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!

BRASS BAND LEAGUE (NI) ADVICE NOTE NUMBER 2

ISSUED TO ALL MEMBER BANDS 25 JULY 2020

This updated advice note replaces that issued on 1st July 2020. It has been drawn up to reflect changes agreed by the NI Executive on 23 July. It will be kept under review by the Brass Band League.

  1. Indoor meetings (not playing e.g. band committee meetings, AGMs etc)

The Health Regulations in Northern Ireland allow up to ten people from four different households to meet indoors in a private dwelling (i.e. someone’s home).

The Regulations also allow for up to 30 people to meet indoors in premises other than a private dwelling (e.g. a band hall) where the gathering is not an organised one – for example, up to 30 people could meet in a band hall for an Annual General Meeting.

If you decide to meet indoors you should do so as safely as possible and follow public health advice by:

  • limiting the duration of visits
  • ensuring good ventilation
  • maintaining good hand hygiene
  • practicing social distancing where possible
  • stagger arrival and departure times
  • keep an accurate record of attendance, including arrival and departure times, and contact details for potential use in contact tracing. 

The use of a face covering is also strongly advised.

If using toilets these should be cleaned before and after each use and the lid lowered when flushing to reduce the spread of aerosols. 

2. Indoor musical activities (music lessons, section rehearsals, full band rehearsals)

As at 1 above, up to 10 people from four households can meet in a private dwelling. This could allow for individual and small group lessons or sectional rehearsals to take place in someone’s home.

The Health Regulations also allow for any number of people to meet indoors where the gathering is organised or operated for cultural, entertainment, social or educational reasons. The person responsible for organising or operating the gathering must:

  • have carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000(b), whether or not that person is subject to those Regulations;
  • take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, including implementing the preventive and protective measures identified in the risk assessment undertaken in accordance with sub-paragraph (a) and
  • comply with any relevant guidance issued by a Northern Ireland Department.

The public health advice at 1 applies. In addition you should:

  • Strictly observe social distancing of 2m in all directions while playing and aim instruments away from other players where possible 
  • Individuals should each handle only their own music stand and music, and take all equipment home after each meeting
  • Bring a towel or similar to empty water keys onto. This should only be handled by the individual, removed by them and cleaned or disposed of after each use
  • Instruments should be cleaned after each use
  • Extra cleaning of mouthpieces should be observed
  • There should be no sharing of instruments or accessories i.e. mutes or valve oil
  • After rehearsals the area should be thoroughly cleaned before being used by anyone else i.e. crawling children
  • Ventilation should be increased as much as possible

Currently, theatres, concert halls and conference facilities (including those at hotels) are not permitted to re-open. The NI Executive has given an indicative date of 28 August for indoor spectators at events to be allowed.

3. Outdoor gatherings (rehearsals and performances)

Any number of people from different households can gather outdoors where the gathering is organised or operated for cultural, entertainment, social or educational reasons. The same conditions on risk assessments, limiting virus transmission and complying with guidance detailed at 2 above also apply.

This should allow outdoor rehearsals and performances to take place. However, please note that specific guidance on performance is being drawn up by the Arts Council NI. It is hoped this will be published in the near future but until that is available, the BBL would advise that the public health advice at 1 and the following are observed:

  • Strictly observe social distancing of 2m in all directions while playing and aim instruments away from other players where possible 
  • Individuals should each handle only their own music stand and music, and take all equipment home after each meeting
  • Bring a towel or similar to empty water keys onto. This should only be handled by the individual, removed by them and cleaned or disposed of after each use
  • Instruments should be cleaned after each use
  • Extra cleaning of mouthpieces should be observed
  • There should be no sharing of instruments or accessories i.e. mutes or valve oil
  • Keep the activity time involved as short as possible
  • Consider using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • Avoid facing each other directly
  • Reduce the number of people each person has contact with
  • If using toilet facilities these should be cleaned before and after each use and the lid lowered when flushing to reduce the spread of aerosols. 

Seated outdoor performances such as in local parks may be undertaken but bands should liaise closely with organisers of events such as local councils on the responsibilities for risk assessment etc.

A standalone march or parade is permissible. The guidance is the same as for outdoor rehearsals, including compliance with any conditions of parading as set by the Parades Commission. Advice should be sought from the PSNI.

Notes on this advice

This advice does not apply directly to anyone currently in a vulnerable group/shielding. They should continue to follow the advice that remains in place for that group until the shielding period is paused on 31 July.  Similarly, anyone currently showing known symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been in recent contact with someone who has, or those belonging to vulnerable categories, should not yet take part in any group activity but should remain at home in isolation.

Further Information

Health Regulations: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/health-protection-coronavirus-restrictions-no2-regulations-northern-ireland-2020

COVID-19 guidance: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19


Ongoing information from BBL NI 24 Jul 20

Just a brief update to the ongoing information we have been releasing in regards brass bands in NI:

The NI Executive published new regulations on 23 July which contain an easing of the previous restrictions on “gatherings” (a gathering is defined in the regulations as “when two or more persons are present together in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other, or to undertake any other activity with each other”

The full regulations are here:

https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/nisr_20200150_en.pdf

Under these new regulations the limit on people participating in indoor or outdoor gatherings of more than 30 people is retained except where a gathering is organised or operated for a number of listed purposes, including cultural, entertainment and recreational. In such circumstances, the person organising or operating the gathering must:

  • Have carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirement of existing health and safety legislation;
  • Take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, including implementing preventative and protective measures; and
  • Comply with any relevant guidance provided by a government department.

The regulations prohibit theatres, concert halls and conference facilities (including those in hotels) from re-opening.

