What have the following in common, I ask myself?
1. A recent concert given by the European Doctor’s Orchestra in Gateshead.
2. A last minute skiing trip to France.
3. An e-mail from Sheffield Councillor Julie Dore.
Well, the EDO concert took place in the fabulous Sage concert hall in Newcastle/Gateshead, home of the much loved and patronised Northern Sinfonia. Doctors from all over Europe participated. Some flew in directly to Newcastle airport. The hall is wonderful. The whole complex is now self funding; a focus for performance and musical education in the North.
Our last minute skiing trip was only possible thanks to an excellent cheap flight from the efficient and friendly Liverpool airport to Geneva. ‘Well done” Liverpool, home of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
The catch all e-mail from Julie Dore (addressed impersonally to sir/madam in response to my carefully worded query) explained that the South Yorkshire Music Lending library is being reprieved for a further 6 months while alternative funding is being sought. Failure to succeed means the service will have to go. She points out that the draconian government cuts are to blame. I would have more sympathy with this view if the savings from cutting the SY music library would make any difference, but the budget for this service is small (and certainly trivial compared to the costs of Sheffield’s failed bid to become UK City of Culture!)
So the common feature is ‘missed opportunity’ and meager civic vision. With all the rebuilding in the City centre we could have a modern concert hall and, who knows, a professional orchestra. We could have an international airport (Docaster Robin Hood airport simply does not count as anyone who has tried to get there by public transport will testify). What we do have is a remarkably vibrant amateur music scene one of whose major supporting services is about to be withdrawn. As someone who has tried to balance the books of an amateur orchestra for 10 years, I can reassure everyone that this will be a major blow.
These issues are, of course, full of complexities which I am unlikely to understand. There are, no doubt, very good reasons why Sheffield should not emulate the substantial achievements of smaller cities such as Liverpool and Newcastle. But, as anyone who has actually done anything important, who has made a significant impact, will tell you, “Where there is a will, there is a way”. The question now becomes, “is there a will”?