Barnsley MP, Michael Dugher has focused our attention on the plight of the Grimethrope Colliery Band - one of the superstars of the brass band world:
Labour MP Michael Dugher said it was “snobbery” that the British Federation of Brass Bands, which supports bands such as Grimethorpe, got just £23,000 last year while the Royal Opera House in London got more than £26million and the English National Ballet was handed more than £6million.
Dugher is right - traditional English arts are a poor relation next to elite international arts. Even when we look at arts funding in the north, we see that it is still skewed towards those same dominating areas: classical music, opera, ballet and theatre.
The problem is that these traditions - and if Dugher thinks brass bands are hard done by take a peek at Morris dancing - are disliked by the arts establishment. In their song 'Roots', Show of Hands make this point:
And a minister said his vision of hell
Is three folk singers in a pub near Wells
Well, I've got a vision of urban sprawl
There's pubs where no-one ever sings at all
Folk music and other arts traditions are disdained by the arts elite. Funding goes to grand and exclusive establishments that make no mark on most of the population. Bands are to be tucked away out of sight brought out only when we want some sort of Northern 'authenticity' - in Bradford we built a new City Centre park. And, in a City that's home to two of the world's best brass bands, we didn't include a bandstand.
While millionaire actors and opera singers strut the subsidised stages of London, the traditional arts of England - choirs, brass bands, dance troupe, folk music - live a hand-to-mouth existence. Arts funding is overwhelmingly spent in London and directed to the preferences and interests of an arts elite rather than the mass of the population.
Michael Dugher is right - arts funding is elitist.