'Classical music has an image problem among some influential people', says Stephen Maddock

29 January 2015, 19:23 | Updated: 15 December 2016, 11:50

Chief executive of City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra admits classical music has an image problem, but warns against 'dumbing down'.

Stephen Maddock, at the Sage Gateshead for the Association of British Orchestras conference, told Classic FM's Jane Jones (see video above): "There are certainly image problems for classical music among some quite influential people, including in the media. 

"But what we do is more varied already and more diverse than it was 10-20 years ago. There’s been gradual change and there will be more, but we don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are a lot of people for whom a traditional concert format can work very well."

Maddock added that the idea that concerts should be "dumbed down" to suit audiences with a "shorter attention span" is not true in every case.

"There are some audiences for whom a friendly and theatrical presentation works – but that doesn’t have to be for everything."

On the subject of cuts in public funding for orchestras, Maddock defended local authorities, who were yesterday upbraided by culture minister Ed Vaizey for "stepping away from their responsibility for the arts".

"Looking from their point of view they’re equally frustrated with central government which has put the squeeze on local authorities and regards them as a bit of a nuisance and a bit of a waste of space," said Maddock.

However, he was bullish about the future of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, shrugging off concerns about cuts in public funding. 

"We’re increasing our sponsorship – that’s never been higher; we’re increasing our ticket sales – they’ve never been higher," he said.

"This is not a passive sector that when things get cut it complains, throws it arms in the air and cries about it. You do see that in one or two other sectors both in this country and in orchestras overseas. But we’re self-reliant."

Maddock will be debating whether classical music needs a 'reboot' in a Classic FM panel discussion at the ABO conference tomorrow. 

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