This page is part of an archive of historical details from existing or defunct brass band websites. This is being maintained to provide a record of this information in the event of a band folding, its website disappearing or other loss of the historical record. Where possible, and appropriate, the information cached will be updated from time to time - and any corrections or updates are welcome.
Slaidburn Silver Band
1998 saw the Centenary of the Slaidburn Silver Band, a typical 'village band' based in the Hodder Valley in Lancashire. Like many voluntary organisations the Band has had its 'ups and downs' during the last 100 years, but thankfully has survived to be one of the few remaining bands in the area.
One of the Band's claims to fame, certainly in the band world, is the commissioning from William Rimmer of the march which bears the village and Band's name - Slaidburn. This march is probably in the library of every brass band in the country, and since its publication at the turn of the century has been a top selling march even to the present day. It has no doubt been played by thousands of brass players throughout the years and many players are surprised to discover that Slaidburn actually exists as a village - and has a brass band too!
From its early days the Band provided music for many local events, such as church processions, sports days, agricultural shows and indoor concerts - a tradition which still continues 100 years later. In the mid 1930s the Band travelled to Leeds to broadcast live for the BBC in a programme featuring the people and places of the Hodder Valley and featuring, of course, Slaidburn.
Following the Coronation festivities of the 1953 the membership dwindled until only a quartet of players remained and it was decided in 1964 to disband and sell the the instruments. Thankfully, the threat of losing their band prompted enough villagers to join the Band as beginners to keep things going and since then the Band has remained active and busy.
Between 1970 and 1988 the Band gradually replaced all its set of 70 year old instruments and also purchased a new set of uniforms. In 1989 the Band was honoured by an invitation to play before Her Majesty The Queen during a visit to the Hodder Valley.
In 1998, the Band celebrated its nominal Centenary year with a wide program of events, including a History evening, with musical features, and a Midsummer Brass concert at the village recognised as the Centre of the Kingdom, Dunsop Bridge.
A Means Of Enlivening The Community
This book was written by John Cowking during the Band's centenary celebration.
The story you are about to read is unique. It tells of a brass band, tucked away in the beautiful Hodder Valley in Lancashire, near to the centre of the United Kingdom, which in 1998 is to celebrate its Centenary - or so we think!
Gathering information for this project has been ongoing for about 10 years and has not been easy. The Band possesses no minute books, accounts or documents for its early years, and therefore has had to rely on local organisations, societies and press, but most importantly, individual recollections from a great many local people who themselves were members of the band or have memories of its activities. To all these people I am extremely grateful.
The Centenary Year is based on the Band's re-formation in 1898 which is well documented. It is known that a band of some form existed before this time but, at present it is proving difficult to trace. Some clues have been found thanks to help and advice from Arthur Taylor, author of the book "Brass Bands" - considered to be the definitive work on the British Brass Band scene - who suggests that many brass bands were formed from the musicians who played as church bands before organs were installed.
Evidence to support this theory in Slaidburn's case can be found from 2 sources: Alice Peel's "Short History of Slaidburn" and an obituary notice from Slaidburn Parish Church magazine of 1903. Alice Peel writes:
When Mr. Peel presented a small organ for which a gallery was built in 1852 at the West End, he and his family were allowed to take possession of a rough plain deal raised enclosure near the font, hitherto used by the string and wind instrument players and singers.
Further proof of the Church and Band theory comes in the following obituary notice:
Mr. Henry Dugdale who was our Schoolmaster at Slaidburn from 1851 to 1867, died at the end of September 1903 at the advanced age of 80 years. He was organist at the Parish Church, teacher of the Brass Band, Actuary of the Yorkshire Penny Bank, besides fulfilling many other duties connected with village life.
Perhaps Mr. Dugdale was responsible for creating the first band in Slaidburn after 1852, in which case the Band is well past its Centenary, but by how far? Some day we may find out, but until then we celebrate 100 years of music-making in 1998.
2. The Early Years
Before commencing on the detailed history of the Slaidburn Band, it may be of interest to learn something of the development of the Brass Band Movement in this country. Percy Scholes writing in his "Oxford Companion To Music" describes the Brass Band particularly well:
The Brass Band is a type of instrumental combination particularly suitable for open-air performance and allowing of amateur cultivation.
That definition has not altered over the years, particularly its amateur status. A band's demand at outdoor functions still provides much needed income for maintenance of instruments and uniforms.
