CEO Nicky du Plessis reports on a 2016 of significance

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As 2016 comes to a close, the Field Band Foundation NPC (FBF) looks back on a year of highlights that are even more proudly acknowledged because they were hard but sincerely won. We determinedly focused on our vision to continue to increase opportunities for our members to experience themselves positively and creatively, and found some new ways to do this. There have been a number of significant performance and educational events throughout the calendar, and we have benefited from new partnerships while refreshing long-standing relationships.

Soweto’s gathering of FBF champions

On 20 February, the National Championships took place at the Nike Football Training Stadium in Soweto. This marvelously equipped venue enabled us to host 12 of the top bands with 1 500 members, and over 150 spectators drawn from our private and public stakeholders. For the first time, Limpopo’s De Beers Blouberg band took first prize, with PFG Londulusha Springs in second place, followed by Limpopo again, with the De Beers Musina band. This surely demonstrates the success of FBF projects in remote areas and underscores our strength in being able to sustain enormous geographical coverage.

In alignment with the imperative to reach beyond urban centres and support increased access to the arts, the national Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) was the primary partner for this event. The FBF social media team ensured that we “broke” the internet by trending as one of the top five national Twitter “hot topics” on this day! The power of arts events to attract attention should not be underestimated. De Beers once again co-sponsored the VIP hospitality event, which also featured a photographic exhibition by Angela Buckland, entitled “The Special Relationship”. This exhibition of moving and inspiring images was drawn from the three Free State bands mandated to develop methodologies to work with members with disabilities.

Reporting of the highest standard

Our 82-page 2015/16 Report to Society also contains a selection of these photographs that provide dignity and respect to our beneficiaries and their triumphs. We are pleased that this annual report was shortlisted for top honours in South African NPO reporting by the SA Chartered Secretaries Association.

National Youth Celebration

Once again, the DAC came forward in support of the FBF on 7 October, this time at the Fezile Dabi Stadium in Tumahole, Parys, with a National Youth Celebration that featured 780 band members and 13 bands, including of course, all the Free State bands who set a tone for breaking down prejudices towards people with disabilities. The event was honoured with high-level representation from local and national government, and was a joyful demonstration of the confidence and skills that FBF activities impart to all participants. These large-scale performance events are critical in building pride and inclusion, and these lessons are reinforced by the performances the bands do continuously throughout the year in their own communities. In 2016 there were 134 performances involving our 6 742 members.

Upgrading our educational assets

In order to help band members to learn and improve, the on-going education activities of the FBF must be maintained throughout the year and our change agents – the band tutors – supported with constant skills transfer to boost their capacities to teach and inspire. The educational assets created by the Field Band Academy of methods and materials were transferred to the head office in 2016 and a transition towards e-learning systems put in place. This will mean that the considerable amount of learning materials generated through years of partnership with educators from our Norwegian partner, the Norwegian Band Federation (NMF) and the ROOTS project, can now be disseminated to more tutors. We are extremely grateful to all the ROOTS team members who have made this possible, and our team leader for 2016, David Thatanelo April, who provided guidance during this process. The FBF now has a Resource Centre with dedicated technology that will support continued roll out of structured life skills and music education from 2017.

For the first time, a national tutors workshop with 74 young leaders from bands all over the country, was held in Parys in July. An intensive 10 days of music-making, learning, facilitating, talking and sharing resulted, with input on gender awareness, values-based facilitation and the psycho-social development of the young band members we deal with. Tumahole township reverberated with the sounds of a street parade and a concert to celebrate the end of this event, and we were particularly pleased to know we had good representation from our partners in the disability sector present.

Launching the next phase of PULSE!

The PULSE! project, which focused on the relationship between music and health, has been well integrated into the overall educational strategy so that FBF is becoming smarter about how to implement the development of emotional resilience and life skills in members. This is critical to help young people make healthy and empowered choices about their lives. We are proud that we have been given another three years of funding for this project from FK Norway, in collaboration with NMF. Welcome to our “new” team of four Norwegians who will be resident with us till August 2017, and bravo to the four FBF members who are spending 10 months with the NMF bands in Norway. Please read their wonderful blog on www.pulsestrongertogether.com to learn about the adventures of cultural diversity and international exchange – extraordinary learning experiences all round.

Operations shut and opened

On another as important but more sober note, this year we also had to face the closure of two projects where funding was not continued and the retrenchment of staff members as the financial management function of the organisation was outsourced. These are never occasions for celebration, but are sometimes necessary to maintain good governance and financial sustainability. We are proud of another unqualified audit and we are striving to improve our internal systems all the time. The FBF salutes everyone who has been part of this work and always looks forward to being able to responsibly extend our projects when additional resources become available.

On that note, we are pleased to announce that one of those closed projects (Danielskuil) will re-open in 2017 with additional partners on board, and a new project in Molteno/Sterkstroom will begin early in the new year. In addition, FBF partnered very successfully with CHABHIVA (Church and Business against HIV and Aids) in the Springs band and secured a US Community Grant from PEPFAR for the first time, which supported new parenting programmes and continued social support and HIV education in selected bands. Once again, we partnered with the Wits School of Arts and offered work experience for Arts Management students as part of our contribution to growing the sector.

“Fit for Purpose” with you in 2017

As our FBF values remind us, we are all only as strong as our network and partnerships that enable us to play the role we aspire to as a community development project. Without the support of our private, public and international partners, the FBF could not look back on this 2016 year of achievements and activities. A drum roll and a many-trumpet salute to you all! Without you, we also cannot look forward to 2017 either. A most significant year for us as we celebrate our 20th anniversary. A number of celebratory events are being planned and we look forward to sharing these details with you in January. Suffice to say, our determination remains undaunted and perhaps even doubled, as we prepare to stand proudly in support of the achievements of our young people and this organisation that will forever strive to be fit for purpose and most importantly, fit for the future.

Nicolette du Plessis
Chief Executive Officer
Field Band Foundation
Johannesburg
December 2016.

Content queries, along with suggestions and other feedback, are welcome, and should kindly be directed to the CEO, c/o info@fieldband.org.za; or to the CEO, Field Band Foundation, P O Box 5596, Rivonia, Johannesburg, 2191, RSA.