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Music Services under threat

An article by Director of Sound Connections, Philip Flood

 

The last few weeks have been a mixture of good and bad news for music education in England. The good news is that Arts Council England have announced much needed additional funding for Music Education Hubs and there have been positive murmurings around the new content for GCSE Music. We are also doing increasingly well on making the case for music, both in and out of school, and Sue Hallam’s excellent updated report on the benefits of music education is just the sort of evidence we all need to help support the cause.

However, all these positive achievements are at risk of being sabotaged by Local Authorities either being forced to, or having to, depending on how you view it, make monumental financial cuts to the services that they provide for music making with young people in their area. Bizarrely, this is happening just when Culture Minister Ed Vaizey stated at a national conference that he is ‘sick and tired of local authorities stepping away from their responsibility for the arts’.

In London, the most recent cases of councils announcing the withdrawal of funding to music hubs are Bromley and Redbridge. Both are long established and highly successful Music Services, with a track record of supporting young peoples’ music making and producing outstanding musicians. Both have made the transition to becoming hub lead organisations smoothly and acknowledge the importance of working with partners, including practitioners, cultural and youth organisations, in order to give young people as many opportunities and progression choices as possible.

According to Ian Rowe, Principal of Bromley Youth Music Trust, Bromley Council is seeking to reduce its support for the trust from £300,000 to zero as of 1 April 2015. The situation in Redbridge is similar, with a cut to the music hub lead organisation of £370,000 over the next two years. There is no doubt that savings need to be made and that music hubs need to be part of this but I am concerned that these cuts are devastating and happening so quickly that they could destabilise these organisations and even result in their closure.

My biggest fear is that cuts such as these will result in those young people in the most challenging circumstances not getting access to high quality music opportunities. So, whether that’s the removal of subsidised lessons, targeted interventions or bespoke projects which, when done well, can all result in significant positive change and have huge impact on young people who face multiple barriers or hardships. In fact there is a very real danger that Youth Music’s recently stated ambition to work towards a musically inclusive England is very much under threat.

Campaigns have been launched by friends and supporters of both organisations and you can find more details below. I’d also get used to filling out these type of petitions, as I fear this may only be the beginning in London.

 

Sign the petition for Bromley Music Service

Sign the petition for Redbridge Music Service

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