Will proms end on a sour note?

12th March 2004 at 00:00
A bill for performance fees is threatening the annual primary proms which provide free live music for young people.

The Performing Rights Society, which licenses copyright for public performance, has demanded almost pound;900 for music performed in this year's proms at London's Royal Festival Hall last month.

But Music For Youth, the charity which runs the concerts, said it cannot meet the costs. Larry Westland, its executive director, said: "It is right that composers find income from their music, but Music for Youth is in poor shape with two years of large deficits.

"We have virtually no budget for the proms - because of this charge, we can say goodbye to free concerts for inner-city children."

In past years the Royal Festival Hall has paid the charge. But in 2003 it decided to pass on the pound;871 fee to Music For Youth.

Elspeth McBain of the Royal Festival Hall wrote to Mr Westland: "I know this will be a big problem for you, and it does seem very harsh that a 'free concert' cannot be thatI Our support for primary proms is already significant - with giving the hall and staffing for free. I do hope that PRS will be able to consider a waiver for your concerts."

But John Axon, PRS executive director, said: "PRS does not have a policy of waiving event charges."

The proms are one of a range of free musical events provided by Music For Youth, including regional festivals and proms for secondary pupils.

In February, 5,400 London pupils attended the 10th anniversary primary prom, which was sponsored by The TES.

Jennie Wedge, a music teacher at Cheam Fields primary in Surrey, who took her pupils to this year's proms, said: "Most pupils only listen to pop music. They think music just comes out of a computer. Since the concert, a lot of pupils have taken up instruments. It would be a huge loss if the proms weren't around."

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