Classical Music Buzz > Tom Service on classical music |... > Hug a hub: music education heral...

Arts Council England has announced the winners of bids to run each hub across nearly every local authority area in the country. But this is only the beginning for musical provision ...

All hail the hubs! Well, that will be the hope, if you've anything to do with music education in England. Today, Arts Council England announced who has won the bids to run each hub across nearly every local authority area in the country. A quick recap: after last November's National Plan for Music Education, music educationalists the length and breadth of England had a pretty tight timetable to come up with a new vision for how music education might be delivered. The bids had to be in by February, and ACE said they would publish the results by the end of April, and that the hubs should be up and running by the new academic year in September. There was, rightly, more than a wee bit of a scepticism about how achievable this timetable would prove to be, so there's kudos due to the sector and to the assessment process that it's worked out on time – so far.

Right. So what's the result of all this been? Well, the main lesson of the plan was the idea that the hubs would, or should, foster a new era of partnership and joined-up thinking across all the music education providers in each area, from music services to local ensembles or orchestras, community music organisations to schools. The challenge for each area was to co-ordinate a lead partner to headline the provision and to collaborate as much as possible with other local providers.

What it's all meant is that where there were previously 150 music services, there are now 122 hubs, most, but not all, run by music services. That doesn't mean a loss of any geographical provision, it just means that some music services and their partners are working across larger areas. In Greater Manchester, for example, nine previously existing authorities have got together to create what I'm calling a super-hub(!), with the music services working alongside the Hallé Orchestra, the Royal Northern College of Music, Chetham's School, the Manchester Camerata, and the BBC Philharmonic. In London, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith, and Westminster have teamed up to share resources and plans, and the unique facilities of the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal College of Music, and the Aurora Orchestra. ACE also highlight that Devon Music Service will work with 53 partners in the region, and that in Hertfordshire, they'll work with the BBC Singers and have plans for a new centre for urban music. ACE admits that although many applicants got the idea of partnership across as much musical provision as possible, "a number of hubs will be asked to develop their plans further in the coming months", which could be a code for: get with the hubology programme, if you haven't already …

A bit of arcane chair-shuffling? Actually, it's important, all this, because of what it means, in ACE's words, "to ensure that every child aged five to 18 has the opportunity to sing and learn a musical instrument, to progress to the next level, and play with other children as part of an ensemble or choir". I was basically supportive of the hub idea when the National Plan was published, but as ever, the proof will be in the next stage. It's already clear that some areas will be better served than others thanks to the relative strength of the hub-vision in each local authority. This is just the beginning for the next stage of what happens to music education in England; the big questions of delivery, of what actually happens on the ground, how much opportunity every child in the country will really have to instrumental and vocal tuition and participation, and how much it all costs – well, we've only just begun. Watch this space – and keep a watching brief on your local hub!

Tom Service
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