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

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.

 

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 received Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign literature and  I  hit the reply button and the address that popped up was Owen Smith’s campaign address. Bizarre to say the least. This was the reason I included 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  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 for my vote 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.

cc Owen Smith

This will come as no surprise but no reply was received from Jeremy Corbyn. However Owen Smiths campaign team did reply.

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.