The aims of the Adjustable Bench Campaign (ABC) are:
To give a voice to people who struggle to reach the pedals on a non-adjustable bench.
To advance and facilitate low-cost solutions for replacing or altering a fixed-height bench.
To work towards our ideal, in which the organ in every public venue suits people of all heights.
This is an issue which disproportionately affects women – the average height in the UK for a woman is 5'3" while for men it is 5'9". It is also an important issue in widening access for younger students.
SWO recently conducted a survey on the subject of organ benches, out of 486 responses from women and men in the UK key findings were that:
66% of respondents do not have an adjustable bench at their usual practice venue.
Almost half of survey respondents have had their performance compromised by the lack of an adjustable bench.
This is what some respondents said (see our Bench Stories page for more comments):
‘Benches and the organs themselves being so big make me feel inadequate or not the right sort of person to play the organ sometimes’.
‘I frequently get backache’ (as a result of the bench being at the incorrect height).
While cathedrals and churches usually have fully adjustable benches, many smaller churches (where women organists are more likely to be found) in the towns and villages of the UK have a bench of a fixed height, suitable for the average man but too high for the average woman.
Help is at hand (and feet)!
Not every church can afford the £1800 or so for a fully adjustable bench. Find out about easy and affordable bench solutions for all budgets.
What we want!
ABC's aim is to support individuals to do their jobs properly, by enabling them to gain equal access to their instrument. Where new organs are being supplied, we ask that height-adjustable benches become standard issue. Most importantly, we are supporting individual organists in making their needs heard – we come in all shapes and sizes so let's demand equal opportunity seating!
What can you do?
We ask local organists' associations to raise this issue with their committees; to share ABC flyers in their members’ regular places of playing and for individuals to talk to the venues where they work about suitable bench solutions.
Would you like to make a positive difference to current and future generations of organists? Memorial benches have long been a familiar sight in parks and seaside locations, but why not consider an adjustable organ bench in memory of a loved one? A small 'In Memoriam' plaque could carry a name or commemorate an occasion. As well as providing a long-lasting personalised tribute, you'll be helping to improve accessibility and comfort for players of all ages. Contact us at SWOABC@gmail.com for further advice.