What value culture and the creative artist?


As the UK recently gained a new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Equalities – Sajid Javid, today’s blog compares some of the attitudes and systems in place for the public support of culture in the UK and Europe.  The European Commission produced a wealth of statistics in their Eurostat pocket books – Cultural Statistics – 2011 edition. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_OFFPUB/KS-32-10-374/EN/KS-32-10-374-EN.PDF that compares cultural data from countries within Europe. 

In 2011 the German government voted for an increase in their public spending on culture of over 5%. The French government are trying to streamline (or cut) the generous welfare support that their creative artists have enjoyed for many years.

The Council of Europe/ERICarts, Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, 12th edition, 2011 gives some basic information about how some of the EU countries support their creative artists through national and regional schemes, the following examples come from this report.

In Spain the Intellectual Property Act (23/2006 Act) obliges copyright societies to set up welfare and support services for “authors, performing artists or cultural workers”, either themselves or through third parties. Societies are to spend 20% of their copyright fees on such services.

In Ireland there is total tax exemption for creative artists (not performing artists) on income from work recognised for its artistic or cultural value. The French tax system has special allowances for independent creators and performing artists around 10 or 20% whereas the German system has a 30% flat rate for independent artists with special rates for freelance workers on short contracts.

In the UK there is still no specific labour or social security measures governing the cultural sector in general or for freelance artists in particular although Arts Council grants are exempt from tax. Some recommendations for more public funding of, as well as tax incentives for, creative artists have recently been published in a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research – March of the modern makers. An industrial strategy for the creative industries. http://www.ippr.org/images/media/files/publication/2014/03/March-of-the-modern-makers_Feb2014_11926.pdf 

The UK government has devolved most of the responsibility for cultural spending through expensive layers of management, intermediaries and business administrators. The most recent accounts from the Arts Council can be found at http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/media/uploads/pdf/ACE_Annual_Report_2012-13_Interactive.pdf Recent governments have used publicity and public relations strategies to promote themselves and the creative industries but the main sources of income for arts now seem to be from gambling, tax incentives for large businesses and philanthropic donations.

Camelot’s web site (https://www.national-lottery.co.uk/player/p/goodcausesandwinners/wherethemoneygoes.ftl) shows how the money is divided. “In the year ending 31 March 2013, 28% of total National Lottery revenue was returned to the Good Causes, while over 50% of total revenue was paid to players in prizes. Over the same period, 12% of total revenue was paid to the Government in Lottery Duty and around 5% was paid to retailers in commission.” “…the money Camelot delivered for National Lottery Projects was allocated as follows:

  • Health, Education, Environment, and charitable causes – 40%
  • Sports – 20%
  • Arts – 20%
  • Heritage – 20%.” 

Looking at these figures the approximate division of a £1 stake is:

  • 50p in prize money
  • 12p to government in tax (duty)
  • 05p in retailers commission
  • 08p to Health, Education, Environment, and charitable causes
  • 04p to Sports
  • 04p to Arts
  • 04p to Heritage

Camelot also state that during 2013 they raised over £35 million each week to give to good causes which would equate to approximately £1,500,000 per week to the Arts (and based on the same figures £4,500,000 to the government each week).

Culture should not be regarded as a “good cause”, it is the main element that defines the society we are, were and have aspirations to become. I hope the new Minister will be a champion for culture but with all the other sectors in his title competing for attention, I am not that optimistic.

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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Originally posted on Alternative Barnsley:

The Easter holidays are nearly upon us, which often means lots of chocolate and lots of bored children. Fret not. Barnsley’s has a wealth of arts and creative workshops on offer for children of all ages. Here’s a run down:

THE ART STATION (the old HMV unit), Cheapside, Barnsley
SAT 12th – THU 17th APR
Enter the pop-up art station in the town centre and join the creative workforce in making large willow ‘Tour de France’ sculptures that will animate the town centre during the Cultural festival before finding a permanent home on the Trans Pennine Trail.
Fun and accessible for all ages and abilities.
Sessions: 11am – 1pm and 2pm – 4pm
Cost: Free
For further information please contact jamesbrunt@barnsley.gov.uk

Prior to the opening of the Women Against Pit Closures exhibition, the museum’s youth panel took part in some…

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Career Planning


The uncertainty of change is often a barrier to achieving maximum potential.

