The lean, the hungry – and the BBC

The lean, the hungry – and the BBC


norman lebrecht

February 03, 2023

Photo of the week comes from the awards ceremony at the Association of British Orchestras’ annual shindig.

Pictured are some of the past year’s movers and shakers in the classical industry and, at a perceptible distance, the departing controller of BBC Radio 3, celebrating  eight  years of inertia.

L-r: Alan Davey CBE, Adam McGinlay, Celia Willis, Dougie Scarfe, Sandra Parr, Donagh Collins. Photo©Samantha Toolsie/Classical Music magazine


  • Herbie G says:

    Can’t agree with the charge of intertia. Inertia means doing nothing; he actively supported and facilitated the further decline of the Radio 3.

  • Bob says:

    Before presenting the Bournemouth ‘South Coast Impressario’ CEO with his award, couldn’t the ABO have asked any of the members of BSO if they agreed he was worth it? Overworked and underpaid: I doubt they’d be happy about this.

    • BSO management says:

      We’re working on an easy solution to that. A new freelance contract replacing the current salaried model which will give you lots of flexibility to take on as much or as little work as you want. It will also give us half a chance to keep the band in business given the current challenges.

      • Bob says:

        So what’s the award for exactly?

        If you anything at all about running orchestras it’s clear that sacking them all and re-hiring them as freelancers will do nothing for artistic standards.

        Unless you can convince me otherwise it looks like the beginning of the end. Key to orchestras excellence is working regularly with the same personnel – if they’re treated properly.

        Chopping and changing every week, prioritising ACE requirements over a symphonic legacy, can’t bring about long term success.

        As you acknowledge that players aren’t happy, what was the award for? And since when did a CEO qualify for an ‘orchestra manager of the year’ category?

        All distinctly odd and, frankly, that atmosphere in the room told quite a story – EDI at the centre of everything, before only awarding middle age white guys with awards. I thought Liz was your ‘orchestral manager’?

        • Alexei says:

          There are plenty of naive musicians only just realising that all the things they feel entitled to come second to financial and economic stability. Those are your prioities now.

        • BSO management says:

          Want to know what happens when you DON’T prioritise ACE requirements?

          English. National. Opera.

          Do you reckon the players would be happy and looking forward to long term success in that situation? ‘Symphonic legacy’ would be all you could hope for, as the BSO sure as hell wouldn’t be alive…

          As always Dougie and all of us in the office are doing our best to keep you in work and the orchestra playing despite really difficult times. It would be nice just occasionally to feel we were all on the same team, but to be honest I can’t remember the last time those of you in the orchestra were ‘happy’. We’ve had enough of it. It’s time to get real folks.

          • Bob says:

            To be clear, I’m not employed by BSO.

            I’m asking why a CEO has won the Orchestra Manager of the Year category, particularly if he’s not running an especially happy ship (as illustrated by your comments).

            Which ACE directive do you think ENO ignored? They did everything they were asked and more – to the extent their core purpose was compromised.

          • BSO management says:

            In my experience salaried orchestral musicians are rarely if ever happy. I was chatting with a ROH violinist a while back and found her parroting exactly the same lines about how awful ‘management’ are which we hear constantly from those in BSO. This culture isn’t helpful – in fact as Alexei says above it’s really naive given the state of the wider world.

            As for ENO, they’ve been in special measures with ACE for years, despite what they say publicly. Remember that a few years ago they were removed from the national portfolio altogether owing to governance concerns.

  • ABO Mark says:

    It was *special*. The ABO, which has been wittering on for years about diversity and inclusion, awarded four awards to four middle aged white blokes, a fifth to a dead one, and finally a runner-up ‘commendation’ to the token (white) woman. Next year Anne Marie Minhall might consider being a dear and telling the Artist Manager of the Year when it’s time to stop talking: it was almost Thursday by the time the ‘few words’ of acceptance were uttered. Thankfully there were a dozen bottles of plonk on each table to keep the rest of us going.

  • ABO Lifer says:

    It was a surreal, back to the 80s experience for those of us in the room. The ABO, which has been whining on for years about diversity and inclusion, presented awards to four middle-aged white blokes and a fifth dead one, and only then did a runner-up ‘commendation’ make its way into the hands of the token (white) woman. ‘Do as we say, not as we do’…

    Anne Marie Minhall deserves an medal all of her own for surpressing the yawns as the Artist Manager of the Year shared a ‘few words’ of acceptance which took us through towards the early hours of Thursday morning.

    But the most awkward moment of all was the audible sigh and half-second of stunned silence when Mr Radio 3’s award was announced. As a polite spattering of applause spread gradually around the room I found myself wondering whether the sector does have an iota of self-awareness afterall.

  • Bone says:

    That picture lacks DEI