A letter to an MP

A letter, written to Skipton’s MP, Julian Smith.  It is probably a bit too long but there are elements in here that could be borrowed.

Dear Mr Smith,

I write as the Secretary of the Skipton Music Festival, an annual event which we hope will take place in March this year – for the 102nd time.  It is an event run entirely by volunteers under the aegis of the British and International Federation of Festivals (BIFF) of which we are a member.

To comply with current legislation, the Festival must obtain a Body of Persons Agreement from the Local Authority, which in our case is North Yorkshire Council.  This Licence takes into account the requirements imposed by the primary legislation of the Children and Young Persons Act of 1963 and the secondary legislation of the Children (Performance and Activities) (England) Regulations 2014.  These two pieces of legislation quite rightly protect children and young people who are engaged in performing professionally either on stage or in television.  I have no desire whatsoever to interfere with this safeguarding of our children and young people.

My problem, and that of very many Festivals such as ours, whether they be for music, dance or speech and drama, is that the legislation restricts how a Festival can be organised.  The rules about authorised absence from school to allow individual children to take part in a Festival are so inflexible as to mean that we are not able to hold classes during school time.  BIFF Festivals employ professional Adjudicators and Accompanists and these highly qualified and thoroughly vetted musicians quite rightly expect to be treated as such.  Organising a programme where we are unable to use any time during the day before 3.40 is very restrictive and wastes time.  In addition, the logistics of setting up a venue to the necessary standard means that the venue is unused for a large part of the day.

The benefits which accrue to the children and young people who are able to take part in Festivals are undoubted.  Festivals provide a safe, non-threatening platform for them to perform, whether they are seven years old or seventeen.  They are able to develop the self-discipline, confidence and self-esteem which come from working at a skill and demonstrating it in front of their peers, with the added bonus of an informed and sensitive critique from an experienced musician.

BIFF, alongside other arts organisations, is trying very hard to demonstrate the undoubted educational benefits of Festivals.  In an age when the arts are being squeezed out of the curriculum, it is vital that opportunities are provided for children and young people to perform and to benefit from those opportunities.  To help you understand how a Music Festival such as ours works, I have attached a paper that explains very clearly how a Festival such as ours (and many others) is organised.  I have attached a document which shows how BIFF is working with other arts based organisations to try and make sense of the legislation and finally the NNCEE Guidance to Child Performance Licensing in England.

I look forward to your support in helping to create legislation that can be fit for purpose for our young musicians.