NCO turmoil: Statements from both sides
28 April 2014
Following our coverage of recent disputes regarding the management of the National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain (NCO) and the petition launched by the authors of the website www.ournco.org.uk, we have received statements from both ourNCO and the NCO board, as follows:
- A statement from OurNCO:
‘The NCO is a wonderful and much-loved institution that has nurtured the musical talents of thousands of children and launched many professional careers. Integral to its success is the expertise and tireless support of staff, conductors, teachers, social staff, parents and numerous other givers of time and energy. These vital stakeholders are being entirely ignored as the NCO board attempts to drive through fundamental changes to NCO. At the heart of the problem is the fact that the current members of the board appoint themselves, make decisions among themselves, refuse to publish agendas or notes of their meetings, make decisions behind closed doors, are wholly unaccountable and will not consult. For any organisation, especially a children’s music charity, this is quite wrong. For over two years a group of concerned stakeholders, including NCO parents and musicians, has been attempting quietly to persuade the board that it must change and become accountable. Every argument and suggestion has been dismissed out of hand. We had no choice but to go public to protect the future of an organisation we care so much about.
‘That 1750-plus supporters have signed the petition so quickly shows how overwhelming is the support for constitutional change. However, the board has not made one statement in acknowledgement that there is a problem at all. It appears content to issue all kinds of material attempting to show it works well, or, quite outrageously, to claim that the successes delivered by NCO staff are down to its own efforts. The board has made a number of misleading claims in an attempt to discredit opposition to it, such that [NCO founder] Vivienne Price is attempting to wrest back control or that Roger Clarkson retains sole responsibility for musical matters. The record has been put straight on www.ournco.org.uk and Facebook. The board is using its energies to attack opposition to it rather than discuss rationally how change can be managed in the interests of all.
‘There is no argument to be made against openness and accountability. The continuation of NCO’s wonderful legacy for future children is too important to be put at risk at the hands of the self-appointed and self-interested. That is why we are calling for resignations and reform.’
- A Statement from the NCO board:
‘Only five years ago, the NCO was in financial straits. The board at that time fought long and hard to recover the situation, as things just could not continue as they were. Their efforts gave the NCO enough money to continue on a day-to-day basis and to invest for our future. All through this difficult period the board worked to keep Vivienne’s vision alive, because each and every one of them supports the NCO wholeheartedly. We were able to give more children the opportunity to transform their lives through music, and now we offer more bursaries than ever before. For this, all members of the board, even those who have joined recently, have been described as ‘bean counters’, as being ‘secretive’, and as ‘lacking in understanding’. On the contrary, the current board, which counts among its number an alumna, music professionals and NCO parents, do this work voluntarily. They understand exactly how to protect Vivienne’s vision and Vivienne and Roger’s transformational teaching of children in our modern professional world.
‘We have been accused of not listening. This is just not true. We have initiated a consultation programme with all interested groups, and have drawn up the NCO’s first full business plan based on this feedback. The consultation programme involved the NCO staff in forming an initial business plan, and engagement with music tutors, parents and social staff has been feeding into the plan, something not done before in the NCO’s history. We have been working on governance changes for some months, even before the launch of ourNCO.com. We are proud to have moved away from a model where trustees were only appointed if they had personal connections and could serve indefinitely, to one where trustees are recruited by open advertisement and for a restricted period, following Charity Commission guidelines. New relationships have been developed with organisations and new support found from funders, and we continue to be extremely grateful to everyone who has given in the past. All this is now at risk. We remain deeply sorry that Vivienne is so upset. If some things have not been done well, we are sorry – but we have made our very best efforts. As a board we remain confident that the decisions that have been made have been made with proper consultation and will ensure that the NCO, founded by Vivienne, will continue to go from strength to strength.’