The limits of cultural diversity in arts policy: the example of the forgotten brass bands

Katie Topp (University of Winchester)
Download the full paper here (PDF).

The limits of cultural diversity in arts policy: the example of the forgotten brass bands. In their publications and policies, decision-makers tend to forget some parts of our white working-class heritage, as exemplified by the challenges faced by the brass band movement. The brass band movement must increasingly rely on commercial sponsors because public sector funding does not seem available as brass bands are not the fashionable darlings of arts policy.

This paper critically examines the example of brass bands as an illustration of contested/dissonant heritage. The analysis is based on both primary research (with brass band musicians) and secondary research (on a range of documents such as policies and applications which seem to always exclude cultural forms like brass bands). Issues of communication, education and representations are explored and both sides are constructively criticised, both policy-makers and brass bands representatives.

Ultimately, this paper addresses one of the ‘black holes’ of arts policy: the difficult situation of some movements that are outside the usual frames of reference of cultural diversity.

Keywords: cultural diversity, brass bands, preoccupation, arts policy

Katie Topp was originally from Romsey (Hampshire) where she is living again. She graduated with a BA in Arts Management and Media Studies from De Montfort University and then studied for an MA in Cultural and Arts Management at the University of Winchester. Her interest in brass bands comes from her family. Since the age of seven she has played in the local brass band that was founded by her great-grandfather over a century ago. A talented musician, Katie has been on tour all over Europe. Upon completion of her masters Katie is due to take up the position of Marketing Assistant at The Nuffield Theatre, Southampton.


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