Congratulations Desi Graham!

A massive congratulations to Desi Graham on receiving an Order of the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2020. Desi has been a player/conductor/supporter of Third Carrickfergus Silver Band for many years and through that has helped to inspire many generations of musicians.

At least two members of our current Executive Committee have been lucky enough to have been mentored by Desi throughout their time playing in bands and would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Desi for all his help over the years.

So Desi – on behalf of everyone in brass bands you’ve helped – thank you!

Request for further questionnaire feedback

A massive thank you to all 29 bands who completed our questionnaire.  Your feedback has already been invaluable to us.  We have finished collating all the information and have attached it for you to view.  The information has been collated into three presentations:

Part 1: Rules

Part 2: General Information

Part 3: Contests

As you will be able to see we have received lots of different suggestions for changes to make.  What we would like to be able to do is to condense this down further in order to be able to discuss the issues more easily.  When reading through the presentations you may come across suggestions that your band didn’t make but you agree (or disagree!) strongly with.  To this end, we would ask you in your committees to look through the information and get back to us on which suggestions you think we should be focusing on.  In particular, as our AGM is only 2 months away, we are really keen to see which Rule changes bands would like us to move forward with.

As with the questionnaire, we really need your support in order to continue moving forward with this.  If you have any questions about anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.

BBL Zoom meeting 02 Oct 20

The details for our Zoom meeting have been sent out today to everyone who has confirmed they are attending.

If your rep doesn’t receive them, please let me know so we can get it sorted for Friday!

Please remember that every affiliated band is allowed up to three representatives and unaffiliated bands are also invited to send one representative.

We made the decision to discuss the BBL and NIBA rules in the first part of the questionnaire as our AGM is only 2 months away and it would be fantastic to be able to get some of the changes implemented then.  The other sections of the BBL Questionnaire will be presented separately soon.

If any of you have any questions prior to the meeting please let me know!  All agenda items we have received have been incorporated into the agenda so don’t worry if you don’t see them mentioned – they will be covered by one of the other topics.  I have also made our Chairman aware of who has sent in what agenda points so he knows who to address. 

Along with the details for the Zoom meeting, the following documents have also been sent to secretaries and the delegates:

Agenda for October meeting

Minutes of February meeting (Draft)

Minutes of June meeting (Draft)

BBL Questionnaire Part 1 (Covering the following: Background info, BBL Rules, NIBA Rules)

COVID-19 advice to NI Brass Bands

We are aware of guidance released today by Brass Bands England (BBE) regarding advice from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the exemption of Youth Groups from their current legislation (not meeting in groups exceeding six people).

Please be aware that this is applicable to England only. The advice to brass bands based in Northern Ireland remains the same as that published 05 August 2020 (http://artscouncil-ni.org/news/arts-council-publishes-manual-for-the-safe-reopening-of-venues) which states:

“Non-professionals should currently not engage in singing or playing wind and brass instruments with other people given these activities pose a potentially higher risk of transmission and whilst research is ongoing”

The Brass Band League are still actively trying to work with the Department of Communities, the Arts Council NI and Public Health NI to try and get our brass bands back to rehearsals as quickly and as safely as possible.

As always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Funding opportunities and other news

The Arts Council NI “Organisations Emergency Programme” is now open again.  You can find information about it and other Arts Council funding here http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/for-organisations

In addition, many council areas also have different funding/grant schemes open that you can find at the following:
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council: https://antrimandnewtownabbey.gov.uk/grants/
Ards and North Down Borough Council: https://www.ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk/resident/grants
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council: https://www.armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk/resident/community-grants/
This council also has a page set up which provides details on funding opportunities from different agencies which you can find here: https://www.armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk/covid19-funding-opportunities/
Belfast City Council: https://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/community/projects-and-support/grants-and-funding
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council: https://www.causewaycoastandglens.gov.uk/grantsandfunding
Derry City and Strabane District Council: https://www.dcsdcgrantaid.com/applications/
https://mailchi.mp/derrystrabane/not-the-knitting-police-arts-culture-news-from-the-north-west-2499518?e=1282e57cc7
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council: https://www.fermanaghomagh.com/services/funding-and-grants/
Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council: https://www.lisburncastlereagh.gov.uk/communityhelp/funding-opportunities
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council: https://www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/resident/grants/
Mid Ulster District Council: https://www.midulstercouncil.org/resident/grants/rolling-grants
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council: https://www.newrymournedown.org/residents-grants-and-funding

If anyone comes across any funding that would be applicable to bands, please let us know and we can share it with everyone.

