The MU’s 39th biennial Delegate Conference, a key event in the Union’s calendar which was hosted by the Executive Committee on 20 and 21 July, took on a completely different look and feel this summer following the decision to hold the event online.
Conference and EC Chair, Dave Lee, and senior Officials Horace Trubridge, Naomi Pohl and Phil Kear, took their places at a London Bridge venue and were joined on screen by delegates from all across the UK.
The highly-respected Sheffield based music video and media company Northern Cowboy Films ensured that proceedings ran smoothly and to schedule.
Delegates reviewed the EC’s Report and Agenda, a 120-page summary of the Union’s work over the past two years, plus motions were carried that will help shape MU policy as the music profession deals with the pandemic’s aftermath and beyond.
Dave Lee kicked-off the event with reference to the unprecedented circumstances that had so severely impacted upon musicians and the industry and over the last two years, noting, “After eighteen months of pandemic and chaos, we still have no plan [for the performing arts] from government.”
General Secretary Horace Trubridge greeted virtual delegates with a rousing speech. “When we were basking in the sunshine in Brighton [in 2019], congratulating ourselves on a very successful Conference then, we had absolutely no idea of what was round the corner,” he recalled. “But – and this is the most important thing I’ve got to say today – musicians are amazing! They are creative, they are imaginative, they’re inventive, they’re resourceful. But mostly they are resilient.”
The joy of making music together, added Horace, has been cruelly curtailed by Covid. Yet musicians have adapted throughout the pandemic. “Musicians are fantastic, unique people and we are so lucky to be part of this wonderful Union.”
Covid reversed the pre-pandemic rise in MU membership, removing around 1,500 from a total of over 32,000 members. “I’m really pleased to tell you that we’ve just gone over 31,000 again and the union’s membership is growing week on week. It tells you we’re doing the right thing. I don’t think any union has come close to this union in the support it has given to its members during the pandemic.”
Horace admitted that the job of rebuilding would be hard. “We’ve got to tackle this hopeless government and the fact that they just don’t seem to care about creatives in the UK.”
Before the first day’s business began, The Antonio Forcione Trio reminded delegates of live music’s power. Their superb set spoke volumes for a profession that politicians find so easy to praise, yet so difficult to value.
My thanks to journalist Andrew Stewart for this report, originally included in the autumn edition of The Musician magazine.