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.  Some people take themselves so seriously that the only antidote is humour.  In the interests of fairness, I have 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  “donkeys” in the boardrooms leading the “lions” on the shop floor.

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.

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 anyone has ever said about me”.

If you have enjoyed reading these articles and letters, I would be grateful if you could donate to the National Jazz Archive. Just click on the website button and give whatever you can. This site is paid for by me.

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.


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

Submission to Ravinder Athwal – Director of Policy – Labour Party

Ravinder Athwal – Director of Policy – Labour Party asked for submissions to the Labour Parties policy formulation by the 8th February 2024

My submission contains an introduction and summary and deals with:

  • The lack of art form policies, planning and impact analysis
  • Arts Council England growth of National Portfolio Organisations and lottery funding
  • Music streaming
  • The Trade and Cooperation Agreement – How to help musicians work in the EU after BREXIT
  • Promoting – keeping music live

Please see: Briefing Paper for Labour Party Policy 2024 Chris Hodgkins

Soaring MDF prices, extortionate interval drinks, cash-strapped audiences: the arts are staring inflation in the face

Charlotte Higgins paints a realistic picture of the appalling plight of small music venues –  “Soaring MDF prices, extortionate interval drinks, cash-strapped audiences: the arts are staring inflation in the face”, The Guardian,  19th August 2022 – however the bad news is it is actually worse than this. If you factor in the volunteer promoters for jazz, folk, indie, urban, etc then the picture is grim to the point of catastrophic for live music in the UK. The Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport is in denial and not only clueless about the plight of small venues but does not care.  Arts Council England has “Let’s Create” (please see my response here)  which is a strategy laudable in its intentions but regrettably does not address the problem,  which is a  lack of art form policy with action programmes. The Arts Council is bound by the rationality of the past and continues to be held in thrall to the major arts companies, who like the banks, are deemed too big to fail.

Brexit stage left: British band tells of farcical barriers encountered on EU tour

Lisa O’Carrol’s article –  “Brexit stage left: British band tells of farcical barriers encountered on EU tour”, The Guardian, 10th August 2022- shows the Government’s incompetence and ineptitude with regard to Brexit, the music industry, and sound planning. Instead of asking “where are we now? Where do we want to be? How are we going to get there and what resources do we need? They developed a negotiating position that was more concerned with restricting the movement of musicians and road crew than securing the future of a 5 billion pound industry and the finest exponent of soft power the UK has at its disposal. Instead, the music industry has been saddled with red tape and pettifogging restrictions. The Government refused to listen to the expertise of the music industry and blundered on to their supposed ” sunny uplands of a global Britain” which is quickly transforming the UK into Air Strip 1 in George Orwell’s 1984. The Government needs a realistic action programme that assists and encourages the uk music industry to export – and it needs it now.

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Brexit red tape

I read a report in the Sun newspaper that Jacob Rees-Mogg was asking for people to write to him about petty EU regulations that should be abolished. Whether my recent experiences of red tape emanate from the  EU or as a result of BREXIT I am not sure but they are in any event prima facie examples of pettifogging red tape I can do without.

In November 2021 I tried to advertise on Spotify for my Salute to Humphrey Lyttelton Tour. I had worked out a price, researched my target market on Spotify came to post the advert and I was informed that I would need a valid VAT number to submit an advert due to tax regulations in my particular market. As a musician and sole trader, I fall under the VAT threshold. The regulation discriminates against sole traders not registered for VAT. I attach my response to Spotify.

My second example is the Arts Council has had to introduce a section to their grant application that is nonsensical. In fairness to the Arts Council, this is to do with Brexit legislation that they have to impose on applicants for the Government. This particular rule has only just come in and is another burden on people grappling with an application form. The amount of time having to spend reading EU State Aid rules is time-wasting. These rules did not appear in my previous applications before the advent of BREXIT so why are they appearing now? I end up wading through a sea of red tape as a musician and sole trader.

I received a reply from the Cabinet Office that was not exactly helpful:

“Thank you for your email outlining your ideas for opportunities that could be realised as a result of Brexit. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. Many thanks for taking the time to write in and share your suggestions. Your contribution has been noted. Thank you again for taking the time to write.”

My response was as follows:

Many thanks for your reply. Forgive me if I correct a couple of misunderstandings.

I did not outline opportunities I gave two examples of problems arising as a result of Brexit that will have a deleterious impact on a musician as a sole trader.

If I had a guinea for every time someone responded to me with the words that my contributions have been noted, I would be “rich beyond the dreams of avarice”. I am sure you understand that I would prefer to note what the Government is going to do about these two matters. I would appreciate therefore a concrete memo of what the Government is proposing to do to address these problems.

