Thinking Of Applying To Be On Dragons' Den? Be Careful What You Wish For!
Updated: Nov 6, 2019
Most entrepreneurs who fail to obtain backing from BBC 2’s Dragons Den can console themselves that they at least had a chance to showcase their brainchild on national TV.
Composer and classical musician Adrian Brockless was left angry, however, at the treatment he received from programme’s producers.
After months of delay when the BBC cancelled his appearance no less than four times, he claims his pitch was reduced to nothing more than a piece of light entertainment.
“The entire clip ran for just two and a half minutes, most of which was taken up with the Dragons arguing among themselves, or horsing around on the violin I had provided for my pitch,” said Adrian, 39, from Dorking, Surrey. (28m40sec into Series 17 Episode 4)
“I know the programme is first and foremost about entertainment but it was ridiculous. What the business offers was barely shown. The irony is that it was the BBC that asked me to apply to be on the show in the first place; they insisted that I should treat the appearance as a professional opportunity for a business deal. I had erroneously assumed a similar level of professionalism in the editorial and production teams as I did the dragons and my musicians.”
Adrian, who, as a boy, was a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral and, later, head chorister at Guildford Cathedral, has set up Bespoke Classical Music to compose unique pieces for clients wanting something special played at key events such as baptisms, weddings, birthdays and marriage proposals.
The works can be purely instrumental, or favourite poems or pieces of prose set to music. Commission prices range from £300 for an organ or piano piece accompanied by a solo voice up to £6,360 for a composition for an eight-piece choir complete with instrumental backing and a recording session.
He asked the Dragons for £10,000 to help with marketing the business in return for a five per cent stake, but received no offers.
To demonstrate what the business offers, he enlisted a professional soprano (Emily Armour) and violinist (Victoria Barnes) for a performance of his setting of the W.H. Davies poem ‘Leisure’, famous for its opening lines: “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.” Just 10 seconds of the 1m 15 second performance were shown.
Adrian, who family folklore has it is the descendant of an illegitimate child fathered by the composer George Frideric Handel with a guest house housekeeper, was first approached by Dragons’ Den after emailing BBC Breakfast News to comment on a piece they were running on the difficulties of starting a new business.
After asking him to take part, the programme then cancelled on him twice before setting a date in May for filming to take place in Manchester. After hiring a grand piano and engaging the singer and violinist, he received an urgent email two days before the trio was due in Manchester telling him that filming was off. Later the same day he was told it might be back on again. Then an hour before leaving for the journey the day before filming, he was again told it had been permanently cancelled.
Three days later and the BBC were back in contact saying the filming was on again. “It was only by luck that the musicians could do it. Victoria was returning from a tour of Poland with the Philharmonia and Emily just happened to be free,” said Adrian.
“I had hoped that we would get a fair crack of the whip but in the event, it was quite frankly a waste of time that with all the cancellations caused a good deal of disruption and has left me out of pocket.”
As well as the brevity of his appearance, Adrian received a further shock when the programme aired. Dragon Deborah Meaden was seen scraping away at the violin he had provided – an instrument purchased by his late father Brian Brockless, who was Professor of Harmony and Orchestration at the Royal Academy of Music for 20 years and then senior lecturer in music at Surrey University.
“It was recommended to my father by the famous Hungarian violinist Marta Eitler who, herself played a Stradivarius. I was not in the den when Deborah had a go on it. I don’t blame her – she would not have done so had she understood – but the production team should have known that there is an etiquette around touching someone else’s musical instrument. You don’t do it without permission."
“It’s an etiquette that is taken very seriously, not least because of the value of such instruments, but also because they are extremely fragile.”
[Chuck Berry once famously had an altercation with Keith Richard for picking up his guitar without permission.]