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We were delighted to welcome members to the region's first Members’ Day in Bristol at the end of September. The Members’ Day provided an alternative to the usual Annual General Meeting (AGM) and incorporated sessions from the MU’s Recording and Broadcasting department, as well as a panel session on health and wellbeing in live music at local Fair Play Venue, Exchange.

The panel was led by Natalie Witts-Kilshaw from the MU Live department alongside Carly Heath (Bristol Nights), Tumi Williams (Afro Cluster) and Isie Potter (Seed Sessions).

Fair Play on Tour panel with Natalie Witts-Kilshaw, Carly Heath, Tumi Williams and Isie Potter on stage.

Alongside the multiple professional development sessions, the day provided an opportunity to learn more about the Union’s work both regionally and nationally, and show how members can play an active role in what comes next.

AGM and regional activity highlights

At the AGM, delegates had an opportunity to hear about the work that the regional team has been doing over the past year to support and advocate for members. We also set out our regional strategy for the coming year.

Highlights of this year’s regional activity include:

  • Substantial work on our political engagement, orchestral and education work across the region and nation including:
    • National Music Service Wales
    • West of England combined authority
    • West of England Music Alliance
    • Bristol Nights
    • Cardiff Music Board
    • Welsh Government – Culture Strategy
    • St Davids Hall
    • BBC NOW, WNO, Sinfonia Cymru
  • Re-establishing in person events around the region as well as the creation of three new MU Union Learning Representatives in Wales, as part of the MU’s work with CULT Cymru.
  • Supporting and assisting members with growing membership in the region, which now exceeds 4,000. There has been a 5.2% increase in the last year, and an 18% increase since 2018.

Next year’s main objectives

We also discussed our objectives for 2024, focusing on the following three main areas:

  • Firstly, supporting members throughout the region as efficiently and effectively as possible, so that they receive the help and services that they expect and need, which are at the core of our work.
  • Secondly, engaging with people and organisations – including non-members, governments, and politicians - in key areas where we can drive change and achieve positive results. This might include negotiating collective terms, gaining access to funding or training for musicians, supporting the infrastructure our members’ work is dependent on, or reaching key groups of musicians with information on membership.
  • Finally, developing our networks and services where improvements are possible to keep strengthening the Union’s offer to members in the region, such as through building connections between members, increasing the number of union activists, and improving our events and training.

Members highlighted the strong sense of support they felt

During the event, members shared their feelings of community and value being part of the MU and that once you’ve joined, you feel less on your own.

Members also highlighted the strong sense of support they felt, along with some frustration that this is an aspect not always well showcased by the MU, and that we could do more to promote some services. The feedback was that we need to work harder to communicate to musicians across the nation and region that they don’t need to navigate their career alone.

It was great to have those discussions as ultimately, it’s our members who create meaningful change and there are definitely points that were raised that the regional committee can discuss further. If you would like to get involved in the union where you are, you can contact us in the regional office. 

Members outside of the Exchange, smiling as they enter.

A great opportunity to network

The event was a great opportunity for members to network with each other, as well as with officials from two of our national departments, one of our MU Assistant General Secretaries and members’ local regional team. Feedback from the day suggests that there are a lot of positives that we can take forward and build on for a similar event next year.

The date for next year’s Members’ Day and AGM, as well as a series of local Members’ Days over the year, will be announced in due course. We hope to see you soon.

Photo ofRuth Ballantyne
Thanks to

Ruth Ballantyne

Having spent over 20 years as a freelance flautist and Musicians’ Union member, Ruth started work for the MU as the Regional Officer for Wales and South West England in 2019. With a background in orchestral playing, freelance gigs and specialist teaching, she has also been proactive in creating accessible opportunities for musical development including the creation, set up and running of a charity as well as being part of creating and delivering a wide variety of projects and workshops that aimed to encourage and inspire. Ruth first got involved in the MU as a member in her union branch in 1998, where she became branch secretary. Since then, she has been a member of the Wales and South West Regional Committee, Chair of the Teachers (now Education) Section Committee, and has represented regional members on the MU’s Executive Committee.

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