As mentioned in the introduction the early bands were often formed from redundant players from church bands when organs were installed and in some cases from the abolition of City or Town "Waites" - licensed bands originally created in the reign of James II to provide suitable music for civic or national occasions.
Whatever their origins their instruments were very different from those of today, names such as the cornopean, serpent, and ophocleide being very common in the mid-nineteenth century. The development of today's instruments is largely due to Adolphe Sax and the Distin family.
Adolphe Sax was responsible for the development of piston and valve operated instruments - the "Sax-Horn" - which were enthusiastically promoted by the Distin family who first performed on these at exhibitions around Europe in the late 1840s. When presenting them at the Great Exhibition of 1851 at Crystal Palace they created a sensation and early instrument manufacturers saw the potential in them for creating a new sound and instrumentation in the United Kingdom and the Brass Band was formed.
By the 1880s the Brass Band had become established as a major amateur music-making body with bands being formed by public subscription and particularly by mill owners who found that creating a "works band" with players from the workforce encouraged a sense of loyalty to the company and appreciation from his employees for his public spirited generosity. At the turn of the century it was estimated that there were some 40,000 brass bands in existence, that figure declining to 10,000 after the Great War when many bands found it impossible to continue when many players did not return from the battlefields. Again after the 2nd World War the figure reduced to 3,000 as social changes and the advent of mass transport and alternative entertainment took hold in the country.
Recent attempts to try and calculate the number of bands still in existence have been difficult as there is no formal national registry that all bands join, but it is thought that there are about 1,200 bands still performing in Great Britain. These changes in numbers were seen in this area too. Within a 12 mile radius of Slaidburn there were at one time at least 14 active bands some of whom amalgamated when players became scarce. Today only 4 remain - Longridge, Balderstone, Giggleswick " Settle and of course Slaidburn.
One important feature of the Brass Band scene is contesting, a tradition going back to the early days when venues such as Belle Vue and Crystal Palace hosted great national competitions and festivals for the bands. These early events were taken very seriously by both players and supporters alike and much money was placed as bets on the outcome of the major competitions. Illustrious names such as Black Dyke, Fodens, Besses O' The Barn, Wingates and many others gained national importance as winners of the major championships. This competitive element could result in great unpopularity for the Judges if they gave the "wrong" decision at a contest regardless of the musical ability of the competitors. A contest held at Barnoldswick in the late 1880's received national press coverage when it was reported that the Judge's decision was so unpopular that the local police and winning band had to escort the unfortunate man from the hall to the railway station to ensure his safe arrival to catch his train and protect him from physical violence from disgruntled bandsmen and their supporters. In the present day there is no such abuse of judges but the Band Press is regularly bombarded by irate letters from band members complaining about the standard of adjudication - some things never change!
To many members of band committees the importance of contests often took second place in their priorities - the management of the band's finances was usually their major source of concern. As it has been said many bands were formed by public subscription and once the necessary funds had been raised from the public to buy the initial set of instruments and uniforms the band had to ensure adequate money kept coming in to maintain the equipment. Even at the turn of the century raising money to start up a band was not easy. A set of instruments would cost about £40-£50 and a bandsmen could be kitted out in a uniform for about £1-12-6d. By the 1930s a set of instruments had risen to about £350 and an individual uniform to approximately £21. With the introduction of Purchase Tax and more recently VAT combined with fluctuations in metal prices the Brass Band of today would have to find at least £30,000 to buy a reasonable set of instruments and another £250 to provide each individual member with a uniform. These dramatic rises over the years resulted in many "works sponsored" bands losing financial support from companies when over-zealous financial directors looked for ways of cutting costs and many of these bands disappeared from the scene, unable to survive without considerable financial backing. For the public subscription bands, like Slaidburn, it was simply a case of continuing to raise money through engagement fees, raffles, coffee evenings and similar events supported by loyal friends and residents. This support from villagers and townsfolk who rally round to support their local band is remarkable and is greatly appreciated by band members who also give of their time and talents purely for the enjoyment of providing "live music".
3. "Steady, Sober Men"
By what financial means the Slaidburn Brass Band got its first set of instruments we do not at present know, but its title at least tells us the type of instruments in use. Brass instruments were the only ones available in the late 1800s and early 1900s as electro plating of instruments to give a "silver-plate" finish was in its infancy. The term "Brass Band" has stuck to this day as a general description of the Band Movement, but some people do get a little hot under the collar when their band's title does not mention the word "brass" in it!