Other news:
1. Band Questionnaire – we have now had 27 responses! Thank you all for your support!  The questionnaire is still open so please fill it in if you haven’t already!
2. Band Map – again if you haven’t already please send us your band details and we will get you uploaded!
3. If your band has any news they would like shared on our Facebook page please let us know!
4. All the dates for our next three online delegate meetings are available on our Facebook page and website.  Please let us know if you pan on attending.  We had 17 bands represented at the last meeting – it would be great if we could do the same or better for the next one!
5. All available details for our 2020 and 2021 events are now on our Facebook page for all band members to view.  Obviously all face-to-face events are dependent on any COVID-19 restrictions that may be in place at the time.  We will keep you informed of any changes or developments.
6. COVID-19 – we are still working with the Arts Council NI and the Department of Communities to try and move things forward so we can start rehearsing safely again.  We will let you know as soon as we hear anything positive.

As always, any questions please let us know.

News from the BBL Executive

Last night (31st August) the BBL Executive held another productive Zoom meeting and discussed a variety of topics including the following:

COVID-19
The BBL are still working with the Arts Council NI and the Department for Communities to try and get bands back to rehearsing. For the moment in Northern Ireland, our advice remains the same as that published 05 August 2020 (http://artscouncil-ni.org/news/arts-council-publishes-manual-for-the-safe-reopening-of-venues) which states:

“Non-professionals should currently not engage in singing or playing wind and brass instruments with other people given these activities pose a potentially higher risk of transmission and whilst research is ongoing”

As stated previously, we will let you know as soon as anything changes.

Band Questionnaire
Thank you very much to everyone who has completed the questionnaire we sent out at the end of July.  We will be collating the results into a more user friendly format over the next few days.  If we have  any follow up questions, we will get in contact with you.  We hope to be able to present the results to you all at the next delegate meeting.  We have had 25 responses so far which is fantastic!

If your band still hasn’t had a chance to complete it, we would still love to hear from you!  The questionnaire will remain open for the foreseeable.  There may just be a slight delay in collating your answers with all the other’s. You can find a link to the questionnaire and details on how to complete it on our website here https://brassbandleague.org/2020/07/26/band-questionaire-for-affiliated-and-unaffiliated-bands/

Delegate Meetings
We have scheduled the following dates and times for the remaining delegate meetings during 2020:

Friday 2nd October @ 8pm
Friday 6th November @ 8pm
Friday 4th December @ 8pm – AGM

These will all be held online on Zoom.  

Please can you let us know by Friday 18th September if you will be attending the October meeting. We will then forward on the minutes of the last BBL meeting and an agenda with the details of the Zoom meeting.  To this end, we would ask that if anyone has any points which they would like to raise for discussion, please get in contact prior to Friday 18th September so that they can be included on the agenda. 

We would like to remind affiliated bands that although each band may only have one vote at the meeting that they can have up to three representatives attend. 

As these are exceptional times we would like to continue to invite non-affiliated bands to send one representative to the meeting.  This representative would be unable to vote but would be able to express their opinions on any of the discussion points.

We anticipate that the main points discussed in the next meetings will relate to COVID-19 and the results of the band questionnaire.

Online Competition
As discussed at our delegate meeting in June, we are intending to run an online competition for all brass banders in Northern Ireland.  At the moment due to the restrictions surrounding COVID-19, we currently plan it to mainly be a solo competition.  We plan for entries received to go live on our Facebook page on Saturday 28th November (the date that the Festival of Brass should have been held).  At the moment we are still working out all the finer details and hope to be in touch soon with the finalised plans. 

