Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Meanwhile, back in Croydon

The other day I received two messages. The first was headed simply LONDON MOZART PLAYERS and said "I'd be grateful for your help in publicising the information attached". People Give Concert...? Oh. No. Hang on... The "information" was actually that this doughty chamber orchestra is fighting for its very existence.

While several early music ensembles lick their chops at the prospect of getting their paws on some ACE lolly at long last, the London Mozart Players is threatened with closure. Having lost all its ACE support, it faces the prospect of annihilation unless alternative sources of income can be found. It has launched an urgent campaign to this end.

Its MD Simon Funnell says this:
“This campaign is urgent and vital – if we don’t succeed it is highly likely that the board will have to take the decision to close the orchestra later this year so the stakes are very high indeed. The LMP is one of the finest chamber orchestras in the country and it is crucial that we protect this part of our heritage....
"Many arts organisations face challenging times in the coming years; thanks to the deep impact of the recession, Government cuts to the Arts Council, low interest rates and a gloomy outlook on the economy, the orchestra is facing a squeeze on every side: there are more organisations chasing smaller and smaller pots of money.
“Every time we lose a cultural institution like the LMP, we lose something of our humanity and we cannot allow this to happen. The sums of money the LMP need to survive are relatively small but vital if the orchestra is to survive. The government is calling on philanthropists and companies to do more to support the arts, and now the LMP is asking directly for that support.”
So why do I think the LMP deserves the funding that went instead into early music? Early music ensembles are not generally about keeping music on the pulse of today: they cater for an elite-within-an-elite in musical taste, one that prefers to create fantasies of sounds that may have existed centuries ago (some call it 'Taliban' syndrome...) rather than engaging in the sounds and issues of today. Not many of them make a habit of commissioning living composers to refresh audiences and musicians alike with new, living, breathing music. The LMP does. Supporting the creation of new music should be an absolute pre-requisite.

Or...could the LMP be suffering from a simple image problem: their home base? What are the chances that the yay or nay-sayers in public funding just don't bother going to the concrete compounds of Croydon to hear their completely excellent work? Hmm.

My second message was from a friend who is involved in running a small arts organisation that does rely on private donations. Here's what's happening to them:
"Twice we have been seriously let down by two philanthropists....We spent money on giving two invited superb presentations with artists in private homes, in total to about 60 people, all who loved it and were emotionally moved and promised the earth. Two in particular, both wealthy and one quite well known, offered £30,000 and £150,000 respectively.  In front of witnesses.  Neither of them have come up with a penny.  All sorts of excuses.... But I am flabbergasted and shocked and the more I tell people the more I hear it goes on. Jeremy Hunt et all better be warned.  I also heard via an email this morning that in the States one concert series that annually receives a fund of $100,000 this year got $5000 from the same person."
Philanthropy shmilanthropy.