British Federation continues expansion of program

by Jim Vaughn

This article was originally published in the February 2008 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 36, Number 17).

Drum Corps World has previously published details of the Federation’s activities working with and for the 14 national youth organisations in the U.K. that involve their young members in all styles of the marching band activity. (Editor’s note: in this article, “band” refers to all youth marching groups, including drum and bugle corps).

After a national conference and subsequent consultation with its 14 member organisations, in 2006, the Federation published a two-year “whole activity” development strategy titled “MarchOn”. This established both the principles of our intended development and specifically how bands and corps might respond. Clearly, unless leaders at the local level actioned the strategy, then it would not be a success. In summary, the development strategy identified the following:

Vision: That regionally and nationally the youth marching band activity becomes an effective, accepted and valued performing art for young people.

Mission: That Federation member organisations work together to transform the youth marching band activity in the next decade.

Values: That we work with responsibility within the context of a youth activity, promoting inclusivity, achievement, understanding and enjoyment.

Partners: Federation member organisations, voluntary and statutory arts and educational authorities, community organisations; professional musicians,; funding organisations.

The document identified practical issues for bands to address within three broad areas:

Community: To encourage the sustainable development of bands in their communities so that they become valued contributors to social development and social cohesion through the involvement of young people in live music and physical movement, supported by their parents/carers and the wider community.

Education: To improve the performance quality of youth marching bands and of its leadership, and to develop an acknowledgement of our unique activity within the educational sector.

Recognition: To develop a wider acknowledgement of the educational and community benefits of the youth marching band activity. To develop different performance opportunities and a wider audience profile.

Not surprisingly, funding would dictate the speed of implementation and with $20,000 from the U.K. lottery in early 2007, the Federation has been able to make some progress.

Training DVD

As a totally voluntary, community-based activity in the U.K., many bands do not always have a full complement of specialist staff. To help with basic instrumental and performance technique, the Federation filmed and has now published a training DVD titled “Good Beginnings”.

This two-hour production tries to address traditional, drum corps and show band instrumental and performance techniques. It is hoped that this will help bands ensure that all young people will correctly learn the basic rudiments, whatever style of band.

For the third year, the Federation promoted the annual National Marching Youth Music Week, but this year extended it to the whole month of July. Bands throughout the U.K. were issued posters and guidance for achieving local publicity.

A main role of the Federation is to raise the activity’s profile at the national level and this year representatives have met with the 2012 Cultural Olympiad Team, major funders the English Arts Council and Youth Music, and were invited to speak at a fringe meeting of one of the major Political Party Conferences.

These were all important opportunities to encourage major policy- and decision-makers to appreciate the value of the activity and in time this will make a difference to how bands are supported at the local level.

“Marching Toward the Olympics” is the title of the Federation’s national conference to be held in Leicester on January 26. Main speakers from education, the major funding body, Youth Music and the Cultural Olympiad team will address what is hoped will be a packed audience of band leaders, members and supporters.

This conference and its consultation with delegates will be the beginning of the activity’s next development strategy. This will work in parallel with the four-year “Cultural Olympiad” programme that will culminate with the 2012 London Olympics. The Federation believes that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a post-2012 legacy of more kids in more bands.

Raw Rhythm

After “BLAST!” visited London from December 1999 to May 2000, the Senators Drum and Bugle Corps staged their own local interpretation in 2000 called “Raw Rhythm”. They subsequently helped other bands create similar stage-based sets at the Federation’s World Festival in Bournemouth during 2004.

After the corps’ triumph winning the Drum Corps Europe title in Rotterdam, Holland, in September 2007, 25 of the corps members have developed a mini-tour version of “Raw Rhythm” and, as Drum Corps World goes to press, they have two shows left. On January 19 at Cleo Lane and Sir John Dankworth’s Centre of excellence, The Stables in Milton Keynes, then will take the show to the Towngate Theatre in Basildon, Essex, on February 16.

The Federation is supporting the Senators with this ambitious venture as it is at the heart of its “MarchOn” development strategy, creating new performance opportunities to attract a new audience profile to the activity.

Marching Bands Europe

Since the 2004 World Festival in the U.K., the Federation has been working with the Danish, Dutch and Italian Associations to establish a European Federation. This is now in place, branded as Marching Bands Europe.

We are now working with the Confederation of International Music Societies to negotiate MBE’s role as their strategic arm in coordinating marching bands within their organisation. If successful, this will provide Marching Bands Europe with links to marching units in 38 European countries.

MBE has always been part of a long-term strategy and the first concrete event will be a European Congress in The Hague, Netherlands, during October 2008.

For more information, visit the Federation Web site: