Comment: Look to Benjamin Britten's legacy

There's no escaping the voluntary sector. I have just returned from a retreat on the Suffolk coast.

John Knight
John Knight

I was visiting the remote RSPB reserve at Minsmere when a volunteer there informed me: "You're that bloke who writes for Third Sector. I recognise your face." She said nothing about my writing, but I took it as a compliment.

In Suffolk, I also met Duke Dobing, head of external relations at Aldeburgh Music, which I support. I knew it was a charity but never really understood why. To most observers, its identity is shaped by the annual Aldeburgh Festival of Music, which can appear elitist and austere. In the context of this misconception, I was intrigued about how the charity would be able to demonstrate public benefit - something that will increasingly and, quite rightly, dominate the sector's future operating plans.

Duke told me of the work Aldeburgh Music does at a local young offenders institution, using film-making, radio and DJ-ing to give inmates a sense of tangible constructive achievement as well as usable skills. The charity also runs a rolling programme of events in Suffolk schools, introducing children to music and performance art in professional settings. This culminates in a schools week, providing outlets for self-expression, confidence building and creativity. Finally, the charity's Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme helps young musicians, irrespective of means, to work with established performers and move into professional performance.

All in all, a strong response to the public benefit question from an organisation that is not widely known as a charity. We are going to have to be creative in using the public benefit test - in assessing exactly what is actually happening, rather than being led by perceptions. Each organisation should be stretched to reach new and creative ways of delivering that benefit. Aldeburgh Music, for example, may in the future wish to consider establishing a musical instrument 'lending library', mentoring or a scheme to benefit youngsters from Suffolk state schools.

- John Knight is head of policy and campaigns at Leonard Cheshire.

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