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Newark Town Band
Newark Town Band was founded in 1956, up until the mid fifties there had been a Newark Royal British Legion Band which then ceased to exist. The founder of Newark Town Band the late Mr Robert English along with other interested parties who had been involved in the Royal British Legion Band decided to hold a Meeting in December 1956, at the meeting a decision was made to start a new town band. Instruments were obtained, firstly on loan, then later purchased from the recently defunct Southwell Band. A collection was also taken to raise funds to be able to rent a rehearsal room, other funds were raised by playing Christmas carols. The first rehearsal room was at the Spread Eagle pub on Middlegate. During 1957 the membership grew, Mr Robert English was a Civilian Musical Director with the Royal Air Force and also a Music Teacher and Brass Instructor for schools in the Newark area. He soon had lots of youngsters joining the band, some of those youngsters are back in the band again now including Mr Peter Footitt (Musical Director), Mr David Gatiss (Cornet player) and Mr Roger Bryan (Cornet player). The first official public engagement was on a Sunday evening in March 1958 at the Savoy cinema on Middlegate (now the Halifax Building Society).
During the 1960s the band was involved in all the Civic events in the town as well as Christmas concerts in the Parish Church, concerts in the Town Hall ballroom, Sunday afternoon concerts in the Castle grounds and concerts in the Palace Theatre. Happily once again the band are playing at these venues.
The bands 50th Anniversary concert was held at the Palace Theatre in 2006. There was also a social side to the band, this included a ladies section (mothers and wives of players) who worked hard in raising funds, a Junior section (which operated as a youth club), the band even had a Football team.
Entry to band contesting began in 1969 when the band played in contests at Buxton and Belle Vue no prizes were won at these concerts. Around this time Mr Robert English decided to step down as Musical Director and become a Trustee of the Band. In 1970 Mr Walter Ritchie joined the band as Musical Director, he had also served in the Royal Air Force. Under his directorship the band gained first place in the fourth section categories of both the City of Leicester and Wills Championships. Winning the Wills Championships gave them automatic entry to the National Brass Band Championships held in the Royal Albert Hall in April 1971 where they came second in their section missing victory by 2 points but it gained the band promotion from the 4th to the 3rd section. Here they gained 4th place in the midlands heats of the National Championships in 1973 and 5th place in 1974.
Over the years the band has had several rehearsal rooms including the Rutland Arms (Barnbygate), a hut in the Friary Grounds (Friary Road), the old stables at The Ossington Hotel (Beastmarket Hill), a room above the Co-op (Kirkgate), The Woolpack Inn (Stodman Street), The Hawtonville Community Centre, Newark Evangelical Church (Portland Street), The Magnus School and now the current rehearsal room is at Newark High School (London Road).
Musical Directors over the years have been the late Mr Robert English, Mr Walter Ritchie, Mr Martin Hancock, the late Mr Jack Mathers, the late Mr Ronald James and the present Musical Director Mr Peter Footitt.
In the 1980s membership of the band began to decline, some younger players left to go to University, other members had career changes. One member Mr Ian Greaves (Cornet) joined the Household Cavalrys mounted band and was with them for over 20 years. Mr George Smith (Eb Bass) joined the Brass ensemble of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
On the 16 March 1988 at a Newark Town Council Meeting of the Financial and General Purposes Committee a decision was made to allow Newark Town Band to use the Towns Crest on letterheads, a uniform and music stand banners.
By the 1990s there were just a few loyal members left trying hard to keep the band going, these were the late Mr Ronald James, the late Mr Ronald Cunnington (Euphonium, the late Mr William Schedler (Eb Bass Secretary), Mr Paul Francis (Flugel Treasurer), Mr Guy Addock (cornet), Mr John Moore MBE (President, Chairman, Tenor Horn), Miss Susan Robinson – Marsh (Cornet), Miss Hazel Robinson (Tenor Horn) and Mr Roger Bryan (Cornet). Paul Francis, Roger Bryan and John Moore are still in the band.
At Christmas time 2001 the band had lots of engagements to fulfil, unfortunately the Musical Director (Mr Ronald James) became seriously ill. With no one to conduct the band, Paul Francis and his wife Ivy Francis contacted Mr Peter Footitt who agreed to go along and conduct the band. Mr Ronald James never came back to the band because of ill health so Mr Peter Footitt after much consideration decided to stay on as the Musical Director. Along with Peter comes a wealth of knowledge of the banding world from his days as a boy in Sconce Hills School Band and Newark Town Band under Robert English to later playing in the Ransome Hoffman Pollard Band again in Newark Town Band, Foss Dyke Band, Calverton Colliery Band and South Notts Hussars Band. Under his influence the band is going from strength to strength but is always on the look out for new players to secure the bands future.