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Friary Guildford Brass Band
Guildford is a town that is proud to have had its own band for most of the last century. However, like many other suburban town bands, their existence has not been continuous. There has been three 'incarnations' of a brass band in Guildford. The first band existed in the early 1900s when the Friary Meux Brewery had its own Brass Band (records show that this band came in the frame at the Finals of the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, alongside Black Dyke Mills band), the second band in the 1950s and 60s and the current band was formed in 1983.
The current Band's first performance in 1983 was at the Lido for the Friary Meux half-marathon and they soon after established a stable and committed group of accomplished musicians. Indeed, the band today still includes 9 players who were involved in the band when it was formed (about a third of the total band). The engagements started flowing in and there followed a period of sponsorship once again by the Friary Meux Brewery. This was a mutually beneficial relationship where the band performed regularly at the Brewery's pubs to their customers, in return for financial assistance and liquid refreshments! The partnership with Friary Meux unfortunately ended in 1993, after a very successful 10 years. The brewery's sponsorship helped the Band to establish itself as a brass band of excellence, both in entertaining the public and competing in contests. It was decided to keep the name Friary (but drop Meux) in the band's title, as it had become very well known in brass band circles.
Since its formation, the band has earned a reputation for high standards of music-making, and this is most evident through its success on the contest stage. The Band's first taste of competing in the Regional Qualifying Contest of the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain was in March 1984. Nationally, the band was graded as a 4th section band, but after a few years in the 4th section, Friary became a force to be reckoned with; qualifying for the National Finals four years in succession (1987-90) and working their way up the sections in the process. Nine years later in 2003 the band won the Regional first section Championships, and competed in the National finals in Dundee. From 2004 Friary competed nationally in the Championship section for a further three years, but in 2007 they were relegated back to the First Section. The band regularly competes at the SCABA contests in Hove, Crawley and Folkestone, as well as competitions around the UK including Pontins Championships, Yeovil Entertainments Contest, and the Spring Festival in Blackpool.
In the past 25 years, the band has undertaken engagements on board the QE2 liner, at the Grosvenor House Hotel, and Café Royal, London, on race days at Ascot and Newmarket, at the British Grand Prix, and at concerts in Germany, Jersey, Dublin, Scotland, as well as many local venues including Bramley, Reading, Woking, Horsham, Easebourne amongst others. Each year, the band will make around 20 public appearances, mainly in and around the Guildford area.
The band is highly committed to serving its local community and each year leads the annual Guildford Armistice Day parade, marching along the High Street to the War Memorial in the Castle Grounds. Each year, the band also takes part in a live Christmas Broadcast on the Royal Surrey County Hospital 'Radio Lion'. In addition, the band has played in Guildford High Street and at Christmas at local supermarkets to raise money for their chosen charities, the Special Care Baby Unit at the Royal Surrey County Hospital and the Surrey Air Ambulance.