The Rector of Slaidburn at the turn of the century was the Rev'd. James Garnett, who filled his Parish Magazine with news of many village activities, including the Band and he took a particular interest in its musical activities and welfare during his time as Rector of the Parish. The first mention of the newly re-formed Band is made in a lengthy report on the Whit Monday Festival of June 1899:
Then came the Slaidburn Brass Band under the leadership of Mr. William Turner. This band made every promise of attaining to a high state of efficiency, and the selections played must have given satisfaction to the inhabitants and the numerous visitors who lined the route of the procession.
The Whit Monday Festival was, and still is, one of the highlights of the year in the Hodder Valley. In its old format described by Rector Garnett, the event began at 9.30am with a procession around the village via Whiteholme (then the home of the King-Wilkinson family) and return to the Parish Church for the service. Milk and buns were afterwards provided at lunch for the children of the Parish and the event continued into the afternoon with sports and entertainment for the children and musical interludes from the band. This timetable was maintained until the 1970s when the creation of the Spring Bank Holiday and changes in the format resulted in its truncation to an afternoon event and its re-naming as the "May Queen Festival and Sports", but thankfully many of the traditional parts of the day, begun in the last century, are still continued.
However, back in 1899, a surprise awaited the Band:
In Chapel Street the Weslyan Sunday Scholars joined and the whole procession proceeded to Whiteholme. Here the procession numbered over 400 and were met by Mr. W. King-Wilkinson, Esq. and family. The Band played a selection of music in front of the hall, whilst the children marched round the grounds and every person present received a sixpence from the generous hearted donor - W. King-Wilkinson, who then announced that it would be a great pleasure to him to present the Band with new instruments and uniforms - an announcement that was received with loud cheers. Mr. W. Turner replied, expressing the thanks of the whole parish for Mr. King-Wilkinson's open hearted kindness and generosity.
Quite a surprise! The new equipment was not long in arriving. A formal presentation was made at Whiteholme in August of 1899 and seen by the public at Newton Sports a couple of days later:
The Band arrayed in their handsome new uniforms of navy blue with red facings and peaked caps. ...great credit is due to Mr. W. Turner, tailor of Slaidburn, for the success of the uniforms which were made for him by Mssrs. Porter & Dowd of London.
Another name also appears at this time which may result in Slaidburn being put into brass band legend. In his report on the presentation of the instruments and uniforms at Whiteholme the Rev'd Garnett writes:
After the ceremony the Band played a couple of selections under the conductorship of Mr. R. H. Aldridge of Southport.
This gentleman was well known in the area as a reputable musician and piano tuner who often took holidays in the area combining business with pleasure and also tuning the pianos of the local people. It is thought that this is the man who recommended Slaidburn as a holiday venue to William Rimmer who was to immortalise the name of "Slaidburn" into one of the most popular brass band marches ever written - but more of that later.
Towards the end of this eventful year and century the band held its 1st Anniversary Supper in October 1899:
On Saturday evening October 28th the members of the Slaidburn Brass Band celebrated the anniversary of the band's formation in November 1898 with a potato pie supper and social evening. The bandmaster, Mr. W. Turner, commented on the difference between the commencement of the old band and the new, in many ways, and urged on individual effort.
This report at least clarifies the date of the re-forming of the Band in November 1898, but unfortunately does not expand on Bandmaster Turner's comments on the comparisons between the "old band and the new."
4. The Rimmer Connection and Slaidburn
One of the most remarkable stories in Slaidburn Band's history is its connection with William Rimmer and the march composed by him that bears the village's name. It is a source of great surprise to bandsmen and women all over the country to discover that there is a village with the same name as this popular march and even more astounding that this village also has a brass band named after it. Many players are curious to know the story behind its composition, but first, a few details about Mr. Rimmer.
William Rimmer has often been described as the "king" of the brass band movement, involved with many of the top names in the band world - Fodens, Wingates Temperance, Shaw and Irwell Springs - around the turn of the century.
