Brass bands a victim of snobbery, says Bradford councillor

9:00am Monday 21st January 2013

By Chris Young

Elitism and snobbery means traditional Northern arts like brass bands are regularly overlooked in favour of more “respectable” arts like ballet and opera, according to a prominent Bradford councillor.

Coun Simon Cooke, deputy leader of the Council’s Conservative group, has criticised arts funding in his blog, The View From Cullingworth.

Coun Cooke, from Cullingworth and representing Bingley Rural, was responding to claims by Labour MP for Barnsley, Michael Dugher, that such arts fell victim to snobbery.

In 2012 the Royal Opera House received more than £26 million in Arts Council funding and the English National Ballet received nearly £6.4 million, Mr Dugher says. This compared with just £23,000 for the British Federation of Brass Bands.

He added: “Only snobbery at the heart of Whitehall can possibly explain why brass bands are not given the support they deserve compared to other branches of the arts.”

It is a view shared by Coun Cooke, who said: “Traditional English arts are a poor relation next to elite, international arts. Even when we look at arts funding in the North, we see that it is still skewed towards those same dominating areas: classical music, opera, ballet and theatre. Folk music and other arts traditions are disdained by the arts elite. Bands are to be tucked away out of sight brought out only when we want some sort of Northern ‘authenticity’. In Bradford we built a new City Centre park. And, in a city that’s home to two of the world’s best brass bands, we didn’t include a bandstand.

“It might not be everyone’s favourite thing, but these are important to the history and culture of Bradford. If the Government doesn’t give it the attention it deserves then people won’t think it’s important.”

Mike Shenton, secretary of Queensbury’s world-famous Black Dyke Band, said: “We agree that it is unfortunate that brass bands do not attract public funding in the way that some other arts do, but we have become accustomed to this over the years and have support from a number of areas including sponsors and private benefactors.”

Cluny Macpherson, regional director of the Arts Council responded: “There is a very rich tradition of brass bands across England and our top bands are the best in the world.

“We want bands to prosper with a new generation of players. In 2011/12, we invested around £120,000 through our grants for the arts programme. This was a significant increase on support from 2010/11 and reflects development work by Brass Band England. It would be great to have even more funding applications from the bands.”

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