British Orchestras discuss future: „Protect and Survive“

Hosted by the Sinfonia VIVA the 26th ABO annual conference in Derby (Midlands) with many representatives from British orchestras discuss their future. „These are dangerous times for arts organisations, but the annual conference … is grasping the nettle and looking at how its members can ride with the punches“, writes Andrew Stewart in the conference magazine. Arts Council of England is to be expected announcing its cuts end of March 2011 which will mean some „bloody“ decisions.

Get some impressions from the conference:

Helen Bishop, Head of Community Relations, Rolls Royce, a company which employes some 12.000 people in the Derby area, pointed out how important arts and esp. local orchestras are for her firm. RR gives 6.7 Mio Pounds as sponsorship contribution and community investment every year. The Sinfonia VIVA investment is a part of this local engagement. This support is linked to „good education for good workforce“ and to a vibrant cultural life in the city as well. And it’s a very important argument for recruiting new staff.

Darren Henley, Managing Director CLASSIC FM, highlighted in his speech the growth of radio listeners to CLASSIC FM. CLASSIC FM is now the second biggest commercial radio station within the London area. He referred to a survey „Classical Music in England“, which had been relased a couple of days earlier. From this point of view classical music should have a bright future in the UK.

Phillip Blond, Director ResPublica, held a provocative keynote on the „Big Society“ agenda, which aims to put more power and opportunity into people’s hands, and re-invigorate civil society (a development that can been observed in Germany as well). Cut public money and enhance philantrophy – this won’t work. All symphony orchestras in England get some 18 Mio. Pounds a year. This is only a little more what the Berlin Philharmonic gets as a single orchestra (15 Mio. Euro).

Political parties in the UK didn’t find the right answers on the challenges during the last six decades. Investment in social wellfare didn’t reduce the figure of poor people. The gap between rich and poor becomes bigger. Blond says that at least only culture (and public investment in the arts) can fill the gap of a missing middle. Arts organisations should work together more closely. The most popular thing of the world is music, Blond points out. Therefore orchestras can play an important role in this mission.

Conference issue remains to be under stiff dicussions: „Protect and Survive“

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