Rimmer was born at Southport in 1861 into a musical family. His father was bandmaster to a military band and encouraged both William and his brother Robert in their musical studies. At the age of 15 William joined the Southport Rifle band as a side-drummer and then moved onto the cornet, eventually becoming the bands principal cornet soloist. His prowess on the instrument became well known and he was engaged as a soloist by many of the best bands of the day, including Besses O' The Barn. He eventually gave up playing to concentrate on training and conducting bands and at the height of his fame conducted every winning band at both the Crystal Palace and Belle Vue competitions between 1905 and 1909. To many peoples surprise he retired from conducting in 1909 because of ill-health and concentrated on his other well-known role - that of composing and arranging music for brass and military bands. Many band libraries still contain his music - fine arrangements of operatic selections, overtures, songs, but above all he was a revered writer of marches, both for the contest platform and the countless road marches that bands needed whilst on the march. He continued to write and arrange for brass bands, often under pen-names, up to his death in 1936.
It would seem that ill-health plagued Rimmer for most of his life and he was recommended by his doctor after a particularly bad spell to take a holiday and recuperate. He and a friend (possibly the Mr. Aldridge mentioned in an earlier chapter) came to Slaidburn for rest. On his arrival his host informed him of the Slaidburn Band and asked if he would care to come and hear them at rehearsal. Although Rimmer was supposed to be resting it is probably fair to say that he would not be able to resist the invitation to hear a band! It is said that the members of the band, discovering who was listening to them, invited William Rimmer to conduct the rehearsal which he did. The occasion was spent in re-tuning the band and passing on Rimmer's considerable experience in band training so that by the end of the rehearsal the band's overall sound was much improved. This so impressed the players that they asked if he would compose a march for them to play. This request, and the hospitality of the village, so impressed Rimmer that he agreed and on his return to Southport he wrote the march "Slaidburn" which was later published by Richardsons for which Rimmer received 15 shillings. It became very popular almost immediately and was adopted by Wingates Temperance Band as their signature tune which gave it additional publicity. Even today it is still the No. 1 selling march with its publishers and is probably in every brass band's library of road marches. As has been said, it is a source of surprise to many players to find a place and a band with the Slaidburn name, and many have made the effort to come and play Slaidburn with Slaidburn at Slaidburn over the years! In addition the members of the Slaidburn Band have had the opportunity to perform the march on their recent trips into France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. The march was also heard recently being played by a band in Hong Kong when some local folk on holiday there heard it. Rimmer certainly helped put Slaidburn on the musical map!
Amongst the present Conductors archives is a facsimile of William Rimmer's original piano copy of the march, which, for the musically-minded, is composed in F minor concert-pitch and later transposed into G-minor for the brass band version.
5. The New Century
At the time of compiling this history the British Government is pondering how the nation should mark the end of both the 20th century and the Millennium. What the Slaidburn Brass Band did at the end of the 19th Century is not recorded, but in June 1900 their services were once again called upon for the Whit Monday Festival:
The Whitsuntide festival ranks first and foremost in the yearly events of the village of Slaidburn. ... By nine o'clock, the Band, in their smart new uniform, were pouring forth enlivening strains... . ...the Slaidburn Brass Band rendered selections during the afternoon and evening. The Band, under Mr. William Turner's able leadership, has made further progress and bids fair to equal any other in the district. We trust its services will be in great requisition.
Later in that same year the Band was able to show its appreciation to the King-Wilkinsons for all it had done for the Band when the marriage of one of their family was announced:
Mr. Leonard King-Wilkinson was the recipient of presents in anticipation of his marriage. ... Mr. Wm. Turner, in felicitous terms, handed a Silver Rose Bowl, duly inscribed, from the members of the Slaidburn Brass Band.
Throughout the life of any Brass Band there are always certain members who, as well as providing a musical contribution, will also serve as officers, such as Secretary, Treasurer and Bandmaster. These duties are often not fully appreciated by other members, but Slaidburn Brass Band obviously wished to show its appreciation in February of 1902:
On Friday evening, February 21st, the Slaidburn Band had their Annual Supper. The event of the evening was the presentation of a handsome clock to Mr. W. Turner from members of the Band. The Bandmaster, who evidently was surprised, expressed his thanks in fitting terms. Mr. W. Middleborough, who proposed the health of the Secretary (Mr. A. Turner) and Treasurer (Mr. J.Buller) was much to the point.
Nearly 100 years later Rector Garnett's final tribute to the Band on that evening would provide a very apt title for this book:
Long may the Band and Bandmaster flourish and be a means of enlivening the community.
