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Holbeach Town Band
Holbeach Community Band was founded in 1971 by Mr Brian Long with the help of a grant of £50 from Holbeach Parish Council.
Mr Brian Long then made the discovery that the Thetford Band in Norfolk had disbanded and that their instruments and uniforms were for sale. After obtaining a loan from the bank of £250, Mr Long was able to purchase 12 instruments and 15 uniforms from the Thetford Band.
As the band had no premises at the time, the band held it's weekly practice sessions in peoples' homes and later, as numbers increased, in the George Farmer School in Holbeach.
This situation continued until 1979 when the band obtained the lease on the present building, Band Hall, 2-6 Back Lane, Holbeach, which had previously been the property of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Holbeach and was their original 'Kingdom Hall' in this area.
Under Mr Brian Long's conductorship the band progressed well. Several members eventually purchased their own instruments and in time Mr Long felt sufficient confidence in the band's ability to think about having an LP (Long Playing) record made. This was done and was only made possible by sponsorship from Holbeach Round Table and other businesses in town.
Mr Long took the band out to play at many local fetes including the annual Holbeach Carnival, held every August at that time. The band also went to play on 'The Green' at Hunstanton and became a familiar sight to day-trippers and holiday-makers. Mr Long also began what is still a band tradition, playing for the Remembrance Parade at Holbeach St Marks. 'Band lore' has it that this was the band's first official engagement and it has never been turned down since. It is hoped that this, by being on-going, proves the band's commitment to the local community. Under Mr Long's conductorship, the band also developed a facet of its musical existence which is still present - the fact that it was and still is very much a family band. Over the years the band has had as any as five members from one family, four from others was not uncommon, as well as non-playing members in support. The band's membership has also included every age from primary schoolchildren to retired grandfathers.
No history of Holbeach band would be complete without a mention of the small but dedicated group of supporters. In Mr Long's time, monthly Bingos were a good fund-raiser and these are at present in the process of being revived for band funding. Supporters are always needed for collecting and many other functions within the band, which ask, not for money, but for commitment. The band has a fund-raising stall which, with very little time and effort, could be made a very worthwhile enterprise. Do enquire if you are interested.
During the 1980's the leadership of the band was taken over by Mr Allan Ellis as Bandmaster. Under his stewardship the band played at more marching events than in its previous history and led carnival parades at Hunstanton, Skegness and Chapel St Leonards. It also played for the St George's Day Parade of Scouts and Guides in Boston, Remembrance parades at Holbeach and Holbeach St Marks. The band also played for a parade for the Burma Star Association at Sheringham. The band also continued carol-playing at Christmas, around the streets, in the town on Saturdays leading up to Christmas, and always on the morning of Christmas Eve.
Like most organisation the band has encountered difficult times and it was at one of these moments in1997 when the band was very fortunate in securing the services of Mr Mel Hopkin of Spalding as its Musical Director. His sense of commitment, dynamism, and feeling of self-worth have percolated to all levels of the band and as a consequence its strength is on-going.
The Musical Director has shown a great interest in trying to get charitable funding but this is not as easy as it appears. The band were awarded a grant of £1000 from the Prince's Trust, largely due to Mr Hopkin's efforts on the band's behalf. The businesses of Holbeach gave generous prizes for a Bingo held for band funds which realised a profit of £300. The band has also applied for a grant from Sutton Bridge Power Station Charity Foundation, and from Lincolnshire Co-Operative Charity Fund. Awards from these bodies are still to be decided.
As this was the start of a new Millennium the band felt this should be marked in some rather special way. the band is to be officially renamed Holbeach Town Band and is to be re-vamped and re-launched as such. New uniforms are under consideration at this time and Mr Hopkin is busy buying new music.
In 1999, however, the band's history took a new direction when for the first time it joined forces with Kirton Band for a series of rehearsals and performances. Let us hope that this association will long be of benefit to both bands.
Conclusions in all things are for looking forward as well as mulling over past greatness, and now as the Millennium is well under way it seemed a good time to give your local band a local name, a new identity and new goals for the future.
The arrangement with Kirton Band did not last! We had planned to attend each others rehearsals every two weeks, but not many of our band made the journey to Kirton, and even fewer came to our rehersals. The arrangement fizzled out, but some of our players decided to leave us and join Kirton.
I introduced Open Days in 1997 and invited the public, and particularly local schools, to visit the bandroom, talk to the members and try out instruments. These have had various degrees of success over the years - quite a large number of people of all ages have joined our learner group and some have become full members. The Open Days have also encouraged a number of former brass players to return to banding.
In 2002, I introduced 'Learn to Play in a Week' where we teach people the basics of playing brass and reading music so that they can play a simple tune in a week. By coming every afternoon for a week, we have been able to succeed every year. We frequently get told by bandsmen that you can't learn in a week; we all know that, but by playing a tune in a week, it really gives the learners confidence.
At Christmas 2004, a number of our band joined the Royal British Legion Band (Lincolnshire), which is based in Spalding, for the Christmas concert. The Spalding band had been going through a difficult period and we were pleased to help. Subsequently, the Spalding players joined us for our Spring concert and we now have a formal arrangement (agreed by the Committees of both bands) to help each other. So far this has worked well and is beneficial to both bands.
I have tried to improve the band's music library during my time and I have been particularly keen to get modern arrangements. I am now in the process of buying some of the more traditional pieces which have been missing from our repertoire.
This year we played our first 'Last Night of the Proms'. It was so successful that we have been invited back and will be performing the concert three times in the Autumn.
We find it difficult to get new young players, unless we train them ourselves. There are few young players coming through schools, undoubtedly a result of the local authority's decision, a few years ago, to end free instrumental lessons. Children now have to pay £26.60 per hour for instrumental lessons through the County Music Service. Add the problem of young players leaving for University and we have a continuous stuggle to fill the band.