And The Band Didn’t Play On

We’re beginning to get used to hearing every day about cuts to serious things. Those ‘frontline services’ that we generally don’t even think of day to day but can be literally life or death to some people. I’m still not clear exactly what Greenwich Council decided last week – I’m sure that part of the reason they didn’t get much in the way of protest was that they didn’t give us much in the way of notice or information. 

But alongside the major cuts, there are hundreds of smaller things, that are slipping by and, if the big things are being kept quiet  it’s hardly surprising that the tiny things that form a little part of the fabric of Greenwich won’t be noticed until its too late.

Nobody is going to die if there isn’t a season of brass band concerts in the park. To be honest, I always forgot to check exactly when which band would be on, but if I ever came across one as I wandered by of a Sunday afternoon I always felt I’d found something special, something rather lovely. I’d stop, sit down with the sometimes dozens, sometimes hundreds of other folk and take a breath from the world. Slow down for a moment and enjoy the world as people did a hundred years and more ago. 

Stephen is the classic English chap. When he wasn’t playing cricket on Sunday afternoons, he used to listen to bands in the park. In fact he’s such a fan that he used to tell the team he wasn’t available if there was a particularly juicy ensemble scheduled.

When he looked at this year’s park events (presumably so that he could let the cricket team know his availability) he saw there weren’t any bands scheduled at all. He was so upset that he wrote to Royal Parks. I think you can probably see where this is going…

The reply was polite but firm. Royal Parks have had a cut of 37% and what they call ‘non-core’ activities – like the arts, have been slashed. This year if Stephen (or anyone) wants to listen to a nice brass band, he’ll have to travel to St James’s Park. The bandstands at Kensington, Greenwich and Regent’s parks will lie fallow this year, though Royal Parks say they’re trying secure extra funding.

Now, to me this is the perfect sponsorship opportunity. Okay so it’s not a particularly sexy product – not, perhaps for your mobile phone companies, car manufacturers or vodka oligarchs, but there are other sponsors, and we’re not talking millions here. 

The brass band musicians are amateurs – they don’t get paid a regular fee for their playing. All that’s required here is expenses. Surely there must be a company that trades on ‘traditional values’ who’d love to be associated with such a classically British experience? A real ale company, perhaps? Werthers Original (about as British as Bratwurst, but who cares?) Pimms? 

I guess there’s probably some bylaw about advertising in Royal parks (which, of course, will be ignored wholesale next year) but this seems such a small cut, that won’t have big consequences, but will have sad ones, both for the trumpeting schoolkids and the people who listen to them. Still, at least Stephen’s cricket eleven will be able to count on him every Sunday this summer…

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6 Comments to “And The Band Didn’t Play On”

  1. Michael Kaye says:

    Not sure sponsorship will cut it as Royal Parks will claim they will need to secure additional funds for Bandstand maintenance, additional police patrols etc. It’s a real shame. Apparently in a recession absolutely no joy is allowed.

  2. scared of chives says:

    Would the park consider regular events at the bandstand?

    (don’t tell the dinosaurs at the Blackheath Society though…)

  3. I don’t know – but I’d certainly go…

  4. Stephen says:

    Still, at least Stephen’s cricket eleven will be able to count on him every Sunday this summer…

    Maybe, but I also play Saturdays and sometimes am grateful of a rest on a Sunday.
    You had it spot on when you mentioned about enjoying the world as people did a hundred years ago. There is something very British about these concerts and I often felt a sense of pride when I watched.

    I went to St. James’s Park a few years ago. It is nothing like Greenwich Park in that there isn’t even a bandstand, it is just a concrete circle with a kind of temporary tent over the musicians, and you can’t get very close to them either. A rope is in front of those who watch from the grassy area to keep them at a certain distance. No doubt they carried out a risk assessment which determined that none of the great unwashed would be allowed within 40 feet of the players.

  5. Lara says:

    I tweeted this just now…

    @Greenwichcouncl Heard of this? It was mentioned on a @tgphantom article @bandstandbusks

  6. Lara says:

    Also, are band stands exclusively for bands? I sing in a choir…