The highlight of 1902 however was to be the Coronation of Edward VII in June. Preparations were made throughout the land by towns and villages to mark the occasion and Slaidburn was no exception. The Rev'd Garnett announced in his magazine that celebrations would be held in Slaidburn on June 26th and that a procession headed by "Band and Banner" would go to Whiteholme. Unfortunately Edward VII's appendicitis put a stop to such plans at the last minute and festivities were put on hold until a later date. A few weeks later in July news reached Britain which again was cause for celebration:
PEACE ...we heard the news that the struggle which has been going on in South Africa was ended. No wonder that our Church bells rang out their merry peals during the day, and that in a short time Slaidburn was decked with bright colours. The Band was of course in evidence, and a torchlight procession closed the day's proceedings."
No sooner had village and band recovered from these celebrations than they found themselves involved in the re-organised Coronation festivities. The Band must have found additional reserves of energy for their duties on Coronation day:
The Coronation of their Majesties King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra was celebrated at Slaidburn. The village was en fete. The Slaidburn Brass Band marched to Newton and headed the procession which was in waiting to Slaidburn, and the entire procession proceeded to Whiteholme, where Coronation medals were presented. ...the festivities were brought to a conclusion by a first-rate torchlight procession."
Marching up and down Dunnow and Clerk Laithe? They must have been mad! However, remember when the Slaidburn Band of 1988 marched from Slaidburn to Clitheroe over Waddington Fell, about 9 miles? They thought we were mad too! Interestingly the account for the Coronation festivities in Slaidburn were published and in the expenses column is the Band's fee --- £6-0-0d. The event made an overall profit of £10-4-0d.
During these early years of the century the Band played at many events in the Slaidburn area. Besides its annual booking at the Whit Monday Festival the Band could also be heard at Newton Sports Day, Garden Parties, Sales of Work and other fund-raising activities where their musical contribution would enhance the event. The fees charged by the Band around this time average around £3-0-0d and on some occasions they would play "gratis". It is interesting to note that in August of 1903 the fee received for playing at Slaidburn and Newton Horticultural Society's Annual show was £3-10-0d in a year when the Society was recording a profit of £16-1-7d. Unfortunately by 1913 the Show was beginning to lose money and the Band, for whatever reason, received only £3-0-0d.
One tradition adopted by many Bands, and taken up by Slaidburn, was the practice of touring the villages and farms at Christmas both to bring a festive musical treat to individual families and hopefully to elicit donations to swell the bands coffers. This tradition in many bands view was important as it provided much-needed income at a time of year when traditional outdoor engagements were few and was usually the time when repairs, maintenance and music purchases were made prior to the start of the new seasons banding. A remarkable document exists describing Slaidburn Band's tour of the outlying farms and hamlets above the village around Christmas 1903. Written by Ellen Cowking , the poem "Success To The Slaidburn Band" tells in 34 verses which places were visited and the names of the residents, including Stock's Fold and Dalehead long before the Stocks Reservoir project was to submerge these places forever. The poem is printed in full in the appendix at the end of the book.
The Parish Church magazine continued to report on the Band's progress, but controversy was to rear its head at the Whit Monday festival of 1905. Part of Rector Garnett's report reads:
I sincerely congratulate the Band on their playing. A marked improvement is noticeable.
Okay so far, but, a few paragraphs later:
...in the first place the committee do not really engage the Band for the sole purpose of dancing. It is true that the Band at times plays dance music and that some people dance to it. There are however, hundreds of people on the field who do not dance and do not want to ... and this is of importance --- I DO NOT LIKE DANCING. Since my conversion to God over 20 years ago I have never had anything to do with it.
Oh Dear! This was the Rector's reply to criticism in the Clitheroe Advertiser that the Rector of Slaidburn had allowed the Band to play for dancing on the sports field at an event organised by the Church. The Band would at this time have a fairly limited library of music, probably consisting of marches, fantasias and selections of the time and certainly a set of books known as "Wright & Rounds No. 1 Set" which would contain many waltzes, two-steps, polkas, etc., which were played for their entertainment value rather than for dancing purposes. Perhaps the Band unwittingly contributed to the controversy by playing them at the Festival.
Somewhere around this time the Band found time (and possibly the money) to pose for a formal photograph reproduced here. It is one of the earliest known photographs of the Slaidburn Brass Band and is taken at Town Head gates. The bandsmen were identified by the late Jim Leeming and contain many names still well known in the Hodder Valley. Some of these players were first generation bandsmen whose children and grandchildren would continue the banding tradition at Slaidburn.
