Raising money ‘vital to future of music’

Simon Webb and Dame Sandra Burslem, Vice-Chair of Buxton International Festival
Simon Webb and Dame Sandra Burslem, Vice-Chair of Buxton International Festival

Philanthropists who replace orchestras’ dependence on public money are vital to the health of the industry, the Friends of Buxton International Festival heard.

Simon Webb, general manager of the Salford-based BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, told music and arts enthusiasts who are raising support and finance for their annual festival that their work was vital to the future.

Simon, who has experience as a musician, chairman of an orchestra board, union representative and manager, said the industry had to stop being embarrassed about talking about money: “The role of philanthropy for my colleagues and Buxton Festival is an essential one.

“We should celebrate that. The more we reduce our dependence on public money the more healthy our sector will be. The role of the philanthropist is crucial and always has been. I don’t suppose (architect) Frank Matcham built Buxton Opera House with Arts Council money – there was no Arts Council in 1903.”

He added: “Every member of the orchestra must be able to go into the room with the sponsors and make the case for what we do.”

The BBC Philharmonic once received a subsidy of £20 million from Salford City Council, which was part of the deal that brought departments of the BBC to Salford.

But no matter what the future held, he said: “The music is all that we have. I’ve said less about the music because words have no currency when we have music. Whatever the highs and the lows, the peaks are what we remember.”

Simon’s talk was part of a series of events held by the Friends. They include music and supper at the David Mellor Design Museum in Hathersage on May 17. For details, see www.buxtonfestival.co.uk/friends