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

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.

Problems at ENO – the real problem is the Arts Council

Mark Brown’s article   in the Guardian on the  4th January 2016, “Stage set for drama as ENO faces the financial music” demonstrates in graphic detail the problem with the Arts Council and arts funding; a lack of an explicit art form policy that holds the Arts Council to account for its funding decisions. Before the last funding round in 2015 the Arts Council conducted a 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”. It is now time for a rigorous examination of the Arts Council, its organisation, culture and its efficacy in delivering a national policy for the arts across art forms and regions of England.

London hoovering up cash from the rest of Britain

On the 24th December 2015 there was an article by Simon Jenkins on London’s ability to drain resources from the rest of the UK. Simon Jenkins highlighted the problem of a metropolitan mafia and celebrities with vanity projects that drain  scarce resources from  the regions and  underfunded art forms such as jazz and folk. London has two opera houses cheek by jowl soaking up over £40 million pounds of public subsidy. But Mr Jenkins failed to expose the primary culprit presiding over this disgraceful state of affairs, in terms of arts funding; Arts Council England. It is high time it was replaced with an organisation that will at last be driven by a policy for the arts, that dispenses resources in an equitable way and is  based outside of London.

Proposed new concert hall for London and Rattle

More news in The Guardian on the proposed £278 million concert hall for London (17.12.16). This a prima facie case of the metropolitan cultural mafia at work. The problem with the arts in England is there is no concrete policy for the arts that distributes public funding in an equitable, structured way. Not a squeak from the Arts Council and in times of austerity monies are promptly found to conduct a self fulfilling feasibility study. What is wrong with Simon Rattle going to the Sage in Gateshead or for that matter the Fairfield Hall in Croydon? Also the crucially important factor of  the annual running cost seems to have been ignored. The bottom line is that the new hall will be at the expense of arts activity outside London and under represented, poorly funded musics such as jazz and folk music.