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This week sees the highlight of the UK music awards season, the BRIT awards.  The event will be shown live on Wednesday and viewers will be able to download and stream all the audio performances.  These downloads will be free to the viewer as Google Play picks up the costs and donates the money to the BRITS official charity partner which this year is the music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins.  Last years charity, Warchild, received £250k so lets hope that the same (or more!) is raised for one of Alfie Boe’s official charities.

Ahead of this exciting time for Nordoff Robbins, I caught up with CEO Julie Whelan to talk about how being the official charity partner of the BRITS will help them.  The charity have a long standing relationship with the BRIT Trust and the BPI, going back to the 1991 fundraising concert at Knebworth and the set up of the BRIT school which led to extra funding for Nordoff Robbins.  Since then, the BPI and the BRIT Trust have been ongoing supporters of Nordoff Robbins.  This year, much to Julie’s delight, the BPI very much wanted to highlight the work that Nordoff do and asked them to become the official charity partner of the 2016 BRIT awards.  As Julie says, this is doubly brilliant as Nordoff is not a charity that “instantly springs to mind.  When I first started work with Nordoff I sometimes asked unsuspecting members of the public if they knew who we were and they mostly thought we were a sewing organisation or sold ice cream”! Actually, the following video shows what they do – be warned, you might have something in your eye by the end!

Going forward from 2016, Julie says that Nordoff are currently expanding the services they offer and moving into new areas which have never, until now, been able to access music therapy services and it is this that will be spearheaded by the, hopefully large, influx of funds from the BRIT awards.  Services are currently provided from the main centre in North London, the Andrew Lloyd Webber centre at the BRIT school and via a myriad of therapists who travel to NHS centres, prisons, special schools and mental health trusts to name just a few.  Over the next eighteen months or so, Nordoff is committed to expanding into Wales, Yorkshire and the North East of England as well as committing to providing services in all London boroughs.  Julie emphasised that Nordoff often “works with people in the most isolated and vulnerable settings, those who need it most” and that the expected donations from Google Play this week will enable the much needed regional expansion to happen.

So, being the official charity partner of the BRITS is of huge significance to an otherwise small charity especially when you consider that they receive no government funding at all.  Day to day running costs are funded through a number of fundraising events, corporate fundraising events and partnerships and donations from the public.  Of course, I asked Julie about the importance of Nordoff’s celebrity ambassadors and what they bring to the charity and this is what Julie had to say about Alfie.  “Alfie Boe is someone who gives his time to support us and also, through his fans he brings a whole new set of people who are aware of Nordoff Robbins and what we do.  Having that has made us much more confident as a charity”.  The use of Alfie’s birthday each year to encourage fans to donate to Nordoff has meant more than £8,000 raised over the last five years; Alfie said  “I’m overwhelmed with the generosity shown by fans who have donated to Nordoff Robbins. I’m passionate about music education and therapy and I really appreciate every single donation.”

Alfie of course is not the only ambassador for Nordoff who makes a difference; soprano Laura Wright regularly attends fundraising events throughout the year and makes regular trips to the centre to observe music therapy sessions and engage with clients.  Interestingly, not all the official ambassadors are from world of music.  Two such are presenter Gaby Roslin, host of the Silver Clef Awards for the last few years and England cricketer, Jimmy Anderson.  Having two ambassadors outside the music world is great for Nordoff as Julie explains: “Although they are not musicians, both are connected with the importance of music and having them give their time raises awareness of our work…Jimmy Anderson gives a lot of support at corporate events and Gaby Roslin gives us as much airtime as she can.  She is very interested in the work that we do with families.”

So, with all that in mind, get ready to watch the BRIT awards on Wednesday and download the live performances via Google Play!

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