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Birmingham City Council Cuts…

December 27, 2010

I am no longer surprised by Birmingham City Councils cuts to BCMG and the other arts organisations who have taken a big hit! On a recent outing to the Prince of Wales in Moseley I had an encounter  with Martin Mullaney, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure Sport and Culture, and when i asked him about the cuts to BCMG he seemed to be unable to recall who the organisation were (‘er…. Birmingham…. Community….?’) and when i reminded him his response was something along the line of that they give them a lot of money, they don’t really do anything for Birmingham, and never get good audiences to their concerts anyway (maybe you should check your facts Mr Mullaney?!) I tried to suggest that having an ensemble of international standing in the city was in fact good for Birmingham in terms of spreading the reputation of Birmingham as a cultural centre and everything that that brings with it, but according to Mr Mullaney, doing something FOR Birmingham = doing something IN Birmingham, and with their apparent ‘bad concert attendances’ (which in actual fact ive been told was an average of 80% capacity for last year!) BCMG aren’t doing anything IN birmingham.

I wonder whether Martin Mulaney has in fact EVER been to a BCMG concert, or knows ANYTHING about their comprehensive and far-reaching education programme?!

However, further to his argument, Mr Mullaney seemed to suggest that the only art worth supporting is that which works with the impoverished communities of e.g. Handsworth and that supporting art for the white middle classes of Moseley etc should not be the job of the Council… you have to wonder then why the council is choosing to continue to fund the likes of the symphony orchestra, the modern art gallery and the ballet which are stereotypically attended by the middle-classes and exactly what Mr Mullaney thinks is not the job of the council to support!

Mr Mullaney also seemed to have no idea who Birmingham Jazz are (another organisation who are getting a 100% cut!) and suggested that if he hasn’t heard of an organisation then they’re clearly not doing a good job, and probably no one else has heard of them either… im more inclined to think that if the Cabinet Member for Leisure Sport and Culture hasnt heard of an organisation thats getting an 100% cut to their BCC funding then HE’s probably not doing his job very well and should probably find out who they are and what they do before making a decision of that magnitude!

There was of course the ironic news this week that Stephen and Jackie Newbould, the Director and General Manager of BCMG, have been awarded the RPS Leslie Boosey Award affirming BCMG reputation for high quality and progressive music making. Surely this is something that Birmingham City Council and Martin Mullaney should be PROUD to support!



December 26, 2010

‘If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain’.

To rephrase less eloquently, if people don’t go to concert halls bring the concert hall to them. Last Friday evening thats just what happened.

You may have been bemused by the appearance of an orchestra in the centre of Birmingham! This was a performance by the Guerilla Orchestra to protest against wide ranging cuts in music education and the cuts to many local arts organisations and music outreach projects who are losing their funding.

‘What the axing of all funding to higher education arts institutes says is that art is not important. What we do is not valid. That music plays no valuable part in this society. Of course this is ludicrous’. Heather Bird (Guerilla-in-cheif)

There were no placards, no banners, no marching, just a positive protest demonstrating exactly what the country could lose with it’s brutal cuts to the arts sector. We were lucky enough to get the backing of Peter Donohoe (an internationally famous pianist) who conducted the orchestra and fully supports the cause.

The GUERILLA ORCHESTRA was the brainchild of Manchester based  Bassist Heather Bird who was inspired by a similar protest in Holland where musicians turned up at a train station and performed Mambo from West Side Story. Our orchestra went for a tongue-in-cheek approach and performed the theme tune from Mission Impossible.

Aswell as the motely crew that made up the Guerilla Orchestra in Birmingham –  made up of around 40 professional, amateur and student musicians- renegade music groups simultaneously popped up in unexpected places in Liverpool and Manchester.

Many people got involved in GUERILLA ORCHESTRA via a facbook group posted by 2 weeks before the protest. Since the event GUERILLA ORCHETRA has gone global with interviews in The Strad – featuring arts based activism in Holland, Italy and UK, and Financial Times and an interview in the National newspaper of the United Arab Emirates.

A “phase two” GUERILLA ORCHESTRA plan is afoot, so watch out for more spontaneous musical performances in your town centres and shopping malls.

And why not? It’s about time classical musicians brought their wares into public spaces whether it’s to protest about government policy or simply to allow the public to experience the music in a more familiar, if unexpected context.

BCMG Concert, Sunday 14th November

November 10, 2010

If you’re into contemporary music check out Birmingham Contemporary Music Group @ CBSO Centre, Berkeley St., Birmingham on Sunday, 8pm.

Premieres of pieces by Mark Anthony Turnage and Charlotte Bray.

Here’s some Turnage to keep you going in the mean time…