Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I was a young(ish) record exec, I used to turn up to The BRIT Awards every year, blissfully unaware that this annual, often raucous celebration of the UK music industry was also a massive charity fundraiser. All I was really interested in was whether or not the Pet Shop Boys or Blur, or any number of the Parlophone artists I worked with were going to walk off with some of the awards that year. It would be several years later before I joined the dots and became aware of a side of our business that is still relatively unsung [but deserves greater recognition].
For three years at the start of the Noughties I chaired the Awards show, and this year Universal Music’s Rebecca Allen and Selina Webb will find out, as I did, that it is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding jobs you can take on.
It is thanks to the large sums generated by The BRIT Awards over the years, as well as the money raised by the annual Music Industry Trust Awards (MITS) event, that The BRIT Trust has been able since its founding by the music industry in 1989 to make donations totalling around £27 million to a range of causes that promote education and wellbeing through music.
I’ve had the privilege of being a Trustee for the last 16 of those years and have seen first-hand the power of music to improve lives, made possible by The BRIT Trust. Whether this has been through the work of major beneficiaries such as the unique BRIT School – making world class performing and creative arts education accessible for free to so far over 10,000 young people from all backgrounds; or Nordoff Robbins, whose highly skilled and dedicated therapists draw on the power of music as therapy to enrich the lives of people of all ages, with life limiting illnesses, disabilities and feelings of isolation. More recently The Trust has also been a keen supporter of East London Arts & Music (ELAM) – the Games Design, Music and Film and Television College for 16-19 year olds.
Education has provided a central focus for the Trust along with giving young people of all backgrounds a chance to express their musical creativity regardless of race, class, gender or ability. But, more recently and reflective of changes within our wider industry, its remit has broadened slightly to also helping a range of charities involved with mental wellbeing, such as Mind, rehabilitation of offenders through Key4Life, and addiction issues through Music Support. The Trust also funds the BPI’s BRITs Apprentice Scheme, which gives young people of all backgrounds a paid opportunity to work at an independent music company as they look to gain a start in our industry.
Often, our partner charities are able to work together and through collaboration produce something even bigger – mental health and addictions charity Music Support hosting a preventative workshop at The BRIT School to highlight risks and early warning signs to students so that they can anticipate and avoid problems that can come with pressures and success – is a good example of these complementary relationships.
I am delighted to have been appointed Chair of The BRIT Trust, and I relish the opportunity to build on the incredible work it has done for over 30 years. The Trustees take seriously their roles in upholding the Trust’s values of accessibility, diversity and inclusion, and believe wholeheartedly in the transformative power of music to change people's lives.
This year brings its particular challenges due to COVID 19, which makes the vital work of the Trust and our partners as important as ever, as individuals struggle with isolation, and young people desperately need additional support with their education and in starting their careers in an industry that will be so crucial in bringing the joy of music back to peoples’ lives as we emerge from the crisis.
The Trust will be there to meet these challenges. And it will do so by staying true to its founding principles of empowering people of all backgrounds through music and the creative arts and by supporting education and wellbeing charities that inspire them to realise their full potential and life chances, whatever their abilities, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.
But, additionally, a priority of the Trust will be to also spread the word to all those who work in our industry, particularly the next generation coming through, that this is their charity and is something to be proud of and to get involved with. So that, unlike my younger self, more of us will be aware that The BRITs is so much more than just a great Awards show.