A group of people connected with the National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain (NCO), calling themselves ‘concerned stakeholders’, have publicly aired grievances against the charity’s board of trustees, and effectively called for a coup d’etat, albeit one with the organisation’s founder at its forefront.
The website www.ournco.org.uk, which is authored anonymously but publicly supported by NCO founder Vivienne Price, accuses the trustees of secretly ‘implementing a programme of radical change’. Issues under discussion include the diminished managerial role of Price’s successor Roger Clarkson, who succeeded Price at the helm both musically and managerially, the cost of appointing and employing the managing director Sarah Derbyshire, and plans to move the base of operations from Somerset to Birmingham.
A lengthy editorial on the website calls for the resignation of all trustees except Price, and that she be allowed to form a new board. A petition has been launched to this effect.
Responding to the allegations and the petition, Derbyshire told Music Teacher magazine: ‘The NCO is going through a period of change, ensuring that we are fit for purpose in a fast-moving world. I am deeply sorry that our Founder, Vivienne Price, does not feel that she can support some of the major changes we are discussing and working on and I am particularly sorry for her personal upset.
‘NCO values are, and always will be, at the heart of all that we do. We are passionate about offering the best experience we can to our children and have developed our musical opportunities to reach more children, such as increasing the numbers of orchestras. But this all takes time and money. We need to work to continue raising our profile and attracting funding to ensure that we can continue what we are doing now so successfully and to offer much more in the future.
‘One significant decision is the proposed move to Birmingham, the reasons for which are understood by the NCO’s largest funder, Arts Council England. This move will: position the NCO in a vibrant musical and cultural centre and raise the profile of the NCO as a national organisation; improve access and support collaborative work, thereby involving more families and more children; provide positive professional opportunities for our staff; offer the NCO the opportunity to work alongside major national music and arts organisations; enhance our ability to raise funds and to maintain our services in what is a very challenging time for charities; and enable us to share good practice with like-minded organisations and so build on our successes in providing talented young musicians with the best possible musical and social experience.
‘The implication on the OurNCO website that Roger Clarkson, Principal Director of Music, is no longer in charge of the musical direction of the NCO is incorrect. Roger’s musical leadership is respected by the board.
I truly hope that we can begin speaking with Vivienne’s representatives and those who have initiated this petition to try and resolve the situation as quickly and as smoothly as possible, moving forward and working together towards a common goal.’