The Executive of the BBL have been in direct contact with the Department of Communities and have been advised that guidance for performance is being prepared on their behalf by the Arts Council NI, and will be published in the very near future.

Clearly that guidance, once available, will be critical in determining whether this latest relaxation of the regulations will assist bands to resume activities such as full band indoor rehearsals and outdoor concerts etc. We would therefore advise bands to adopt a precautionary approach in the meantime. We will continue to engage with the relevant authorities next week and will advise all bands as soon as we have any outcomes to report. We are also in the process of reviewing the existing guidance we issued on 1st July with a view to issuing this in revised form.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

We have also been working on various other items that we hope to be able to share with you in the next week or two.  If you haven’t already, please get in touch and let us know the details for your band so they can go on the Band Map section of our website which you can find here: https://brassbandleague.org/map/

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll do our best to assist. You can email us at secretary@brassbandleague.org

Ongoing information from BBL NI 10 Jul 20

We have received several enquiries from bands following the publication of new advice from the UK government and Brass Band England, however we are not currently in a position to update our advice issued on 01 Jul 2020 as we are waiting on a response from the Public Health Agency of Northern Ireland who received a copy of our advice for comment earlier this week.  For your information, last week we also sent correspondence to both the Department of Communities and the Department of Education and are waiting on a response from them as well.  As soon as we have any further advice we will be in immediate contact with you all.

The BBL Executive also had another Zoom meeting this week and we are working on a number of items that we hope to be able to share with you soon.

If you have any further queries please let me know and I’ll try my best to assist.

Guidance for the operation of Brass Bands in Northern Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic – effective from 1st Jul 2020

Following the recent statement of advice from Brass Band England that has been shared widely on social media, we have felt it necessary, with the permission of BBE to adapt the advice in line with the current regulations specific to Northern Ireland.  It should be noted that we are in a very quickly changing situation and as such revisions may be required to this advice on a regular basis.

  1. Indoor meetings (not playing)

Up to six people from different households can meet indoors.

If you decide to meet indoors you should do so as safely as possible and follow public health advice by:

  • limiting the duration of visits
  • ensuring good ventilation
  • maintaining good hand hygiene
  • practicing social distancing where possible

The use of a face covering is also strongly advised.

If using toilets these should be cleaned before and after each use and the lid lowered when flushing to reduce the spread of aerosols. 

Overnight stays are not permitted and those who are medically shielding are strongly advised to continue following the advice that remains in place for that group until the shielding period is paused on 31 July.

  1. Indoor meetings (music lessons, section rehearsals, full band rehearsals, concerts)

The advice at 1 applies. In addition you should:

  • Strictly observe social distancing of 2m in all directions while playing and aim instruments away from other players where possible 
  • Individuals should each handle only their own music stand and music, and take all equipment home after each meeting
  • Bring a towel or similar to empty water keys onto. This should only be handled by the individual, removed by them and cleaned or disposed of after each use
  • Instruments should be cleaned after each use
  • Extra cleaning of mouthpieces should be observed
  • There should be no sharing of instruments or accessories i.e. mutes or valve oil
  • After rehearsals the area should be thoroughly cleaned before being used by anyone else i.e. crawling children
  • Ventilation should be increased as much as possible to remove the accumulation of aerosol particles

Rehearsals/concerts of more than 6 people indoors are not permitted.

  1. Outdoor gatherings (rehearsals and performances)

Up to 30 people from different households can meet up outdoors but should maintain social distancing by being 2m apart.

This in theory should allow outdoor rehearsals to take place, provided the following are observed:

  • Strictly observe social distancing of 2m in all directions while playing and aim instruments away from other players where possible 
  • Individuals should each handle only their own music stand and music, and take all equipment home after each meeting
  • Bring a towel or similar to empty water keys onto. This should only be handled by the individual, removed by them and cleaned or disposed of after each use
  • Instruments should be cleaned after each use
  • Extra cleaning of mouthpieces should be observed
  • There should be no sharing of instruments or accessories i.e. mutes or valve oil
  • Keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • Using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • Avoid facing each other directly
  • Stagger arrival and departure times
  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with
  • If using toilet facilities these should be cleaned before and after each use and the lid lowered when flushing to reduce the spread of aerosols. 

In addition, bands are advised to keep an accurate record of attendance, including arrival and departure times, and contact details for potential use in contact tracing. 

Seated outdoor performances such as in local parks will be difficult/impossible to undertake if it is likely that large numbers of people will converge and crowds will form.

A standalone march or parade may be permissible. The guidance is the same as for outdoor rehearsals, including a maximum of 30 people participating in the band, and compliance with any conditions of parading as set by the Parades Commission. Advice should be sought from the PSNI. A march leading a parade, where the total numbers involved exceed 30 people, is not permissible.

  1. Indoor church services

Certain church services (not baptisms, funerals or certain weddings) in places of worship resumed on 29 June. Advice has been issued to churches, and whilst not specific on the playing of brass instruments, it does indicate that activities such as singing can increase dispersal of the virus through aerosols and droplets, especially at loud volumes, and should not be encouraged. This advice may change in the near future but for now it is not advisable for bands or brass ensembles to take part in church services.

Notes on this advice

This advice does not apply directly to anyone currently being shielded. They should continue to observe the latest specific Government advice and any direct contact with other band members should carefully reflect this. Similarly, anyone currently showing known symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been in recent contact with someone who has, or those belonging to vulnerable categories, should not yet take part in any group activity but should remain at home in isolation.

Further Information

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-and-what-they-mean-you

https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/your-guide-to-covid-regs.pdf

This message has been emailed to all affiliated and unaffiliated bands that we have email addresses for. If you have not received this and are the secretary or bandmaster of your band, please contact our secretary Amber at 07593061905 or secretary@brassbandleague.org