Bridport & West Dorset News, Views, Videos & Curiosities

UPDATED: Critics savage Dorset County Council music video

A MUSIC video made for Dorset County Council has been scorned as “truly crackpot” by the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

It shows the singing of a song called The Promise, written by the former Burton Bradstock School headteacher David Powell, now Dorset’s principal primary inspector.

The Promise was made to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Or, in Dorset County Council’s own words, it “was created to support the development of Right’s [sic] Respecting Schools in Dorset and the move towards Right’s [sic] Respecting Communities”.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance doesn’t pick up on the aberrant apostrophes, but it’s scathing about everything else.

The Promise is described by Fiona McEvoy as “a council project so truly crackpot that we’re left wondering whether those involved have completely lost their minds…

“Even Chief Executive David Jenkins makes a disembodied appearance, his floating head mouthing the toe-curling lyrics to this bizarre dirge. 

“It’s good to know he’s filling this time with productive activities like this whilst taking home an impressive salary of £170,000pa!”

Mr Jenkins does, rather startingly, pop up briefly in the video at 3.24.

The Promise is also described by Mark Wallace on the website Conservative Home as “a sickly-sweet happy-clappy song… truly cringeworthy.”

Who on earth is it aimed at, asks the Taxpayers Alliance?

Well, it was, according to the Conservative-controlled Dorset County Council, supposed to mark the beginning of “an exciting new approach to providing children’s services in Dorset.”

The Promise is the herald of schools’ rights culture spreading into Dorset’s towns and communities, especially around Bridport.

That’s the theory. Dorset County Council cabinet member for children’s services Toni Coombs said she was “blown away“. 

You should watch the video to judge for yourself. At the very least, you won’t have seen graphics quite like it for a very long time indeed.      

One final point for now: according to the County Council, The Promise is performed by “staff from Dorset’s Children’s Services, The Children’s Trust Board, Dorset Headteachers, the wider County Council and others, along with children from the Dorchester Area Schools Partnership.”

Update at 11.40am: Dorset County Council is preparing a statement in response to people’s sudden burst of interest in The Promise, so we’ll have to wait to see what it cost. But I hear, in the meantime, that David Powell wrote the song in his spare time. He’s always been very musical – a friend of Billy Bragg, if I remember right; anyway, I don’t think he was paid for it. He did it because he’s  committed to the cause.

Updated 6.05pm: Here is Dorset County Council’s response, which came earlier this afternoon (when I was up Golden Cap, so its publication has been delayed, for which I apologise).

Key fact: it cost £450.

“The Promise video was made in November 2009 to highlight the commitment of Dorset County Council to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and bring the work we are doing on children’s rights in our schools and communities into focus.

“The video was also made to celebrate Dorset schools involvement in UNICEF UK’s Rights Respecting School Award.

“The Promise song was written and recorded by one of our principal inspectors in his spare time and the musicians, who play and sing with him, also gave up their own time to the project.

“The time spent by county council staff appearing in the video was freely and generously donated, during lunchtimes, breaks, and evenings. Pupils were also involved in the recording of the song.

“The video was played and the song performed to hundreds of parents and pupils at a special concert in Dorchester on 4 February to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UNCRC. Pupils from across Dorset sang songs that they had written about children’s rights.

“The filming and editing of the video was carried out by staff at our Dorset Centre for Education Technology (DCET), a traded service funded by its work for external customers. Their services were also donated to the project for free, but it is estimated that the cost of staff time involved in producing the video, and distributing a DVD of pupils performing their own songs at the concert, amounted to £450.” 

18 Responses to “UPDATED: Critics savage Dorset County Council music video”

  1. The Red Bladder


    Like Toni Coombs I was “blown away” by this video. Pretentious? Saccharine? Vomit inducing? Simplistic to the point of making Play School look grown up? The saddest part of it all is that it was produced with good intentions in a cause which is both just and fair. As council tax payers I think that we have a right to know just how much this infantile and trite offering cost us. Obviously times aren’t that hard in these parts if we can afford to splash out on this sort of thing.

    • Jonathan Hudston

      More than £250, I’d guess

      I’m going to ask how much it cost.

      The county council does have its own little video-producing section, so I’d guess it was done in-house.

      It’s this section that did the video, not so long ago, for West Dorset District Council about its proposed office move. That cost £250, but that consisted mostly of the chief executive just talking.