As a freelance musician at the start of my career this was not something I considered. The main focus was how to find enough work to survive and then obtain more work to be able to live. My career has been full of changes, and is still changing, and only now am I able to appreciate the benefits.

Very soon after I joined my previous employment I heard from a number of sources that five years in one post and then move was normal practice in the profession. This was my experience, five years lecturing and then a move to management but still in the same building. During this period there were other changes, especially in my own professional development and most notably researching towards a PhD.

The most recent change of career has meant moving from the place I have worked in and considered an ideal creative environment for the past eight years. During the packing I have made some exciting discoveries, many ‘just needing finishing touches’ compositions that had been forgotten or buried as the in-tray changed with the new job role. Listening to these works, some which are over ten years old, has helped me to evaluate my writing again. Some of the works still sound fresh and with a little final editing are ready for publication, others sound ‘of a time’ or period that I have passed through and will probably remain at the bottom of the pile.

A regular de-clutter should be written into all employment contracts. The valuable shelf space that was packed with important (but never required) information from the last move is now empty with the contents all recycled. The Legends recordings that I mentioned in the last blog have been dispatched to the band and we are back in touch with each other (over 25 years later in some cases). 

The changes have brought to light some music that could have been lost for many years; I will make it available in some form or other soon as I feel it has potential.

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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Rediscovered, rescued and release?


Legends at the Bradford Jazz Festival – 20/03/1983

 Jon Taylor, Simon Barnes, Richard Iles, Andy Watson, Jon Moreman, Dave Tyas, Barry Rickarby, Peter Birkby, Colin Richman

During a recent search for examples of music I discovered some ¼” master tapes, as well as demos on cassette, from the band Legends that I co-led with drummer Dave Tyas. These analogue recordings, made in the early 1980s, have been rescued into a digital format as the tapes were starting to disintegrate. 

Those of you that have been reading the blog over the past year will realise that I have been reflecting on the experiences that have influenced my musical career to try and gain a more complete understanding of my composition methods with the intention of developing new ideas and processes.  Finding and salvaging this material has reminded me of the methods I used 30 years ago and how my actions have changed during the intervening years. 

The music for Legends attempted to balance the formality of precisely scored musical sections with soloist led improvisational sections that could be supported with complimentary material from the other members of the ensemble.  There were musical sections that were optional in some of the works, these gave each performance some uniqueness but the recording method meant they had to be fixed for this medium. 

The Arts Council supported the writing and copying of some of the music on the recordings and the band members gave days of their time and creativity to the project but in the end we could not afford to press the vinyl.  Nearly 30 years on and the promotion and distribution methods have changed to make the release of the album a viable prospect.  Is there an audience for the release of Legends online or a reunion or was the band of a time? 

As well as the recordings I also found some press releases from various arts organisations that promoted concerts of the band and reviews from local and national newspapers.  All positive and complimentary about the “new” sound we had created, the “precision” of the performance and the “impressive” or “strong” improvisations from members of the band. 

At the end the band was a victim of the success of its members, many went on to long-term and full-time employment in various parts of the country and organising gigs around these constraints became too difficult.  Apart from Dave Tyas and myself as co-leaders the regulars were Andy Watson (guitar), Barry Rickarby (bass), Jon Taylor (saxophones/flute), Richard Iles (trumpet/flugel horn), Simon Barnes (trumpet/flugel horn), Jon Moreman (trombone), Nigel Chapman (piano) and there were guest appearances from Andy Peacock (trombone) and Dale Gibson (trumpet).  A mention should also be given to pianists Dave Newton, Colin Richman and Pete Lingwood who all gave their ideas to the band and Al Wood (trombone/saxophone) and Harry Beckett (trumpet) for the music and laughs on the North of England tour. 

One of the duets Dave and I recorded (Woodred) can be found on SoundCloud http://soundcloud.com/music-54-4/ and other tracks can be made available to download fairly easily although there should be a cost, at least to give some money back to the musicians for their support on the recordings, but as for manufacturing a CD?  Who knows what the future will bring, Legends may be rediscovered, released and reunited. 

© Peter R. Birkby 2014

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How do you use music?


Hello, how do you access and use music?  I have published music for over thirty years (mainly in printed formats) and would like opinions of the way you, as customer and consumer, now find, choose and acquire the music that you require for education, business and enjoyment purposes. 

