Association of British Orchestras

Public affairs

A primary focus of the ABO is advocacy and campaigning on behalf of its members, including the publication of briefings and sector statistics. We provide advice, guidance and practical resources for members on a range of key issues, and champion the value and role of British orchestras, making the case to UK Government, the devolved administrations and the wider sector. We advocate for policies that foster a thriving, accessible and sustainable British orchestral sector.

The ABO meets regularly during the year with representatives from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England, and advocates on behalf of its members to other government departments. It co-ordinates regular meetings of its Scottish and Welsh members and maintains a dialogue with Creative Scotland, the Scottish Government, Arts Council of Wales and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

We are also proud partners of industry groups and campaigning organisations including What Next?, Culture Counts, Parents and Carers in the Performing Arts (PiPA) and LIVE.

Current public affairs work includes:

COVID-19 and Sector Recovery

The ABO has worked tirelessly to support our members throughout the pandemic, providing guidance and clarification of COVID protocols. We successfully made the case for sector funding support and sat on the DCMS working group, providing evidence of sector impact and input into covid policy including workforce, audience and travel guidance. We continue to advocate for the long term Government support needed for the sector’s recovery.

Brexit and International Touring

The ABO has played an active role in engaging with the UK Government and European Union on the challenges that Brexit poses for its members. Our advocacy work focuses on resolving issues of mobility – both inbound and outbound – of people and trucks, as well as customs and border control issues regarding carnets and CITES. View the ABO’s position paper on the Trade & Cooperation Agreement.

The All-Party Parliamentary Classical Music Group

The All-Party Parliamentary Classical Music Group brings together parliamentarians who have an interest in and wish to further the appreciation of classical music; acts as an interface between British orchestras' on and off-stage activities, the wider classical music industry, including broadcasters and the recording industry, and key decision makers and opinion formers; and looks at the potential for establishing parliamentary classical music awards and promoting and supporting young musicians. The ABO serves as the group's secretariat.

Government Consultations

The ABO regularly responds to government consultations on behalf of its members, most recently including the Department for Transport’s consultation on specialist events hauliers operating in the EU under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation on COVID certification, DEFRA, Taylor Review of Modern Employment Practice, and Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiries.

Visas for Visiting Artists

The ABO regularly submits evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee and has successfully argued for the inclusion of orchestral musicians on the Shortage Occupation List.

International Relations

The ABO keeps in touch with international developments in the orchestral sector through regular contact with associations and conferences in other countries. It is a member of the European Orchestras Forum and International Alliance of Orchestral Associations.


The ABO and its members benefit hugely from membership of Pearle* (Live Performance Europe), which helps the ABO keep track of legislative developments within the EU. Visit the Pearle* website. The ABO regularly attends Pearle conferences and the Live Performance Sector Social Dialogue Committee meetings in Brussels.

Previous advocacy work includes:

Orchestras Everywhere

A public-facing social media campaign which aimed to demolish the myth that orchestras are only enjoyed by a small number of people. The reality is, they are at the centre of globally popular entertainment: the best of the best, that you can hear when you watch, play, visit or listen, making everyday life special. View the campaign briefings or read more about British Orchestras in the Community. #orchestraseverywhere

Orchestra Tax Relief

The ABO successfully lobbied for the extension of creative tax relief to orchestras, which was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 2014 Autumn Statement. The ABO worked with the Treasury and HMRC on its implementation from 1 April 2016, and has produced guidance and training for its members. We welcomed the temporary uplift in Orchestra Tax Relief announced in the Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021.

National Insurance

The ABO was successful in working in partnership with the MU to in lobby for repeal of the Entertainer Regulations in 2014.

Communications Campaigns

Between 2009 and 2011 the ABO worked with DHA Communications to raise the profile of British orchestras in the run-up to the Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010. The campaign aimed to work with ABO members to get statistics to back the key campaign themes; develop an external network of advocates; ensure the impact and value of the orchestras’ work was communicated through media and targeted publications; map the developing policy agenda regarding music and arts as it relates to the campaign themes; position the ABO, and its members, as a model of excellence; and intervene in emerging policy debates to ensure the strength of the ABO’s voice was maximised. A series of briefings were published which can be found on the Publications page.

Annual Conference

The next ABO conference will take place in Bristol,
hosted by Bristol Beacon, from 24-26 January 2024.