The BBMA is back!

The following press release came from the British Bluegrass Music Association. It deals with their renewed effort to revitalize the organization, and we reprint it in its entirety.

British Bluegrass Music AssociationFollowing the election of John Wirtz as the British Bluegrass Music Association’s chairman at the AGM last April, the work has begun to raise the profile of the association and bring it back to the prominence it once had in the 1990s.

At the time the association was founded (in 1990), it was quite difficult for enthusiasts to find out what was going on. Plenty was happening but, apart from the efforts of Phill Morley, who founded British Bluegrass News, and later with assistance from Jan Jerrold and Richard F. Thompson, news tended to get around by word of mouth.

The BBMA changed all that. It experienced a honeymoon period before that little beast called the internet came along. Suddenly communication was easy and the more enlightened festival and gig promoters got websites going. The impact of the BBMA was dramatically reduced. The word on the street was: “We don’t need the BBMA now there’s the Internet,” and membership began to dwindle.

The internet is a great thing and the BBMA must embrace its power, but there are things the internet cannot do without an organisation behind it to ensure the information is useful accurate and well targeted. Good organisations are much more than suppliers of information: they can do many more things to support the activities of their members. In the past, the BBMA has provided grants and loans to allow bands to record CDs, it has sponsored young people to go to camps such as Sore Fingers Week, and it has underwritten gigs where promoters need financial support. However, the BBMA hasn’t been very good at telling people about these things and, with low membership levels, has had limited funds available to improve its record. In recent years, the majority of the income from members has been used to produce the association magazine.

Six months into his tenure, Chairman Wirtz is pleased to report that the magazine has been redesigned and looks a lot more attractive. This has been achieved with a saving of 40 per cent on production costs – a real result! The magazine editorial team has also been increased from one to four people.

The next high-profile project is to redesign the website. The BBMA has never had a decent website and this is about to change. The new one will be simple, informative and designed to guide members to the right places to find information about bluegrass, be it about events and festivals or technical information about playing the music. The hope is to have the new site up and running by Christmas.

A new national area rep. coordinator has been appointed and a greater number of regional representatives are being recruited to provide more comprehensive cover across the country.

There is great deal of work to do behind the scenes to get the administration of the BBMA back on track. It has suffered from too few people trying to do everything and that has meant the creative side and the ideas that would really benefit the members have suffered too.

In order to embark on creative projects, the BBMA needs to recruit enough people to run it. However, there are some great ideas floating about and just to give you a taste, here are some that have been discussed over the summer:

  • A demo CD showcasing British bluegrass song writing
  • A programme for teaching music in schools using bluegrass and bluegrass instruments
  • A joint venture to set up instrumental teaching surgeries for all bluegrass instruments at the summer festivals
  • BBMA showcase concerts at festivals to promote new bands
  • A series of fact sheets downloadable from the BBMA website, with general advice for bands, promoters and individuals.

The present committee members are really enthusiastic about these ideas and would be really happy if just one of these was to bear fruit during the next 12 months. It can be done, but not without you! More members are needed to increase the funds available to make these projects work.

In his first editorial in the current edition of British Bluegrass News, Wirtz promised change and he is pleased to say that the committee has started to deliver on that promise. He says: “You may be one of those who didn’t renew your membership because you were disillusioned. Well, it’s time to come out of the depression and re-join, you will really make a difference and if you were one who never joined at all, it’s time for a change of heart. If you are already a member, then why not go and recruit someone new?”

Richard F Thompson
Feature Editor
British Bluegrass News
Tel: 44 (0) 1543 252683

Trish Hockley
Membership Secretary
Tel: 44 (0) 7889 607612

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.