Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Funding the future

9:00, 18th August 2016

New music occupies a strange position: after a work receives its premiere, its allure is lost. Unless it is one of the lucky few to be deemed modern classics, it is placed back on the shelf, sometimes indefinitely. The PRS for Music Foundation’s Resonate initiative was created to address this phenomenon, offering incentives to orchestras which premiere contemporary works.

Writing the Premieres column means that I regularly speak to composers about their new works, and I have never ended a conversation feeling less than enthused about a piece. The amount of fantastic new music appearing each month is staggering, but few works receive the attention they deserve. A number of the works we now consider masterpieces have only come to be appreciated as such through repeat performances; by facilitating renewed appraisals of neglected works, Resonate will help to enrich the repertoire.


Another new PRS Foundation scheme frees funding from the traditional commission structure, tailoring grants to the needs of individual composers. From covering childcare or studio costs to enabling a sabbatical or research, the Composers’ Fund buys composers time to ensure that they can take the next step in their career.

It’s satisfying to see the foundation recognise that composers don’t exist in a vacuum and composing isn’t purely writing pieces. There is a lot more that goes into a piece than putting notes on manuscript paper, and altering the current funding system will enable composers to embrace new possibilities. It seems surprising that such a fund isn’t already in place – surely evidence that it is needed.

The gender bias in classical music is regularly discussed, but diversity has not received the same degree of attention. The launch of the Chineke! Orchestra in 2015 brought the issue into the spotlight, but little has been done to address the situation. Radio 3’s Diversity and Inclusion in Composition conference aims to galvanise the sector into action, asking how it can best ensure inclusion and the opportunities which should be put in place.

There is no easy solution, or else the discussions wouldn’t be necessary, and any new initiatives will surely take years to come into effect. The conference is a strong start, but conversations need to be followed by action: the road might be long, but the rewards will speak for themselves.


The shock and despair which engulfed the classical music sector upon the announcement of the EU referendum result has now been replaced with simmering disquiet. With the timeline as yet undefined, the prospect of Brexit has become more abstract.

Still, panic is bound to set in when Article 50 is triggered. As secretary of state for exiting the European Union, David Davis will be leading the process. One of his most important responsibilities will be negotiating access to the single market; another will be settling the extent of free movement between the UK and Europe. We’ll be keeping our ears to the ground: you’ll be able to follow industry-relevant developments on the CM website.


With a new culture secretary and minister appointed within a couple of days of one another, we are looking at a new chapter for arts policy. Whereas Karen Bradley becomes the eighth culture secretary in nine years, Matt Hancock’s appointment as culture minister ends Ed Vaizey’s six-year tenure.

Neither Bradley nor Hancock seems to possess the experience or passion for culture of their predecessors: there is no evidence of either voting on cultural matters, or of a passion for arts and culture on their new websites. Bradley faces a test of mettle in the shape of the government review of the future of the BBC, while Hancock has a tough act to follow. Only time will tell whether their tenures will be a success: we have little evidence on which to make any predictions.

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