Thank you for your time

The full correspondence can be read here: BREXIT Red Tape – Sun 9th February 2022

Oliver Dowden – lay down smoke and show a clean pair of heels

There was an article in the Guardian on the 12th June 2021,  “Oliver Dowden – The paymaster who is calling the tune in the culture wars”. The article highlighted what a wonderful smokescreen culture wars are for the inadequacy of the Secretary of State for Culture and the DCMS. They serve to reinforce the findings of the Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS Sectors: First Report by the select committee for Digital Culture Media and Sport. MPs said the response of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been hampered by the Department’s fundamental misunderstanding across Government of the needs, structures and vital social contribution of sectors such as the creative industries.

In the recent crisis, countless jazz promoters and musicians encountered problems of funding and access to funds as they fell between the cracks. BREXIT for touring musicians is a catastrophe of Olympian proportions; musicians are being ripped off by streaming companies and need a fair deal, This situation is exacerbated by ten years of funding cuts which have dramatically affected the arts and now the Government is planning to impose a disastrous 50% funding cut to arts subjects including music at Higher Education level in England.

In 2019 arts and culture contributed £10.47 billion to the UK economy of which the UK music industry contributed £5.8 billion – all this is in danger of being trashed.

It is crucially important that with a new post-Covid and Brexit landscape a national arts plan is developed that ensures that the arts and culture play a part in healing the nation and drives the export of arts and culture. To make this happen the arts requires a reformation in arts funding with an organisation that can deliver a rolling, realistic and coherent national plan for the arts, entertainment and culture where under-represented musics and art forms finally get a place in the sun.

Yorkshire Bitter

Yorkshire Bitter

The other day I noticed an article in the Guardian, “Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra brought back to life after 66 years”.  The Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra has been revived seventy-four years after it was first formed.  The Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra has been revived to support musicians in northern England hit by the pandemic. A few idle thoughts crossed my mind the first was what are the respective populations of Greater London and Yorkshire and secondly how many symphony orchestras are there in London as compared to none in Yorkshire – I have excluded opera.

The population of Yorkshire, the largest county in England with total population of over 5.4 million people, larger than the population of Scotland. (According to 2019 data published by the Office for National Statistics). Yorkshire also has a bigger population than many other countries, such as Norway, New Zealand, Uruguay and the Republic of Ireland.

Greater London has a population of 8,899,375 (Office for National Statistics)

Set out below are the orchestras funded by Arts Council England and their National Portfolio Grants in 2022


Grant in 2022

Aurora Orchestra


London Philharmonic Orchestra


London Symphony Orchestra


Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment


Philharmonia Limited


Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Ltd


Sinfonietta Productions Limited



£ 32,128,744

Taking Part Survey data for 2015/16 for attendance at a classical music concert in the past 12 months had Greater London had 11.7% of respondents attending and Yorkshire and Humberside 5.7% of respondents attending. The average for attendance in England is 7.6%.

This situation is hardly a level playing field; in fact it is no playing field at all. The problem is that Arts Council England has no art form policies in which to guide the distribution of funding.

Until the Arts Council has a workable national plan for the arts with art form policies inequitable distribution of funding will continue. Its latest strategy “Let’s Get Creative” moves further away from accountability by art form. Please see – Response to Let’s Create Arts Council Englands Strategy 2020-2030


Objection to planned developments at Hastings Road and Manor Road in West Ealing

Ealing Council has adopted a policy where it would seem that the taller the development the better as if West Ealing is trying to become the New York of the “Great Wen”. Here are two documents the first is a guide to objecting to planning developments and the second is my objection to planned developments at Hastings Road and Manor Road London W13.

Guide to objecting to developments at Hastings and Manor Road July 25th 2019

Objection to planned developments at Hastings Road and Manor Road London W13

A Response to Let’s Create the Arts Council England’s Strategy 2020-2030

The Arts Council has launched a new ten year strategy which they say is not dreamed up by a bunch of bureaucrats sitting in a room on their own – well tough as this is what it reads like out of touch and given the resources probably unachievable.

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

A fundamental flaw in “Let’s Create is the complete absence of any art form policy.

After 10 years of “Great Art and Culture for Everyon”e the Arts Council has yet to nail the question of what constitutes high quality or quality period, and spending another 10 years attempting to establish a shared language that will define quality.

The Arts Council’s failure to resolve inequality in its last ten year Strategic Plan should be publicly scrutinised and they should be held to account.

The Arts Council has moved from the objects of its Royal Charter to a vision that is flawed for a number of reasons; is it achievable given existing resources?

The Arts Council has yet to produce an operational plan for the execution of Let’s Create. Without that it is a bit like a cart with out a horse

 Enquiries to the Arts Council at the time of the development of Let’s Create failed to provide an internal appraisal of the Arts Council  with an analysis of its capabilities and core competences.

Response to the 2019 General Election Review

I filled in a questionnaire on the review of the Labour Parties performance at the last general election. The questionnaire did not allow me to fully represent my views. I have therefore set my views and findings down in the attached document. I make no apologies for what is a frank and candid appraisal of the debacle by the Labour Party at the 2019 General Election.

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.