      Whatever you think of The Promise’s graphic style, it’s undeniable that a lot of effort went into editing it, so it must have cost more than the district council video. £500? £1000?

      A lot of the abuse doled out by the Taxpayers’ Alliance felt rather ritualistic to me, but the question – who on earth was the video aimed at? – is a very good one indeed.

      I can’t see it appealing much to kids.

      It’s been sitting barely watched on dorsetforyou’s YouTube channel for months. The Taxpayers’ Alliance got to hear about it because a supporter tipped them off. Thanks to the Alliance, it will probably now get many more viewers!

  2. Bill Stanley

    It will prove hugely popular

    I think that the editor and The Red Bladder have got this one wrong, they both underestimate the appeal of cheap sentimentality. It will prove hugely popular. Watching it I can’t help finding it to be a pastiche of the Coca Cola advert of some 40 years ago – ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’. Words so banal that only a rabid dog, a blood-thirsty dictator or a member of UKIP could disagree with them, set to a dirge that goes on and on and on and… The whole is illustrated with shots of appealing-looking children. This one will go far, as far as I am concerned, the further the better but there will be those who will lap it up. Taken as whole I think that this effort make the death of little Nell look to be a positive barrel of laughs!

  3. Steve Atkins

    Health warning

    They need to put a health warning on this kind of thing – I’ve run out of vomit bags. *bleurgh*

  4. Leon Edwards

    Equality and fairness

    Knowing David Powell and his very good intentions regarding promotion of children’s rights, combined with his musicianship, inclusivity and previous successful work bringing children and adults together in empowering projects, I get what this video is about. It’s the culmination of many, many hours spent with young people in schools across the county looking at citizenship and place within the wider world. If the video was done in-house it wouldn’t have cost much and David probably blagged space, equipment etc, and did everything on the cheap. And if it did cost £1000 then that is nothing for the sense of pride, growth of confidence and respect, and creative learning that the 1000s of kids involved would have got from it; stuff that ultimately benefits all of us as they take their place as adults. The pissed-off looking teachers didn’t really help the video but if it re-inforces their committment to equality and fairness in their jobs then great.

    The key issue for me is not the knee-jerk rantings of right-wingers but what the County Council promo video says. Okay – you are committed to these promises – make sure you do so, while we, council tax payers of whom many are also parents/teachers/local authority staff, hold you to account and put pressure where needed to make them happen.

  5. Steve Atkins

    Good value?

    The message behind the video is the ‘rights of the child’.

    Spending time and money on this kind of crap low-level production devalues the message (because it becomes ridiculed) and also pulls resources away from frontline children’s services.

    If I worked at Dorset County Council (which I don’t) and was invited to mime to this cringe-worthy piece of art… I would ensure the time taken to do this was not during work time (at taxpayers’ expense).

    Q: Did all the DCC/taxpayer paid people in this video do this in their own time?

    Q: Is the increasing amount of spend on Council newspapers, videos, etc considered to be good value for money for local people/tax payers?

    Hmmm, maybe a way out is to release it as a single at Xmas, people may actually buy it as a joke present!… the proceeds could come in useful to fill the gap from ill-conceived council investments.

    ; )

  6. Maddie Grigg

    I was expecting Trevor Jones to gatecrash the video in a mooning Jarvis Cocker-style moment. That would have done it for me.

  7. Sameoldstory


    When you think about it – the county council have simply ranked the ‘rights of the child’ at £450 quid’s worth of third-rate video compared to … um how about… the rights of the DCC chief exec to indulge his passion for Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra? The BSO received over £600,000 from local authorities in 2009. (Strangely, Dorset CC’s individual contribution is not so easy to find without a FOI request but I remember when I worked there that there is a nice fat annual grant for the BSO from Dorset County – rather a lot more than £450 quid). I wonder how many free concerts DCC’s Mr Jenkins attended? Sitting on the BSO Board I guess he must be someone who really appreciates quality music – but as taste and propriety aren’t included in “The Promise” then I guess a third-rate production such as this video is ok then?

  8. Bill Stanley

    Be careful

    Sameoldstory – you should be careful when criticising the Conservative-controlled DCC on here. It is often seen as “knee-jerk rantings of right wingers” by some. No, neither do I!