By March of 1906 the controversy of the previous Whit festival must have been forgotten, for the Band was to receive a surprise:
Those who help themselves are most likely to get help! So the members of Slaidburn Brass Band have found. They have made strenuous efforts to raise sufficient to purchase new instruments. This has been brought to Mr. King-Wilkinson's notice with the result that he has most generously offered to buy them instruments, making one provision only - 'let them be new and good ones' ... Long may Bandmaster Seed and his men have 'blowing powers'. I know of no Band which has so many steady, sober men in it as our own.
Two interesting points from the Rector's "glowing" report: a change of Bandmaster to Mr. William Seed (see the photograph) and the Rev'd Garnett's reference to "steady, sober men."
The connection between beer and brass was becoming quite common. Many bands used to share out their Christmas carolling money amongst themselves and celebrate accordingly at the end of the year! If this practice was adopted by Slaidburn it was certainly kept from the Rector who was well known for his teetotal views!
The main item of the report however concentrated on the gift of a new set of instruments from William King-Wilkinson which no doubt caused great excitement in the village. Unfortunately the celebrations were curtailed by the sad news of the death of Mr. King-Wilkinson a month later. His family however proceeded with the purchase of the instruments which were handed over to the Band just before the Whit Festival of 1907, and that was not the only new item that Slaidburn Band were to receive:
The Whit Monday Festival procession, as usual, started from the Grammar School, headed by the Slaidburn Silver Band ('Silver Band' be it well noted) and members of the Festival Committee.
The emphasis on "Silver" Band was a reference to the new electro-plated silver finish instruments which the Band had acquired. It became fashionable to re-title bands as a bit of one-upmanship over a "brass band" although in terms of sound nothing changed and in fact the general term "brass band" is still the name used generally to describe this form of music-making. Even Mr. King-Wilkinson jnr. alluded to the silver finish in his hand-over speech:
This was a fitting time to hand over the new instruments to the members of the Band, and in a few but highly appropriate sentences, Mr. William King-Wilkinson did so. He touched on the usefulness of a band in any village and expressed the hope that the reputation of the Band might always be as bright as their instruments. Mr. Bandmaster Seed thanked the generous donor for so handsome a gift and assured him that it would always be the endeavour of his fellow bandsmen and himself to keep up the high estimation which had been formed of them, and that they would always seek to do all they could for the village and public generally.
Mr. King-Wilkinson's proviso that the new set of instruments be "good ones" must have been taken seriously. This set of "Hall Gisborne" brand instruments would be the last ones purchased until the members of the Band in the 1970s began the project to replace them once again. That project was to last some 18 years!
During the winter months before the days of radio and television the brass band could provide "live" entertainment in the towns and villages, a practice continued today. One unknown element in any concert is the audience's general reaction to the performance. Today the concert-goer generally listens, applauds and enjoys the occasion, but in 1909 the Slaidburn Silver Band found itself in a different atmosphere at Slaidburn. Again, the Rector writes:
I was sorry to miss the Band Concert owing to a heavy cold. The members of the Band are all friends of mine and I have at heart their true welfare. I am sorry to hear that there was a rowdy element in the room which spoiled the pleasure of both performers and listeners. I had hoped that such behaviour was a thing of the past.
These were no doubt words of great feeling from Rector Garnett, for the Parish's annual New Years Day Concert had also been disrupted by the same "rowdy element" and ominously the Rector reported that he had identified the culprits and would be having "well chosen words" with their parents!
With the new century came the end of the Victorian age and the commencement of the Edwardian era, and in 1910 that also came to an end. In 1911 the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary saw the Band again at Slaidburn for Coronation festivities for which they received a fee of £5-0-0d. They were also engaged to play for similar celebrations at Dale Head and the route of the procession is described:
..the children assembled at the school at 10.30 am and marched in procession the usual route on such occasions, headed by the Slaidburn Band. Halts were made at Swinshea, The Vicarage, Chapel house, The Grange, Bridge House and Stocks.
How often the Band played in the upper Hodder Valley is not known, but the Coronation of 1911 was probably one of the last before the demand for water was to end a way of life in this area for ever. However, more ominous happenings in Europe were to dominate life throughout the world shortly.
The announcement of hostilities in 1914 followed by the carnage on the battlefields of France was to affect every city, town, village and hamlet of Great Britain, and Slaidburn was no exception. The Parish Magazine proudly recorded the names of local men who marched off to fight at the front and as time moved on sadly announced the names of those who were never to return. As it became apparent that this conflict was not to end quickly those "keeping the home fires burning" became involved in the war effort. The Parish of Slaidburn played its part by organising a "War Material Fund" to buy wool, flannel and other fabrics for both war refugees and for the "boys at the front".
