Executive Director David Sulkin on the launch of Help Musicians UK
David Sulkin OBE
Executive Director
13th January 2014
Executive Director David Sulkin on the launch of Help Musicians UK

Cutting ribbons, smashing bottles of champagne and setting off fireworks are all about beginnings. The launch of our new name - Help Musicians UK - will be more low-key.  We’ve been looking after musicians since 1921.  Why?  Think about it. We all love music, don’t we?  Behind the music are musicians – creative, skilled, adaptable, hard-working and always playing at the top of their game.  We don’t think of injuries, fatigue or always being the best. I didn’t think about it until I started this job five years ago – musicians don’t get paid to practise.  If a rehearsal and a gig last eight hours that’s what they get paid for, not the extra eight hours preparation. For most jobbing musicians life is tough.

Over five years I have seen the difference we’ve made.  A slip on an icy pavement almost finished the career of a Scottish violinist.  With our specialist help, she’s back on top form.  A successful folk singer needed time out to care for his little girl who had cancer.  She’s now back to full health and he’s back gigging.  We tune the piano of a frail 92 year-old singer who still performs – for her it’s a life-line.  We have invested in the career of a super-talented brass player who told us of his plan to work with the best teachers he could find. We are the behind-the-scenes support organisation for the UK music profession.

I know, you’re asking ‘What’s all this got to do with a new name and a new brand?’  Musicians said that ‘benevolent’ sounded remote and doesn’t convey, these days, the kind of work we do.  One person said  I wouldn’t have thought I’d qualify for benevolence’.  So we decided to replace ‘Benevolent’ with ‘Help’.  It’s a cliché but Help Musicians UK does exactly what it says on the tin. 

In the near future we’re also going to launch new services.  We’re testing an idea to introduce a help-line for musicians who’ll be able to get in contact 24 hours a day on issues concerning coping with stress through to advice on achieving a work-life balance.  Our traditional services – helping people entering the profession, stepping in when accident or illness strikes and helping musicians to plan for or in retirement - are meat and drink to us. 

In the next five years we aim to increase our charitable support to musicians in need by 25%.  To do that we want the help of those who are crazy about music. So as we’re saying… Love music?  Help Musicians!

Changing the name of a much-loved organisation is tricky.  There’s no margin for error – no turning back.  At the beginning we asked our friends for their advice, objective guidance and frank opinions.  Ahhh…’ say the sceptics, ‘That must have cost a bomb’.  We did all the ground-work ourselves and only then went to the professionals, all the time keeping an eye on costs.  We’re grateful to everyone who’s helped us.  Now, the work of Help Musicians UK begins.