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BRIT Trust Chairman John Craig’s guest blog on Record Of The Day

The MITS Award Dinner is a long-standing and highly successful event in the music industry calendar. Started in 1992, the award has two aims: to raise money for the nominated charities – The BRIT Trust, The BRIT School and Nordoff Robbins – and to honour an individual who has made a significant contribution to the UK music industry.

Over the years artists such as John Barry OBE, Kylie Minogue OBE, Sir Elton John CBE and Bernie Taupin, Gary Barlow OBE, Annie Lennox OBE, Roger Daltrey CBE, Sir Tom Jones OBE and Peter Gabriel, amongst many, have been honoured as have Alan Freeman MBE, Sir Michael Parkinson CBE, Jonathan Ross OBE and Simon Cowell from the world of TV and radio. Industry executives include John Deacon CBE, Rob Dickins CBE, Sir Lucian Grainge CBE, Harvey Goldsmith CBE and, last Monday, Rob Stringer Chief Executive Officer, Sony Music Entertainment worldwide.

The dinner has now raised nearly £6m but for me, what made Monday night special was the announcement of the £20 million landmark reached of donations made by the BRIT Trust since it was set up in 1989 by the BPI.  It demonstrates the enduring value of music and its power to do good.

The BRIT Trust – you ask? Yes, it probably is one of the industry’s best-kept secrets – perhaps understandably overshadowed by the event that shares a similar name – The BRIT Awards and by The BRIT School in Croydon, which has just celebrated its first quarter century.

The BRIT Awards, which many people overlook or simply don’t know, is, amongst other things, a charity show.  A large amount of its proceeds – downloads, streaming, international sales as well as its phenomenally successful broadcast here in the UK – goes to The BRIT Trust.

I was a trustee when it was set up and I have been its Chairman since 2004.

The majority of the £20m proceeds has gone to The BRIT School and Nordoff Robbins. The rest has been donated to a whole number of different charities including Drugscope, War Child, Save the Children, Chicken Shed, Prince’s Trust, Attitude is Everything, Music Support, Key4Life and many others. Just last month it was also announced that The BRIT Trust is to part-fund 10 places in the BPI’s new BRITs Apprentice Scheme.

At the Trust our mission is to give young people of all backgrounds a chance to express their musical creativity regardless of race, class, gender or ability. We recognise how important it is to provide opportunities for young people to express their creativity, often through music.

Much of what we have done, and a bit of a history lesson here, would not have been possible without the show at Knebworth in June, 1990. The artists who performed there were, and still are, UK music ‘royalty’ – Status Quo, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Dire Straits, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Genesis, Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Robert Plant, Tears for Fears, Pink Floyd. Their generosity of spirit cannot be overstated. They all performed for free. Whilst Nordoff Robbins, back then, was a relatively well established charity, the BRIT School was no more than some architectural designs based around an old site in Selhurst, Croydon.

It is fair to say that without Knebworth 1990 the BRIT School simply would not exist.

All the artists that performed on the day, and to whom we are forever in their debt, gave, as I say, of their time, for an institution that back then was a mere dream. Little did any of us know what the School would become… with now over 7,000 students that have passed through its doors, including the likes of Adele, Jessie J, Katie Melua and Leona Lewis to name a few, and in all responsible for over 125m albums and billions of streams. For the statisticians:  over 20 BRIT School alumni have had 36 top ten albums and 91 top 40 singles including seven number ones. In addition this ‘group’ has between them won 12 BRIT Awards – the show whose name the School shares – not to mention 19 Grammys and 2 Oscars!

Let’s not forget too that the School also produces fine actors, such as Tom Holland (Spiderman), Cush Jumbo (The Good Wife) and Blake Harrison (The Inbetweeners), as well as music, film and games producers, designers and a whole host of talented professionals who go on to work across the creative sector – DJs, stuntmen, singers, musicians, producers, digital designers, writers of games, authors, dancers in musicals on stages all around the world…. and a whole lot more. The monies received from the Trust have been a very good investment.

Without that concert, as I say, there probably would be no BRIT School at all and the Trust simply would not have been able to do the great work it has undertaken. Imagine what that would have meant for this industry and for the UK?  It really doesn’t bear thinking about.

£20m is an extraordinary sum and I am immensely proud of reaching that landmark and proud too of what we as an industry have achieved and continue to do. Nordoff Robbins exemplifies the remedial power of music. It is the largest independent music therapy charity in the UK, dedicated to changing the lives of vulnerable and isolated people. It supports thousands of people through its centres and by working in partnership with a wide range of organisations including care homes, schools and hospitals. It is a wonderful institution and The BRIT Trust is delighted to help support the work it does. The two charities work well together, even to the point that Nordoff Robbins has an Outreach Centre in the grounds of The BRIT School.

I am a south London ‘boy’ and feel passionately about The BRIT School where I was a governor for twenty years and Chair of the Finance Committee. My proper job is recording in the West End and Broadway Musicals and there is nothing better than when a young person from the chorus braves the studio control room to tell me that they were at The BRIT School. It makes all the hard work really worthwhile.

It is a unique place.

We now have nine different strands at the School ranging from Music and Music Theatre (there at the beginning) but now Community Arts Practice (that will provide students for a career or further training and education in the field of community arts), Interactive Digital Design (computer, games, mobile publishing, web and 3D animation, graphic design etc), Technical Theatre Arts (teaching technical, creative and management skills across theatre and production companies) through to Film & Media Production and Visual Arts & Design…!

Since the School opened, The BRIT Trust has either contributed or paid for a great number of capital items such as the Obie Theatre, two studio theatres, the George Martin Recording Studio, the Dance Studio, the John Deacon Wing, the Blue Block and a host of other items.

More than ever, in today’s society, it is critical to give students pragmatic, life skills that convert into jobs. Over the last five years, 99 per cent of students leaving The BRIT School have either gone into higher education or jobs within the creative economy. That is an extraordinary statistic.

Now, bear in mind: the creative industries are the fastest growing sector of UK plc’s economy – worth £87.4bn and employing over 1.9m people. One of the fastest growing sub sectors is the music industry – employing 142,208 people and now worth £4.4bn, achieving year on year growth of 6%. As The BRIT School looks back over its first quarter century it has made a huge contribution to those numbers – producing DJs, actors, stuntmen, singers, musicians, producers, authors, put dancers into musicals on stages all around the world…. and a whole lot more.

The BRIT Trust is significantly important. There is always pressure on Nordoff Robbins to treat more people – hence its bold programme of expansion. If The BRIT School, which now has to have its own fund-raising team, is to continue to offer relevant courses to students, to educate and nurture them for the future creative industries, then it too has to evolve and grow. This requires funding – and that’s why the £20m mark we announced earlier in the week is a great moment. But we still need more.

However I hope for many of you, you now know who and what The BRIT Trust is and does. Visit us here – http://www.brittrust.co.uk

John Craig OBE

Chairman, The BRIT Trust