Why start Wild Plum Arts now?

Why are we starting a new arts organisation now, in a climate  of economic and political uncertainty, when arts funding in particular faces a difficult future?

It is quite possible that, burdened with large administrative overheads and weighty capital responsibilities, some large arts institutions may struggle to survive. In this environment, established arts organisations tend to follow the same strategy; they stick to the “safety” of familiar and popular repertoire rather than risk performing new works. So, it becomes the responsibility of smaller companies with a lower capitalisation to continue the essential work of commissioning new music.

We don’t see this responsibility as a burden but as an opportunity to foster and promote new classical music, to offer a chance for new art to stand in the face of austerity.  We believe creativity should be celebrated as a solution to economic difficulty, not seen as a victim of it.

Economic and political uncertainty do not quash the public’s appetite for the new. On the contrary, it is in times of adversity that people look for new voices and new expression. This has always been true and it always will be.



Yesterday was a full day. In the morning I replaced a heating element in our oven, the one that goes around the fan. It’s not difficult. I’d ordered a replacement online, watched some YouTube instructions and got stuck into it. Just as well I got it done because I had prepared a loaf of bread and it needed to be baked.

In the afternoon I recorded a video. Next week a new website is being launched by the publishers of Opernwelt and they have asked me to be a contributor. I wrote a rant about something – I won’t say what as that would spoil the fun – and the editor decided he’d like me to read it aloud to camera. So that’s what I did, in our sitting room. Just me, my Panasonic camera and a tripod. I think I nailed it on the sixth take. Then, after a cup of tea and one-and-a-half digestives (we only had three left in the house – bad biscuit management), while Lucy cooked a cherry pie (that’s more like it) and did her taxes, I submitted our application to the Charity Commission to register Wild Plum Arts as a charity. We now have to wait for several weeks and hope that the application came up to snuff.

You’d think that setting up a charity to support composers and put more new music out into the world would be a doddle. That’s certainly what we thought when we went to see a charity lawyer several weeks ago. “Where’s the public benefit?” we were asked. We thought that this was self-evident, but self-evidence is not enough. The lawyer offered to make it self-evident for £6,000 but as we are a new charity, with no money in the bank account that we can’t have anyway until we are a registered charity, we declined. Six thousand quid could be better spent on a composer than on a lawyer. If I can change an oven heating element, I reckoned – and I also file my own tax return, so I am well used to regularly crossing the Styx of the Gov.uk gateway into Hades – I could do a charity application. Piece of piss. But unlike the repair of ovens, there aren’t many YouTube videos on filling a charity application that are much help. After lots of chats with other charity types (a particular thank-you to my cousin, General Matthew Sykes) about Objectives, Purposes, Criteria, Activities and so on, I think I got it sussed. And having a great board of trustees really helps. We have just three, but they bring such enthusiasm, experience and good humour that it has made the whole process much, much easier. (Note to myself: I need to provide more bacon at board meetings. That lot can get through the rashers.)

So, hopefully, the wheels are in motion and we can start fundraising to get more new music, and repeat performances of it, out into the world. And we can plan the “artist colony” that is a core element of what we are trying to do. I use quotation marks because we haven’t settled on a good name. While “artist colony” is perfectly understood in America where artist colonies are well-established, the phrase doesn’t sit so well east of the Atlantic. It sounds hippyish but tinged with the stale whiff of imperialism. So, if anyone can come up with a better term, please let us know. In the next year we will put out feelers to find a good location. If someone would like to contribute to Wild Plum Arts by bequeathing us an unwanted, otherwise unviable property, or by renting to us at a peppercorn rate, then please let us know.

I’m catching up with Lucy on her motivation to do this. I just volunteered to help out because I’m having a quiet year. But now I am hooked. Driven, even.

It seems to me that there has never been a better time to take up the cause of creativity, to support living composers as opposed to dead ones, to take a stand against a tide of nationalistic philistinism by making art. I believe classical music has become terrified, bullied into selling itself as a heritage business rather than as a living, relevant art-form, its reputation glued to the past by retreating to the safe haven of endless repetitions of the same well-loved pieces. It wasn’t always like this. We need to rekindle the sense of adventure that took people into concert halls and opera houses to hear new works rather the same-old old ones. Art galleries can do it, evidently. So can we.