It is not a complete survey as it will only reflect the views of the online social media community although this seems to be the community that many marketing experts in the music industries now target and was promoted as ‘the future’ of retail around 10 years ago.  Has it redeemed the businesses in the industries that were struggling to come to terms with the online consumer and what is the cost to the creative artists? 

There have been some very interesting facts and figures published this week, thank you to Zoe Keating (reported in theguardian.com) http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/feb/24/zoe-keating-itunes-spotify-youtube-payouts for revealing her earnings from various online distributers and streaming sites and another part of the streaming mystery was published by andizack on Instagram about the royalty payments from the Pandora streaming service http://instagram.com/p/k5j4bUJdTa/.  The results from the streaming services look very unsatisfactory for the creators.  They give the impression of another business that has been devised and set-up as a multi-national, by multi-nationals, with all the related costs. 

In these changing times I am looking to create my own business offer and would appreciate some idea of your buying habits, thoughts about how you use music and how your experience could be made better in a survey at http://freeonlinesurveys.com/s.asp?sid=37f0nxbek8gy43j430215  There are eight questions so it should only take 5 minutes.

The results will be collated and blogged in a few weeks time and thank you in anticipation for your views.


© Peter R. Birkby 2014

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Drummers and Percussionists – thank you


The first reading of the results from the survey many of you completed shows overwhelming support for the group with the comments section breaking down into four main categories: jobs/standards, teaching material, events and business.  I have edited the comments to fit within a category and these are listed below. 

Jobs and standards 

Employment classified section for live musician work, cover work and teaching opportunities.  Publically accessible database of active teacher members.  Professional accreditation scheme.

Teaching material 

On line repository of reviewed resources (with links) for all drum styles and percussion instruments.  Information about new publications.           

More focus on music-making that doesn’t concentrate solely on exams, the boards these days do a great job themselves, NAPT could offer something else. 


An event or festival where we could get together and contribute and take in equal measure.  Workshops for technical and repertoire inspiration as an example.


Negotiate with insurers for favourable public liability rates.  Keep informed of any health and safety or safeguarding developments that would affect members. 

The closing time for the survey is midnight on Tuesday 25th February 2014.

If any readers that have not completed the survey but would like to add to the comments, the link is http://freeonlinesurveys.com/s.asp?sid=h53kcr0k62yj87z413174 

Thank you again to everyone that took the time to complete the survey.  The full results will be published in the next version of the newsletter and all your input will inform the National Association of Percussion Teachers during the current planning and development stages.  Keep reading the blog for news of future progress. 

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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Now that Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas has been completed what next?  The organising of a recording and premiere has to be finalised but what to do with the stream of ideas for new compositions that keep arriving each week? 

I had a request from Barnsley Youth Choir for the second part to the Beatles Collection, they premiered part one last year, and I am putting that together now.  The choir are a fantastic group of singers and volunteers and I hope they manage to collect the funds for this year’s invitation to the Youth Choir Games in Riga, Latvia as Great Britain’s representative (they need donations and sponsors, please visit the website http://www.barnsleyyouthchoir.org.uk for more details). 

That is one outlet, what about the other music I am now inspired to write?  I have been looking at composition competitions and calls for works as openings for more writing.  There are many competitions advertised each year and some of the websites are listed here: http://www.composerssite.com



Make sure to look at the entry conditions carefully before participating in any of these competitions as there are many with age and nationality restrictions as well as the ‘open to all’ criteria.  Another consideration is the fee that some of the competitions charge, to pay or just submit to the calls that are free of charge? 

Some other composer/bloggers have related their experiences of how they approach competitions, as well as assisted their careers, and I have included the links here.  One is from Dr. Sy Brandon: http://composinginsights.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/composition-competitions.html and the other is from Eric Whitacre:  http://ericwhitacre.com/blog/advice-for-the-emerging-composer-competitions 

Why submit?  As well as providing the brief and a deadline for the music there is the need for supplementary information which can be useful in many other employment situations.  The 50 or 100 word biography, more difficult to create than the full version or a CV and very suitable for a social media presence, and which publicity photograph to choose?  As I am at present looking for employment all these are very necessary and having the most up to date versions makes job applications less time-consuming. 

I was planning to submit to four or five each year but already I have seen some very interesting competitions with deadlines this month so I am back to working to short deadlines with a specific brief and I am enjoying every minute of it. 

If you want to hear some of my composition please listen on SoundCloud at http://soundcloud.com/music-54-4/

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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