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Nelson Brass Band
The history of Nelson Brass Band has been inextricably linked to that of the town and especially the textile industry. In the latter part of the 19th and the first half of the 20th Century Nelson was a booming New Town built on Cotton. The band mirrored this boom and was regarded as one of the best in the country. During this period it regularly competed and beat bands like Black Dyke, Brighouse and Rastrick, Grimethorpe and Wingates. The band was hit hard with the rapid decline of textiles, and with it the town, after the 2nd World War. Players left the area for work, older players retired and younger players were seduced by Television and Rock and Roll. The band has struggled through this period until now and it is once again winning contests and making a name for itself in the Brass Band world.
Nelson Band or later Nelson Prize Band was formed in 1862 and practiced in a room at he back of the old Nelson Inn, now the Lord Nelson Hotel. ( Incidentally the town itself, which gained it's charter in 1890, also took it's name from the Nelson Inn.) By 1873 the band was boasting that in the previous four years it had won 476 pounds 19 shillings in prize money and that it's services were required at every public function. Unfortunately, the band and Town Council did not always see eye to eye. In 1894 Nelson band was engaged to play classical music in Victoria Park. On seeing a youthful audience they suddenly began playing popular tunes of the day, an alderman objected and the concert was abandoned. This incident seems to have ingrained itself into the local psyche, as evidenced by this excerpt from "A Pennine Childhood" by Ernest Dewhurst (pub. by Stroud 2005) "On summer Sundays the parks offered brass band music from Strauss to Sullivan, and some still remembered an abandoned performance by the Nelson Prize Band when an alderman complained of a broken agreement - it had switched from Victorian classic pieces to a dance tune."
Later in the 1890's the band disbanded only to re-form in 1898 as Nelson Old Band. It's practices were first held near the Prince of Wales Inn and later in a room on Ann Street. In 1920 the band acquired Clifford House and became a social club as well as a brass band. During this period the band had many contest successes regularly competing at the famous September contest at Belle Vue in Manchester. The Old Band, however became more of a social club than a musical association and the band split from the club forming two new bands.
Nelson Temperance Band was short-lived. The second band, Nelson Silver Prize Band, lasted until 1956. It also opened a social club on Albert Street which once again led to the bands demise. In late 1956 financial problems forced the closure of the club and the folding of the Nelson Silver Prize Band, leaving Nelson once again without a band.
In January 1957 a public meeting was held by the Town Councils Library and Arts Committee to consider re-forming the band. After further meetings a grant of £650.00 was made and Nelson Civic Band was born. Instruments, Music and Uniforms were bought and scrounged and rehearsals were held in a disused chapel on Stanley Street. On Tuesday 23 April 1957 the band played its first concert with Nelson Civic over 60's Choir at the Civic Centre on Stanley Street, where the band rehearses to this day. The conductor was 24 year-old Norman Riley, the players contained bandsmen from Nelson Old and Silver bands and players were also borrowed from other bands. Within two years the band had all its own players, a thriving youth section and was competing in contests once more. The band reverted to its original name of Nelson Band after local government reorganisation. The 60's were a good time, but the 70's were hard. The 80's saw a regrouping but in the 90's Nelson Band went from strength to strength. 2001 was a special year for the band with them representing the North West in the National Finals together with other contest successes and a trip to Paris. There is a fine mix of players, a dedicated committee and with a lot of hard work, the only way is up!