Other information1.  If any of you are running any events and would like these publicised on our Facebook page, please just send us a message and we will be happy to share it.  
2.  The minutes of the delegate meetings up to the end of 2019 are available on our website if anyone would like to view them.  We are working on getting the 2020 ones uploaded too https://brassbandleague.org/minutes/
3. Band Map – we are still looking for more bands to submit their information for the Band Map on our website. If you would like your band added please get in touch! https://brassbandleague.org/map/

As ever, if you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

COVID-19 Update – 14th August 2020

As most of you will be aware, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) and Brass Bands England (BBE) released updated guidance today for non-professional musicians.

(https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/performing-arts and https://www.bbe.org.uk/news/14082020-1018/bbe-offers-sector-support-advice-the-latest-covid-19-pandemic-guidelines-dcms-%E2%80%93).

This guidance currently applies to England only – it is NOT currently applicable in Northern Ireland

From this guidance issued in England this morning, the Brass Band League have been in contact with the Department of Communities (DfC), the Arts Council NI (ACNI) and the Public Health Agency NI (PHANI). As soon as we hear anything positive from these agencies, we will let you all know.

For the moment in Northern Ireland, our advice remains the same as that published 05 August 2020 (http://artscouncil-ni.org/news/arts-council-publishes-manual-for-the-safe-reopening-of-venues) which states:”Non-professionals should currently not engage in singing or playing wind and brass instruments with other people given these activities pose a potentially higher risk of transmission and whilst research is ongoing”

We are happy to field any queries and will do what we can to help.

As stated previously, we will let you know as soon as anything changes.

BBL Update 05 Aug 2020

Following advice issued to ourselves yesterday by the Public Health Authority in Northern Ireland and today’s publication of Arts Council NI’s “Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland” report which states:

“Non-professionals should currently not engage in singing or playing wind and brass instruments with other people given these activities pose a potentially higher risk of transmission and whilst research is ongoing”

We find ourselves in the disappointing position of having to advise local bands that they should pause all in-person group based playing activities with immediate effect.

Professional musicians are currently permitted to return to playing in line with guidance contained within the Arts Council report. As we are sure people are aware, the situation continues to evolve at a rapid pace and government-funded research is currently ongoing which will hopefully allow recommencement in some shape or form in the near future.

The Brass Band League will continue to liaise with local goverment departments on behalf of local bands. We are happy to field any queries and will do what we can to help.

Here is a link to the latest information from the Arts Council:http://artscouncil-ni.org/news/arts-council-publishes-manual-for-the-safe-reopening-of-venues

Band Questionnaire for affiliated AND unaffiliated bands

At the last BBL delegate meeting, it was raised that bands would like the BBL to collate feedback about different issues affecting bands. In order to do this, we have written the following Band Questionnaire for all bands to complete.  You can access it via this link: https://forms.gle/9hEFLbPTbfm8jAxJ8

Please note the following:

1. There should be ONE response completed per band.  Due to this we would advise that it is completed by more than one person in the band in order to ensure responses are wholly reflective of the band.

2. This questionnaire is for affiliated AND unaffiliated bands.  This questionnaire is tailored so that it asks different questions depending on how you answer them so it is very important that it is completely accurately.  In particular, on the first page of the questionnaire there is a section named “Grade of Band”.  It is very important that bands tick the most appropriate response to ensure the questionnaire is then tailored to your band.

3. According to our records, there are approximately 50 brass bands in Northern Ireland.  In order for this questionnaire to help, it is imperative that as many bands as possible complete it.  If we don’t know what problems bands are experiencing, we can’t do anything to help.  

4. It is important that all questions are answered as honestly as possible.  We have tried to provide as many different options for answers to questions as we can and have included the option to write your own.

5. The closing date for responses is 31st August 2020.  If you require an extension, please just let us know.

6. Affiliated bands – as specifically mentioned at the last delegate meeting, we have included several section dealing specifically with organisation/contest rules.  In order for us to do anything to change the rules, there needs to be a majority of bands requesting that a rule be considered for change.  It is also really important that you are very specific in any rules you would like to see changed.  To help with this we have included links to the rules within the questionnaire.

Whilst the BBL have been trying very hard to get contact information for all bands there are still some we don’t have email addresses for.  I know lots of you are involved in multiple bands or very friendly with other bands – please feel free to forward this on and encourage them to get in contact with us. 

We look forward to hearing from all of you.  If you have any problems please let us know!