  9. Leon Edwards

    Selfish libertarians

    Bill Stanley – do you seriously think that this video/educational project was ‘party politically’ motivated? Okay – ‘rantings’ should instead read ‘ill-informed whingeings’ , but the Taxpayers Alliance seem to be basically selfish libertarians dead set against paying for anything that they don’t actually benefit from themselves. Not very community-minded or inclusive is it, which, to me, says right-wing.

  10. Bill Stanley

    Off day

    My dear chap, you are really getting much too hot under the collar. Simply because silly old women, of both sexes, say something, anyone making a rather similar point, albeit with a completely different rationale, should not be taken as being in agreement, or even sympathy, with the lunatic fringe of stupidity. It was that type of reasoning that unleashed the old House Committee for UnAmerican Activities on the poor old US.

    Throughout this debate it has been agreed that the whole exercise was carried out with highly laudable intentions. The sad fact is that it is set to a very boring and uninspiring piece of music. Now we realise from your comments that the composer is a chum of yours but every single composer ever, excepting JS Bach, had the odd off day. That is just about the sum of it all. A dirge set to unimaginative images.

    However, there are those of us who couldn’t resist baiting a political party that has knocked on endlessly about cutting down on government waste for lashing out cash for this nonsense. Our (what you might describe as) Tory bashing resulted in you appearing to leap to their defence. Indeed knees did jerk.

  11. Sameoldstory

    Half the picture

    Hmmm… just because the councillors are right wing doesn’t mean the paid officers are… methinks the balance of power is rather more subtle… when I worked in the ivory tower the councillors only got to see half the picture…

  12. Jonathan Hudston

    Poetic justice

    My daughter came home from school today, and said:

    “Daddy, we had a lady come into school today from Symondsbury to teach us a song called The Promise, but I can only remember one line of it, about the child that lies deep in us all. Who do you think that child could be? Do you know that song, Daddy?’

    I said: “Well, my dear, it’s funny you should ask. I think I do know that song, yes. What did you think of it?”

    Without hesitation: “Good song, I enjoyed singing it.”

    We then came to watch the video. “Look, that’s the lady who came in to teach us… Look, she keeps popping up throughout the video.”

    Yes, I said, she sure does…

  13. nathalie roberts

    Value for money

    It looks like your daughter proved an important point here, let’s never forget who the ‘product’ is for. If small children like it, does it really matter what grown-ups think? A bit like designers saying how awful the Olympic mascot is, my kids think it’s great, they’re the public. £450? Fantastic value for money.

    • Jonathan Hudston

      The danger

      I think I said before it was quite catchy, in its own way.

      It is also the case that Rights Respecting initiatives have had quite a big impact on some children in some schools. I remember Ruth Clench, when she was head at Bridport Primary, saying it had been one of the things that made a difference there. (There was also an article in the Cambridge Journal of Education earlier this year about what a difference it’s made to schools in Hampshire).

      My own view about The Promise, for what it’s worth, is that it’s a perfect example of the kind of thing that councils will, almost certainly, soon have to stop doing. And I think, in one way, it’s a shame that such enterprises will disappear. The default position of people like The Taxpayers’ Alliance is that councils should do exactly what they are supposed to do, day in day out, day in day out, and nothing more, ever. They should be like factories. It’s an arguable case.

      The problem is – potentially – that if people involved in services like education feel their role is just to deliver what someone else has decreed, then something is lost. A sense of pleased commitment to a job.

      If chances to be creative are lost, or opportunities to do unexpected things are simply outlawed, then the danger is that people start to approach their jobs in a dull ground-down functional way – and so actually, in the name of doing things better, they end up doing them worse.

      You can argue – they’re being paid for it, they’ve got no right to be sullen – but human nature is human nature…

  14. Steve Atkins

    Hang on a minute!…

    The Prime Minister’s current salary is £142,500 (in addition to a salary of £65,000 as a Member of Parliament)… TOTAL: £207,500

    The DCC Chief Executive (David Jenkins) salary is £170,000 (just over £14k per month).

    Comparing these facts, the £450 spend is a tiny drip in the tax payers ocean. The Promise video is distracting everyone from The Big Issue!

  15. Bill Stanley

    Say one thing

    That’s alright then – just a small hypocrisy from the party that would have us believe that they form the government. So just where would you say that having a pair of faces starts? £1,000? £2,000? Wherever they set the limit they still say one thing and do another.

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