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friday, 21 march 2014

On Wednesday 12 March, I had the great pleasure of talking to a small group MPs and their representatives about brass band music. This was the latest meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Brass Bands (APPGBB) and the session took place in Portcullis House, which is the modern building above Westminster underground station. The meeting was chaired by Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, and also attending were Mike Kilroy, Chair of Brass Bands England (BBE) and Roy Terry, BBE's Parliamentary Liaison Officer.

Prompted by a recent visit to York Theatre Royal to see the excellent new production of Brassed Off, I was determined to show that there was more to the image and the way bands operate than is shown in the play/film, even though, of course its presence at the emotional heart of the drama is symbolic of so much in the wider context. I chose to show the range of great music and the aspirations of the bands that play it and the composers who have written by linking the evolution of the repertoire to those 'men on a mission' who made it happen or changed the approach to style etc, from the pioneer Herbert Whiteley in 1913, via Geoffrey Brand, Elgar Howarth Eric Ball, the major competitions, to my own experience at the BBC, the RNCM Brass Band Festival and the recent crop of British Composer Award winners and nominees.

I greatly valued the opportunity of being able to share my passion for and perspectives on the high points of the brass band repertoire and was delighted with the reaction from those present. I was great to spend some time with my own MP, David Rutley, who expressed his enthusiasm for the great work being achieved in his constituency by the Macclesfield Youth Band and others, and to learn that Sir Alan Beith, for over 40 years the MP for Berwick-on-Tweed, was brought up in Poynton where I live, played 3rd cornet in the local band and loves the music of Eric Ball, an example of which I played to them.

Speaking on behalf of BBE, Roy Terry was also pleased with the positive response from the MPs who attended: “They clearly enjoyed the opportunity to hear some fine music from award-winning recordings - much of it new to them. Many who were unable to be there took the trouble to send apologies and assure us of their interest. There is clearly a tremendous amount of goodwill towards brass bands, and because much of the subsequent discussion homed in on some key issues you had the feeling that we are pushing on an open door.”
The next APPGBB meeting will be focussing on youth and funding issues.

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