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BBE statement on the COVID-19 pandemic

13th March 2020

During the course of the last 48 hours, Brass Bands England (BBE) has received calls from across the banding world about events carrying on in the UK in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. In the absence of information from other sources, we have produced the advice below, which we recommend all our members follow. This is a fast-moving situation and the risks of transmission are changing rapidly. This advice supersedes any previously given by us and this page will be updated when appropriate.

In light of the increased risk of viral transmission as a result of fluids resulting from playing a brass instrument, we recommend the postponement of all large events in which people from multiple areas and of all ages come together. We realise that this is contrary to advice given by the UK Government, but we believe some of the elements of playing brass have some very specific risks of increased transmission, such as emptying water and the total time spent inside venues by audiences over the course of a contest. We realise this will be distressing and will have far-reaching consequences, but we are here to help our members in any way we can and feel it is important to recognise that these measures are ultimately about preserving lives.

We encourage all event organisers to ensure they can genuinely answer the question, ‘can you guarantee public health at your event?’ The consequences are potentially very serious, so we would encourage all participants to support the decisions of event organisers who either postpone or cancel events, including with financial support, as such decisions could have serious impact on their future viability. There is also a significant risk of banding appearing ‘out of touch’ with the general population if large events carry on whilst many others are being cancelled.

To answer other questions we have received recently:

Is it ok to rehearse?

At the moment we don’t think there is an impending need to stop rehearsing, but we do recommend you examine your hygiene and ensure instruments are cleaned in mild antibacterial solutions. You should not share instruments or mouthpieces and water should be blown into a towel, which should be kept by the individual and washed after each use. We also recommend an antibacterial clean of the floor space used for a band rehearsals, increase ventilation to the room as much as is practically possible and make as much space between players as possible. This is not specific advice to brass bands, but it takes the general advice and applies it to our activities. In addition, anyone concerned that they or anyone close to them could be vulnerable should self-isolate.

Should we shut our band/youth band down?

Our current advice is no, but if there is a point where other public gatherings, schools and buildings are closed then you should cease your banding activities too.

Should we handle other instruments? I.e. helping a beginner

We recommend you follow the good hygiene practices about hand washing, particularly if handling another person’s instrument. We don’t recommend you blow into another instrument.

Should we perform in an old people’s home?

No. We think that any performances into spaces predominantly used but vulnerable groups (ages over 70 and people with underlying medical conditions) is a potentially high-risk activity and you should seriously consider postponing your performance or doing so via a video link.

Finally, we know how much we all care about banding, but please remember it is a hobby and make a special effort to care for each other in this difficult time. Don’t pressurise someone who has taken a decision not to attend an event or rehearsal into doing otherwise. They may be caring for vulnerable people at home rather than being worried about their own wellbeing. We want you all to stay safe and ensure we can return to banding as healthy as possible and as soon as is safe to do so.