I GET straight to the point with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra chief executive, Dougie Scarfe. “How is business?”

He pauses for a moment. “Business is actually pretty good. The orchestra is on incredibly good form and our mission is to be a cultural beacon, to empower lives through music, to make the case for music in our society, whether that’s in hospitals, care homes, schools, wherever we have can have an impact on wider society. And that’s a very interesting business to be in.”

And of course at the heart of it all is one of the very finest symphony orchestras playing world class music to full houses across 10,800 square miles. The organisation is a voice for the county, the region and indeed the UK with its global reputation.

The BSO is clearly an important economic driver. “We know that 40 to 50 per cent of our audience will drive over two hours to come to see one of our concerts. That inevitably means they come into town early, they do their shopping, they have dinner, they go to the concert and they go home. So, actually the economic drivers and impacts we have are also really key.”

The work with BSO Resound, the world’s first disabled-led orchestra is truly groundbreaking.

Mr Scarfe said: “When you look at the huge area we cover, one of the big questions is how you do that logistically and financially? It’s a really interesting challenge.” The BSO has the smallest turnover of all the UK symphony orchestras, about £7.5m. The funding is traditional mix of central funding and local government investment, ticket sales and from other sales, sponsorship and donations. There are always cost pressures, for example the amount of time the BSO spends on the road. And over the last ten years, there’s been a reduction in state funding of around £1m.

“We have had a huge increase in our support from philanthropy and corporate trusts and foundations, from under 6% of our turnover when I started at the BSO, is now up to just short of 15%.” What has become increasingly clear in recent years is the BSO’s critical social and community dimension. It won the Alzheimer’s Society ‘Dementia Friendly Organisation of the Year’ award in 2017.

“For a symphony orchestra to be the ‘Dementia Friendly Organisation of the Year’ is a huge, incredible boost for us, and again gave us renewed energy to keep pushing in this area.

“The other big thing in the last year in terms of the business, is the ground-breaking work that we have been doing with disabled professional musicians. It has been absolutely transformational and being noticed across the world.”

The chief executive is pleased with where things are right now, but always conscious of the tradition and history of the cultural icon he is responsible for.

“I’ll never forget in my second week in the job, one of our really loyal audience members came up to me, got me by the collar and he said: ‘Are you the new guy?’ and I said: ‘Yes, I am’, and he replied: ‘Oh great, Don’t mess it up’.

“And that’s fantastic. Actually, what that means is that the BSO and its music is an incredibly important part of people’s lives.” And who wouldn’t kill for that kind of brand loyalty?