Uncertainty remains as to when bands can return to music-making

Sunday 26 July 2020

It is still uncertain when the Scottish government will be in a position to give advice on when brass bands will be able to get back together again to resume their music-making activities.

Responding to a request from the British Bandsman, Dr Heather Holmes, spokesperson for creative industries in Scotland, noted: “The Scottish government fully recognises the importance that music-making, including amateur music-making, plays in the lives of people and in providing real assistance to them in their wellbeing. Music-making has always had an important role in Scotland's culture and will continue to do so in the future.”

“However,” she continues, “the Scottish government is aware of the potential health issues arising from activities such as singing, woodwind and brass. Research is currently going on to look at the existing and emerging evidence. In due course this will allow us to provide advice on music making and singing. I do not have a date for when the Scottish government will provide advice.”

In the meantime, SBBA has been liaising with Prof John Wallace and a Music Education Partnership Group (MPEG) Scotland advisory group on scientific research into the aerosol effect of playing a brass instrument, work which is expected to be reported on by early next month.

Prof Wallace told SBBA: “Our study will be bringing together the findings of over 100 research projects. We are also doing a big project on online learning, how effective it is, and how safe it is with regard to child protection.

“The findings from both studies will be available in the second week of August and we’ll be keeping SBBA informed well in advance at every stage. So far, the Scottish government has been very sympathetic to our arguments regarding safety and we expect it to move slowly and carefully in all respects. So a return will not be overnight.”

Consequently, for the time being, SBBA is reiterating its message that the suspension of brass band rehearsals and engagements should remain in place until Scottish government advice changes to allow public gatherings of numerous people in enclosed spaces without the requirements for physical distancing.

Said SBBA president Carrie Boax: “SBBA has at all times been driven by the scientific facts throughout this pandemic and prioritises the health and wellbeing of its members. We continue to support the studies, from groups such as MPEG, that are being undertaken in the quest to find a solution to the issues that prevent brass and wind musicians performing.

“We are grateful for the work that John Wallace, a valued member and patron of our Scottish National Youth Brass Band (NYBBS), is doing on behalf of brass players and we commend him for keeping SBBA up-to-date with the findings.”

• The Making Music organisation has written to the Scottish government as a matter of urgency to request that, when guidance is issued on the reopening of the performing arts, they allow amateurs to resume musical activity following the same guidelines as professionals.

“As a sector, we are utterly committed to the safety of our participants and we believe there is no reason for making separate rules for professionals and amateurs,” says the letter.

“The musical activity we represent is part of the fabric of Scottish culture and life – and your actions now are crucial to ensuring its survival.”


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Email Nigel Martin: sbbapr@gmail.com