BRIT Trust Marks 30 Years and $30 Million Distributed to Worthy Causes
When P!NK closed the BRIT Awards in February with a dazzling spectacle of pyrotechnics and vocal gymnastics, she didn't just bring the curtain down on the biggest U.K. music awards show. She also helped seal another successful night's fundraising for the event's official charity, The BRIT Trust, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Since its founding in 1989, the trust -- which also receives funding from the BRIT Awards' sister event, The Classic BRITs, and the annual Music Industry Trusts Awards -- has distributed 26.5 million pounds ($33.6 million) to a slew of organizations, most notably The BRIT School, the United Kingdom's only free performing-arts and technology school, which counts Adele, Amy Winehouse, Jessie J, Leona Lewis and actor Tom Holland among its former pupils. Collectively, students have sold over 160 million albums worldwide, according to the organization, and have won 12 BRIT Awards, 19 Grammys and two Academy Awards.
"If you look at other U.K. arts schools, we've probably had more success than all the rest of them put together," says BRIT Trust chairman John Craig, who has been involved in the charity since its inception and helped set up The BRIT School, which opened in 1991 in London. Beatles producer George Martin and Virgin Records founder Richard Branson were among its early backers, and the school runs an apprenticeship program for students at music companies and independent labels.
Although the school receives the majority of its funding from the British government, the almost 15 million pounds ($19 million) donated by the trust to date "adds all the bells and whistles," says Craig. He cites the school's state-of-the-art facilities and close links to the music business as being key to its success. "The mission statement of the trust is music, education and youth. The kids learn as much in the corridors as they do in the classroom."
The number of students has grown to over 1,350, from all social backgrounds, but its success does not mean it's immune to financial pressures. During the past five years, 20% of its teaching staff has been let go due to government cuts, and the school is increasingly reliant on its own fundraising efforts.
"It's appalling that something as successful as The BRIT School has to walk around with its cap out, trying to raise money," says Craig. "If the trust didn't exist, the school wouldn't exist in the form it is now."
Other charities that have received support from the trust include Save the Children and Music Support; its second-biggest beneficiary is U.K. music-therapy charity Nordoff Robbins, which each year helps 10,000 people with life-limiting illnesses, physical disabilities or emotional challenges.
"Having their long-term support is so important to us," says Nordoff Robbins CEO Julie Whelan. "We're able to use the power of music day in, day out to make a difference in the lives of people who absolutely need it."
This article originally appeared in the June 15 issue of Billboard.