an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Arts Council blows penny whistle on world-famous brass band

The Grimethorpe Colliery Band, which starred in the cult hit movie Brassed Off, is facing shutdown unless it can find £12,000 ($19,000) a month to pay its bills. Sponsorship has collapsed in the recession and all that Arts Council England will chip in is £23,000 a year.

The local MP is fuming. The Daily Mirror is blowing its red-top. Will no-one get off their butts to save this prized piece of English heritage?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Wasn’t there a story a while back about the solo cornet getting paid off to the tune of £60k? Or was that a different band …

  2. Mark Pemberton says:

    I don’t understand why your headline suggests the Arts Council is to blame for this. It funds the British Association of Brass Bands, not the band itself.

    A quick look at their accounts on the Charity Commission website shows the problem is a collapse in sponsorship income. So pressure should be directed on local business, not the Arts Council.

  3. Shawn Kissane says:

    Strange, this is a group of (superbly talented) musicians who in essence are doing their hobby. Why should the onus fall on anyone else to fund their pastime? There are hundreds of bands within the movement that cut their cloth accordingly…surely Grimethorpe should do the same?

    • Oh don’t start down that route whatever you do … or are you deliberately trolling?

      Yes they are fantastic musicians and presumably they enjoy doing it. As one presumes you could say of any professional symphony orchestra. Are you just being snobbish about brass bands?

      The fact is that the top brass bands do a lot more for their local community than any professional orchestra does (at least in the UK!) – they’ll have junior bands and training bands and they’ll be of great social significance to local people (you only need to watch Brassed Off to see that, or alternatively come along to Whit Friday on Saddleworth Moor…) – to say nothing of national and international cultural significance.

      As to “why should anyone else fund their pastime”? Well why indeed, but it’s the exact same question as to why the public purse should fund any top orchestra. And that’s actually one of the few areas I think SHOULD be funded by the taxpayer – i.e. heritage. Museums, art galleries, and the sonic equivalents.

      There aren’t “hundreds” like Grimethorpe – there’s perhaps a dozen or so in that league.

      • Assuming the public purse is a fixed size*, what would you cut in order to give more to Grimethorpe?
        If they are as important as our orchestras, would it be worth, for example, reducing the subsidy to one London orchestra in order to have one decently-funded UK brass band?

        [*Given that the UK government is currently spending c.£1700 per person more than it receives in income, the public purse is already stretched. It's pointless to just demand more and more money for whatever your cause-of-the-week happens to be. There are no easy answers, everything has a trade-off.]

        • @Anon:
          “Assuming the public purse is a fixed size*, what would you cut in order to give more to Grimethorpe?”

          Not really on-topic but I’ll answer anyway.
          Personally I think that taxes should pay for 1) protecting private property and 2) maintaining certain common goods (such as our cultural and natural heritage) and 3) certain very specific welfare (around disability and the very elderly since you asked).

          Therefore I would not have my taxes paying for a very great deal that they currently pay for.
          - No unemployment benefit, child benefit, etc etc etc (there’s £100bn+/yr right there)
          - No subsidies to energy, transport and EU
          - No overseas aid, no lots more things that can be done perfectly well by NGOs and individuals without the “help” of big government.
          - No state pension for anyone over, say, 30 today
          - A military that can capably defend our borders and foreign interests but not be sent on ridiculous tragic willy-waving wars
          - Much smaller department of health (make the NHS independent-but-not-private, like the BBC, with vouchers instead of license fee)
          - Ditto department of education (vouchers, no central adminstration beyond QA)
          – Low flat tax starting at a highish level on all income combined plus a low sales tax (not to be confused with VAT, my sales tax is levied on all sales, not just the final consumer sale). My back of envelope calculations suggest that 12% @ £10k and 5% (perhaps lower) could do it. Hardly worth dodging. And so easy to administer we could have a HMRC a fraction of the size.

          And finally I’d only have about 50-100 MPs in each House. A single term of 10 years only and a minimum entry age of 50. The savings from that alone would pay for several Grimethorpes :)

          Just in case anyone thinks I’m some kind of crazy right wing nutjob, I’d also have a pretty much open borders policy, economic migrants imho are a very good thing indeed. In my England they certainly wouldn’t be coming for the benefits – there wouldn’t be any!

          The following makes for fascinating reading to see the sheer scale of just how much of our money is spent (oh so very carefully and responsibly) per year:

          - bring it down to the ~£200bn (!) level and we’ll all be much happier and wealthier!

