Report of the Committee for 2014

This annual report summarises Strings Attached activity during 2014.

We received detailed, valuable feedback from members as a result of the annual survey in January and additional discussion at the Annual General Meeting in February. We have passed our views on to Andrew Comben and the team at the Brighton Dome and Festival.

The key points were:

  1. There was 100% support for the concert length during 2013 (3 pieces plus interval for all concerts).
  2. The majority are happy with a balance of types of ensemble including string quartets and some other ensembles. As last year, a minority (about 20%) would prefer more string quartets or other string ensembles. There was also strong support for string ensembles including other instruments (e.g. piano or woodwind). There is less support for solo performances.
  3. Most of us like a little variety in the period of music performed, with some pre-classical and some 20/21st century music. There is stronger support for 20th/21st century than pre-classical music.
  4. Most of us were happy generally with the booking and seating arrangements and the printed programmes and notes were especially popular.

These results reflect a growing sense that the Coffee Concerts at the Brighton Dome Corn Exchange are now a well established and loved presence in the Brighton and Hove music calendar. Audiences have grown visibly over the year. This is very pleasing.

Our membership of the Cavatina Scheme, which provides a subsidy so that we can make free seats available to 8 – 25 year olds, has encouraged some young people to come to the concerts. Whilst the numbers remain small, it is gratifying to see some younger faces in the audience at most concerts. We promoted the scheme in 2014 to a wide range of music teachers and to music departments at schools and colleges. We have also started planning for further promotion in partnership with Brighton Dome and Festival staff.

A change in the Coffee Concert ticket arrangements for Strings Attached Friends was explained at the Annual General Meeting in February 2014. A discount in the ticket price is now offered to everyone who buys half or full season tickets rather than just Strings Attached Friends. Strings Attached Friends are now given a membership card which entitles them to a free interval drink. We look forward to hearing feedback on this arrangement at the 2015 Annual General Meeting.

Our launch concert for the 2014/15 season was different from previous years. For the first time, Strings Attached promoted its own concert at The Old Market with the Cavaleri Quartet playing a programme of music with a connection to Brighon. This was a lovely concert and attracted some generous sponsorship from Friends and others, for which we are very grateful. It also attracted a good audience and some favourable reviews. It nonetheless made a loss, so whilst this was a successful experiment, it is not one we can afford to repeat regularly.

Our collaboration with the Brighton Early Music Festival continued this year with a concert by the Borromini Quartet in October. It is clearly useful to both organisations to join forces in this way, and we would like to see this continue.

We have enjoyed useful collaboration with staff at the Brighton Dome and Festival. As well as the continued personal involvement of Andrew Comben himself, whose particular knowledge and expertise are invaluable, we have been very much helped by Hannah Williams Walton who has taken over from Martin Atkinson in looking after the management of the concerts, and by Lucy Brooks who helps with publicity and works with Chris Darwin to produce the programmes for the Coffee Concerts.

We must also thank our two unsung but much-valued volunteer helpers. Chris Darwin has continued to produce wonderful programme notes for each concert as well as managing our concert diary on the website. David Botibol has continued to manage the website for us. Andrew Polmear provides an interesting review for our website after every concert, and Richard Amey provides a link to his interesting reviews in the Worthing Herald – if others would like to comment, or join them in reviewing the concerts we would be very grateful.

The committee has been thinking carefully towards the end of the year about the future of Strings Attached. When we were originally set up, the future of good quality recitals was at risk, and our mission was to ensure their future. This goal has now been achieved, so we have turned our thoughts to other ways we can encourage high quality chamber music. We have had a number of ideas about this, which we look forward to exploring in informal discussion at the Annual General Meeting. One idea is to find economically viable ways to provide concerts outside the main concert season. Another is to find ways to support the aspirations of the Brighton Dome and Festival to improve the Corn Exchange as a venue for top quality classical music.

Our work is only possible as a result of the kind generosity of Friends – your subscriptions and donations will be helping not only to keep the future of the Coffee Concerts secure but also to provide more wonderful chamber music for people who live around Brighton and Hove.

On 31 December 2014 we had 141 Friends – 2 fewer than 2013.

Current Committee:
Mary McKean (Chair)    Christine Moon (Treasurer)    Margaret Polmear (Secretary)
Rena Feld (Membership Secretary)    John McKean    Guy Richardson


Mary McKean