How many members of the Band volunteered for active service is not known, but the Band continued to rehearse and perform during the war years, although engagements would be few. As their contribution to the war material fund the Band performed two fund-raising concerts which provided £27-6-0d for the fund. By the time hostilities ended in 1918 the Slaidburn Parish had raised some £542-18-0d which had provided material to make 5740 items of clothing such as socks, shirts, balaclavas, etc., which were sent to the front, a remarkable achievement for the villagers.
In the summer of 1919 Slaidburn and Newton held a joint Peace Celebration for which the Band was paid £6-0-0d. The profits of the day, some £73-6-11d, were to be appropriated to the War Memorial Fund. On Wednesday 23rd May 1923, in the presence of the Chaplain General to the Forces, Slaidburn's War Memorial was unveiled and dedicated with music for the service being provided by the Slaidburn Band, and no doubt for the first of many times at that Cenotaph, the Last Post and Reveille were sounded. Some 60 years later a new generation of Slaidburn Band would march to the impressive Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium where men from the Hodder Valley were killed in battle and take part in a similar service. The names of the men from Slaidburn were read out in the service as a special tribute and wreathes laid by the Hodder Valley British Legion and the Band.
6. Tobacco Tins And Transmitters
The 1920s and 1930s are a time in the Band's history when little is known about its activities. Many bands found themselves short of players following the Great War and often did not survive. It is known that both Slaidburn and Grindleton Bands found themselves in this predicament and decided to join forces. Significant in this decision is that Slaidburn's instruments were used, but Grindleton provided the majority of players. What happened to Grindleton's instruments is not known, but at least Slaidburn's survived to guarantee some continuity in the years ahead.
In 1924 one of the members of the Band contributed a piece of music to the local villagers and by another action pre-dated the practice of burying "time capsules" for future generations to find.
Joseph Hodgson, trombonist with the Slaidburn Band, could fairly be described as one of the village characters, or even eccentrics. He was a deeply religious man, often titling himself as "the leader" and when in church or chapel would affirm his assent to a preacher's words with a resounding "Amen" or "So Be It." It is said that on occasions when meeting some of Slaidburn's "wayward" villagers in the street he would kneel before them to pray for their salvation, much to their embarrassment! Prepared for all weathers he carried two hats, one for fine weather and one for rain. As mentioned in Ellen Cowking's poem, he was a poet of some ability, but for us he was also an amateur composer and thanks to his own foresight some of his compositions are still played by the present Band.
No doubt Joe Hodgson's religious beliefs had some influence on his choice of the hymn tune as a means of composing and their naming after local areas no doubt made them popular in Slaidburn. Hymn tunes such as "Burn Fell" and "Croasdale Fell" were composed in 1924 to be followed by others such as "Rex Egis" and "Monai" in 1927. Joe somehow had these hymns professionally produced on postcards, possibly to generate income for either himself or the Church or Chapel and many people still have copies of these hymns amongst family heirlooms. To ensure that future generations discovered these musical contributions from this remarkable villager, Joe had another idea.
Slaidburn's farmland is bounded by mile after mile of dry-stone walling, much of which still stands today and is in need of constant attention to repair gaps. Joseph Hodgson must have realised that here within the repaired sections of wall was an ideal place to bury a piece of music for posterity. "Wills", "Old Holborn", and other tobacco brand names provided their customers with their favourite tobacco in sealed tins and Joe used such tins to place his postcard hymn tunes in. As repairs were made to gaps in walls the tobacco tins were placed within and no doubt over the passage of time forgotten. In recent times as walls have needed repair again the tins have been discovered. The present conductor of the Band has been told of the find and has arranged to copy the music therein. The tin has then been returned to its place in the wall, possibly for future generations to puzzle over the find! The Band is now gaining a collection of Joe's hymn tunes and are always a source of interest when played at local events. There are still some villagers of Slaidburn who can remember the tune being played locally and more importantly, recall the occasion when it received a national airing --- but more of that later.
By the mid-1930's Slaidburn must have been unable to raise a Band for the Hodder Valley Show had to book Bentham Band to play for the September 1936 Show. It may have been around this time that the amalgamation took place with the Grindleton players, and if so, not a moment too soon, for national fame was shortly to descend on the Hodder Valley and some of its inhabitants.