          • Nice libertarian credo. 1° Why protect private property ? Why not let people defend themselves ?
            2° Why fund cultural goods ? Who needs them ? You want them, you directly pay for them. 3° Why pay for the elderly ? They gonna die quite soon anyway.

            The question is : why select those 3 things ? On what criteria ? I mean, if you argue that unemployment benefits should be suppressed, it must be beacause unemployed are lazy people. (You know). Well, senior citizens are too! I mean, if they had worked out a little more when they were young, gonemore often to the gym, done more sport, they would be in better shape now, and fit for work. Same thing : why subsidize cultural goods ? If people want to listen to this brave brass band we are talking about, they ought to pay for it. If the band goes under, it is because nobody wants them or needs them. Etc.

            If Tim was consistant, he should acknowledge there should be no taxes, and no government at all. No laws of any sort. Who needs them ?

  4. Philip Jackson says:

    I played Jim in the film ‘Brassed Off’. I think that’s me on the edge of the picture, playing the tuba. The above comments epitomise the philistine attitude of our ‘great’ nation to cultural activities, and specifically music. I know this band very well. I have seen and heard their music at close range. I was even patiently taught the fingering and breath technique to mime playing the tuba convincingly in the film. i have nothing but admiration for their artistic credibility and the sheer humanity of their musical life. They are dedicated, skilful musicians who make not a penny from their work, yet they are loved by millions and provoke a deep and long lasting emotional response whenever they play. Their musicianship is outstanding and it is utterly scandalous that this band should be threatened with extinction. Shawn Kissane describes this as a ‘hobby’. His lack of imagination and sensitivity is, sadly, the norm in
    our poor country. He and his ilk should be celebrating and supporting the Grimethorpe band as the very essence of a civilised society, not taking cheap potshots at the people involved in such life-enhancing pursuits. I urge everyone to take action for the survival of the Grimethorpe band. Philip Jackson.

    • Shawn Kissane says:

      I have been playing in Brass Bands for 40 years. You are singling out Grimethorpe and putting them
      on some sort of patronising pedestal. What about Cory, Brighouse, Dyke? Are they not deserving of funding too? Your inverse snobbery holds no water with me I’m afraid. I have played in Championship section bands since the mid ’70′s, I have friends in Grimethorpe but you do them no favours with this train of thought. Grimethorpe are a very busy band indeed, I would hope that if they take on engagements across the country that they charge a fee for transport/accommodation etc. My friend in the band (recently moved to Brighouse) has a full time job as I’m sure the majority of the band do. To equate members of Grimethorpe with, say, members of the LSO is to do both a disservice. They are completely different animals. Tim, if you had read my post properly, I made no mention of ‘hundreds of bands like Grimethorpe’, just that there are, in the UK and Europe many many bands who are not looking for a handout. (I had to look up trolling by the way!). The Brass Band community in Britain has provided us with some of the finest players the world has ever seen… Willie Lang, Maurice Murphy, Ian Bousfield, Roger Webster, to name but a few. I have sat on the stage at the RAH in the Championship section and played my heart out. Do not think for one minute I am some sort of musical snob. I value all that the bands do and Jim, while its highly commendable that you took such an interest in playing the part to perfection, the world of Brass Banding stretches a lot further than Grimethorpe. Funding should be available for all community bands to have a bite of the cherry to improve quality of life for both young and old.

    • Brian McLean says:

      Well said, Philip. The arts, luckily, are still a nationwide, national “hobby” of the utmost importance and the money spent on them a tiny proportion of the government budget. There has to be more to a nation’s music than ring tones and youtube swapping on Facebook.

    • Thanks, Philip.

  5. Well, Norman, I guess it’s much more important that the UK gets a bunch new nuclear submarines so they can go on pretending they are a major power! Who needs “culture” when you can “rule the waves”! That’s the Astute thing (pun intended) to do.

  6. gordon hamlett says:

    check this from Guido Fawkes political blog for a rather different view on the ‘cuts’ to those held by the mirror

  7. This is sad to know. I just hope they can fix their problem in time.

  8. Philip Jackson says:

    Jim’s the name of the character, Shawn, not my name: as accurate and as sensitive as the rest of your text. We are only singling Grimethorpe out because it is now threatened. Of course we should support the other bands mentioned, and they should not be made to feel inferior for not being involved in a successful feature film.

  9. I would be very sorry indeed to see this wonderful band closing down because of lack of sponsorship – a very similar situation to the fictional one in the film “Brassed Off” – one of my all-time favourite films. I sincerely hope that the band will be saved and will carry on the long and proud tradition of brass bands in the UK.

an ArtsJournal blog