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Shipston Town Band
In the early years of the last century, many local towns and villages had a band. Brailes, Ilmington and Halford supported a band, and were often engaged to perform in Shipston for carnivals and fetes.
An obvious ground-swell of opinion thought that Shipston ought to have a band. The Stratford-upon-Avon Herald in March 1912 reports that a committee had been formed to raise funds to enable a band to be formed. Around that time Charles Holman a former military bandmaster, moved into the town and during a conversation with Frank Parsons (a local auctioneer and something of a wag), he accepted a bet that in the space of six weeks he could train a band from scratch fit to march through the streets of Shipston.
Six weeks passed by and on Thursday, 6th May, Shipston Band gave its first public performance. Using an ingenious system of numbers, Charles Holman managed to teach his raw recruits a march and a waltz. The band lined up 19 strong and marched up West Street, along Darlingscott Road and down Sheep Street returning to the Square, pausing on route to play their waltz on each street corner. This, so the story goes, proved too much for most of these inexperienced bandsmen and by the time the band had returned to the square only Charles and the drummer were still playing. Nevertheless Charles was adjudged to have won the bet and the band has been in existence ever since.
Soon after the formation came the outbreak of the Great War. This obviously had an effect on the band with players being called-up. However, it was decided to carry on despite the war and the Band Committee payed the subscriptions of those players who had enlisted. When Charles Holman was called-up as a Regimental Bandmaster, his position was taken over by J. R. (Dick) Mayo who owned the local timber yard and was to prove a very influential person in the history of the band during the next two decades. The band contributed quite considerably to the war effort by performing at the recruiting rallies, concerts for the troops and by marching the troops off to war.
In the period between the wars, the band under the able leadership of J. R. Mayo performed at local engagements and fetes, carnivals and the like and under Mr Mayo the band flourished at a time when many other local bands were disbanding. Over the years the band rehearsed in the back rooms of local pubs until it became the proud possessor of its own band hall (a metal hut used during the Great War to billet the Durham Light Infantry), and this was to remain in use until 1968. In the band at that time was a young cornet player B. J. (Bert) Smith who was to prove very influential person in the band's history.
The Second War did cause the band to close temporarily and the instruments stored until its conclusion when it was reformed under the leadership of Bert Smith. The first engagement was the Charity Cup Final when the instruments were taken out of store, the players gathered together and the band marched off. Most of the instruments had coped well in store, however, the cymbals suffered and as the band was marching along, the leather thongs disintegrated and they bounced down the hill as Mike Newman from Paxford was left grasping thin air.
Before the War, a number of players from Shipston had travelled to Chipping Campden to play at the contests as Shipston Band were not interested in competing. In 1956, however, Shipston Band decided to enter its first contest at Winchcombe. Although not a winning debut, this sparked off a considerably interest and many other contests were entered. Bert remained conductor of the band until his death in 1976 achieving countless successes with the band, including qualifying for the National Finals in London in 1961 and 1971 when they gained some 20 trophies. After his death in 1976, Richard Nash from Rhymney in South Wales became conductor and the Band qualified for the National Finals and the final of the Radio Birmingham Knockout Competition,winning promotion to the Second Section. He introduced us to the Rhymney Silurian Choir with whom they enjoyed many concerts.
After Richard's and Peter Steven's retirement, the band passed into the hands of Charlie Cox formerly of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers joined the Band as conductor, but when Charlie opted to return to playing, David Williams helped Shipston emerge as Midlands Regional Champions in 1989 and qualify for the National Finals in London. More recently the band has been conducted by Jeremy Dibb, Les Yarrow, Glenn Coleman, Dave Lee, Dennis Grant and Howard Gibbs to this esteemed list.