Band-Aid: What is really infecting our community?
I wasn't going to post a blog article about Covid-19, as I'm getting a bit sick of it to be honest (pardon the pun). However, there has been so much talk of it on various banding facebook pages, that I thought I would throw my cap into the ring. So, here is my opinion on the whole banding ban situation. Quite frankly I don't think Covid is the only thing that is threatening to destroy our community...
Am I bothered about banding being banned completely, just when we were beginning to start small socially distanced rehearsals? Of course I am! There is only so much stuff you can write on a banding blog without brass bands and I am missing my band buddies! I was really disappointed when I found out that the government had put a blanket ban on amateur brass playing. I've missed everything about it. I've missed Whit Friday. I missed Durham Miners Gala. I missed having the opportunity to play at my first Freckleton Club Day. I miss playing music with my friends. When I've read the posts on Facebook of people who rely on banding as an escape or to help their mental health and I relate to everyone's frustration with the matter. Finally, professional musicians being allowed to return seems to have rubbed salt in the wound for us all.
However, do I agree that we should sit tight and wait this out rather than force the government's hand to let us go back? Yes. Do I think this is a malicious and selfish attack on brass bands in order to purposefully destroy us and therefore is something our movement needs to be 'saved' from?
No, nope, non, nein!
This is a precautionary measure, no matter how annoying and seemingly unsubstantiated it may be. Boris hasn't sat there throwing darts at a picture of the Black Dyke Band, whilst stroking a white cat and plotting how he is going to take down these plebeian brass bands once and for all. There is no secret conspiracy. Boris doesn't have a secret lab under 10 Downing Street and has concoted the coronavirus specifically to wipe out brass banding. Regarding professionals going back, this isn't the government saying that amateur brass players are more incompetent than professional players - it's all about necessary risk. Professional players perform for a living, not just as a hobby - they play to put food on the table! I'm blummin' glad that they have been allowed to return. I can't imagine how stressful the last few months must have been for professional musicians. It's a necessary risk for professional musicians to return to work. It's still a risk (they don't have magic anti-coronavirus powers just because they're professional), it's just more necessary than a group of people who play for fun. Not really a hard concept to understand.
Could they have done more to research into the effects of brass playing before now? Yes, but during a global pandemic where tens of thousands of people are dying, I don't think brass bands really count as a priority do they? I mean I know 'it's music that matters' but I think even Danny Ormondroyd would be understanding in this situation.
I know that bands are struggling, both financially and in the morale department. I know that not everyone was eligible for the grant that was released earlier in the year and I know we are so desparate to get back. However this frustration and anger is now becoming something of a disease within the banding community. We have people saying they want to 'save' banding, but are degrading and mocking people who have pointed out exactly the same risks that I am explaining in this article - being rude to people in the community isn't exactly saving it, is it? I have seen more than just a handful of comments from people calling each other 'stupid', 'ignorant' and in one particular case, 'patronising'. Surely name-calling someone who doesn't agree with you is stupid, ignorant and patronising? I'd say I'm worried about the negative response to this article, as I fully appreciate that not everyone will agree with me, but I'm not worried - rude comments will just substantiate my point and people (respectfully) expressing an opposite point of view is always welcome (the world would be incredibly boring if we all agreed).
I'm sorry, but as far as I can see, the biggest thing that is posing a threat to this community (other than this awful virus) is the community itself. I've seen non-banding people who are relatives of players, who have joined in with conversations on brass band social media pages and have been insulted just because they (respectfully) didn't agree with what was being said - that's really showing banding to be a loving community isn't it? We're so worried about audience numbers when we are allowed to return yet are insulting the very people who don't play in our community but are still willing to support it!
At the end of the day this virus has not magically disappeared. To try and illustrate the risk that is still very much applicable to a lot of the banding community, these were a few risk factors that were outlined in a typical work place risk assessment. The risk assessment is a point system, with those scoring higher being more at risk than those scoring lower - do not mistake 'low risk' for 'no risk', WE ARE ALL AT RISK.
Over 50 - risk score: 1 point
Over 60 - risk score: 2 points
Over 70 - risk score: 4 points
Over 80 - risk score: 8 points
Just think how many people in the banding world this risk factor alone will affect?
Female - risk score = 0 point
Male - risk score = 1 point
Shall we write to our MPs to allow female only ensembles? Of course not that would be just as selfish as saying only 'people with no underlying conditions' can return to band. Are we a community or a group of individuals - you can't have both.
Underlying health conditions
Diabetes - risk score = 1-2 points depending on type
Overweight - risk score = 1 point
Asthma - 1 point
Angina - 1 point
History of stroke - 1 point
Look at this list (and this isn't the full list included in the assessment) now look at the members of your band - how many do you think fall into these categories? I will eat my shoes if there is a band in the country who is not affected by any of the above factors. If you're someone who doesn't fall into any of the risk categories, that's great for you. However, I ask you, could you live with yourself if someone in the band caught it and there was a possibility that you were the carrier. I may have the wrong end of the stick (or baton) but it seems to me that the overwhelming attitude towards this issue seems to be either:
'I'm ok, so I want to return to band regardless of the risk I may impose on other members of the band.'
'Well those who are at risk should sit out, so the rest of us can go back.'
Where is the community spirit in any of these scenarios? I would rather go back knowing the risks which we will, hopefully, find out through the research that is currently being conducted. Even if jamming our local MPs letterbox with angry letters does mean we go back, do we really want to return without the facts? There is still a lot of anxiety and worry within the banding world about this virus and I think that should be respected - I mean, it's killed people. It's a microscopic, contagious murderer that is on the loose! This situation is horrible. I miss banding more than anything, but I would miss my band mates more if we selfishly went back too soon and the consequences were fatal.