would ask where are we now; where do we want to be and how are we going to get there? An intrinsic part of the national arts policy should be an ethical policy so that funded organisations can be held to account. 

The Observer on jazz at Schloss Elmau

I read the article promoting Schloss Elmau by Harriet Green in the Observer on Sunday 17th March 2019. A raft of musicians were mentioned and regrettably jazz was sidelined by the fact that the author admitted to having a “deaf ear to jazz” – what ever that means –  and the jazz musicians calling themselves 4 Wheel Drive gave an unforgettable interpretation of songs by Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Sting. The music was so unforgettable that the author could  not remember their names. For the record “4 Wheel Drive” are; Nils Landgren (trombone & vocals),Michael Wollny (piano),Lars Danielsson (bass & cello) and  Wolfgang Haffner (drums).

Time for a political reformation

Will Hutton’s analysis “Labour’s leadership is at rock bottom” in the Observer on the 23rd December 2018 whilst correct, failed to address the problems that are at the heart of the sorry mess the UK is in. At the last referendum the British public were egregiously misinformed, misled and lied to. The next referendum to resolve the crisis should ensure that  EC citizens, resident in the UK,  who pay taxes and young people aged 16 to 18, whose future is at stake can vote. Secondly the present political system has failed and tinkering with it will not solve the problems. There needs to be a political reformation that brings in proportional representation, a federal system of government with a reduced Parliament and an elected second chamber to insure that the iniquities and inequalities of the north south divide are vanquished.

The India Club, 143-145 The Strand – Asset Community Value Application

The owners of the freehold of the India Club are at it again and have resubmitted another planning application for a “Boutique Hotel” Wikipedia sums up “Boutique” as:

A boutique is “a small store that sells stylish clothing, jewelry, or other usually luxury goods. The term “boutique” and also “designer” refer (with some differences) to both goods and services which are containing some element that is claimed to justify an extremely high price, itself called boutique pricing”.

In other words another high priced joint with no cultural significance whatsoever; whose sole purpose is conspicuous consumption that the vast majority of people cannot afford and would not entertain in the first place. I wish someone would lock Marston Properties in a boutique lavatory, flush them down a boutique toilet into a boutique sewer so they can make their boutique way to the coast.

The current management are trying to preserve the club India Club for the future and they have applied to Westminster Council for Asset of Community Value status. If granted, this recognises the significant community value of the India Club and would strengthen their position against re-development plans.

It would be a great help if you could email in support of the Asset of Community Value application for India Club at 143-145 Strand, to Andrew Barry-Purssell at communityassets@westminster.gov.uk , outlining why India Club is important to you and it’s community value.

Set out below is my submission which I hope will prove helpful. I do hope you can submit an email to Andrew Barry-Purssell.

Dear Mr Barry-Purssell
I am writing to register my support for the Asset Community Value Application for the
historic India Club Bar & Restaurant  143-145 Strand based at the Hotel Strand Continental, London.
  
The India Club was started by Krishna Menon, India’s first High Commissioner to the UK, in 1946 and moved to The Strand in 1964;  little has changed since then with internal features remaining much the same. 
Originally established by Krishna Menon, India’s first High Commissioner to the UK, and founding members including Prime Minister Nehru and Lady Mountbatten, India Club has been a symbol of Indo-British friendship. It became a platform for India League’s post-independence activities and a meeting place for various Indo-British groups and the India League  held meetings in the 1950s, soon after independence in 1947. The building also played a key part in immigrant history and experience in the UK acting as a home-away-from-home for the Indian diaspora.
In terms of diversity in London, William Gould, professor of Indian history at the University of Leeds, said the club played an important role in the 1960s when the first arrivals of immigrants from south Asia to help rebuild postwar Britain. He told the Observer in May this year “There’s some evidence that this was a place that people came to when they first arrived,” . “It is related to some of the themes of Windrush.”
Furthermore, Councillor Tony Devenish, chairman of Westminster’s planning applications sub-committee,recognised the cultural importance of the India Club and  said: “Westminster council refused permission for the redevelopment of 143-145 Strand due the potential loss of an important cultural venue located on its site, the India Club. The India Club has a special place in the history of our Indian community and it is right that we protect it from demolition.” 
The India Club is also a crucial part of the wide social landscape in London’s West End, the diversity of it ‘s patrons is to be welcomed and also the price of a meal is reasonable when so many of the restaurants in central London are beyond the pockets of many people. The India Club continues its ethos of good food at reasonable prices which was a guiding motive when the Club was first established by Krishna Menon in 1946. 
The India Club is a constant reminder of Westminster’s multicultural identity and Indo-British friendship and deserves to be recognised as an important asset to the community.
Yours sincerely
Chris Hodgkins

Structure before strategy is not the way to avoid executive stress – SNAFU 1991

The Richard Wilding Supporting the Arts: Review of the Structure of Arts Funding in 1989, drew attention to the basic structural weaknesses and the need for the Arts Council to take on a more strategic approach. On the 16th October 1990  the Arts Council announced at a consultative seminar on the reform of the arts funding system that they were going to restructure first and then develop a national strategy for the arts a fact that they cheerfully admitted was the wrong way round. The Stage and Television today published my analysis of this idiocy in January 1991. My grateful thanks for the Stage for allowing me to reproduce this article.

“With Strategic planning, restructuring and their much vaunted adoption of business techniques, is the Arts Council about to emerge from the eighties as a business-like purposeful organisation capable of taking the Arts into the nineties? It would appear not………………………….”

For the full article please see: Avoid Executive Stress 10th January 1991