The wireless by this time had become a major force of communication to every household and the B.B.C. soon realised that to increase its listening audience it had to involve the listeners themselves. The present writer can remember the late Franklin Ingelman presenting the long-running radio series "Down Your Way" visiting places of interest throughout Britain and talking to the local folk to gain an insight into their way of life. Back in 1937 a gentleman by the name of "Harry Hopeful" presented a similar format but with one major difference --- pre-recording was in its infancy so this programme did not go to the place chosen, the area and its inhabitants went to the B.B.C., which in Slaidburn's case meant a trip to studios in Leeds on Monday April 5th 1937.
Needless to say this event in the valley's history dominated conversation in the run-up to the broadcast (and no doubt increased the sale of wireless sets!) and received quite a bit of coverage in the local press. Those taking part in the broadcast unfortunately would not hear it because of live transmission but on the day of broadcast the days normal routines in households throughout the Hodder Valley were reorganised to ensure that all was done before the time of the broadcast. The Yorkshire Evening News takes up the story:
Slaidburn Has Its Night On The Radio --- Britains Biggest Parish Thrilled To Hear The Talent Of Its Friends. Everyone in Britain's biggest parish listened to the radio last night; and for 40 minutes the parish laughed and approved, chuckled and nodded heads, while listening to well-known friends broadcasting. At Broadcasting House, Leeds, a party well over 100 strong crowded into the studio running through anecdotes, songs and band numbers. Yes, Slaidburn has a Band, and it was the Band which, playing the village's signature tune, introduced these people from the country's biggest parish to the air.
No doubt any bandsmen listening in around Britain would recognise William Rimmer's march "Slaidburn" as opening the broadcast, and other items heard during the 40 minutes would include poetry readings and interestingly choral contributions from the "Slaidburn Choir" who sang "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" to Joe Hodgson's tune "Burn Fell". The Yorkshire Evening News also mentions contributions from George Parker (shepherd), William McKend (gamekeeper), Thomas Leedham (Dunsop Bridge Fisheries) and John Wilson (sawmiller). The Clitheroe Advertiser and Times also ran a feature on the broadcast in its edition of Friday 9th April describing the broadcast and alongside the formal feature ran a wonderful dialect story on the episode:
Slaadburn an' Grin'leton Broadcast.
- Hello, Tom.
- Hello, how do, Bill.
- Where's ta bin, Tom? I hevn't sin tha I doan't know how long.
- I've bin busy. I've had time for nowt.
- How's that?
- Why, what wi'th wife spring cleaning an' wantin' o'sooarts o'bits o'jobs doin', an' grumblin' an' growlin' every time we've had a bit of a practice, I've bin fair off mi heyd!
- Practice! wht's ta bin practcin' for?
- Why, doesn't ta know?
- Nay, I know nowt. What's ta mean?
- Does ta mean to say tha doesn't know about Slaadburn an' Grin'leton band broadcastin'?
- I didn't know there wor a band at Grin'leton.
- Tha wod ha' known if thad bin theer this last week or two. There's bin nowt else talked about.
- Tha never ses!
- Well it's not really Grin'leton band, it's Slaadburn --- at least Slaadburn has th'instruments an' hofe o'th men, an' Grin'leton hes 'tother hofe an trathri lads fro' Chatburn
- I didn't know.
- Well it wor this way. Tha sees, we used to hev a band at Grin'leton abit sin --- it wor a reight band too, if it 'ad nobbut kept on. We could ha' licked Clitheroe Borough into fits!
- Is that soa?
- Aye! Well tha knows, when King George's Silver Jubilee were on ther were some o'th owd band chaps left in't village, an' some on 'ems fairly keen on a bit o'music. So they geet together to form a band for th'ocassion. But they'd no instruments, so as Slaadburn hed instruments an' not enough men, we med a bargain wi' 'em. So Slaadburn comes an' helps us then we go 'an help them when they're hevin' a do. See?
- That sounds o'reight.
- Aye! Na then, it'll be't Coronation afoor sa long. We were practicin' for that when if they didn't come some chaps fro' Leeds an' wanted us to go theer to broadcast.
- An' 'ev ya bin?
- Aye! Wi went last Monda' 'an Slaadburn choir an' all, it were a reight do, about ninety on us all together.
This articles gives a few clues about the reasons behind the amalgamation of the local bands and certainly the Slaidburn Band was booked to play for the 1937 Hodder Valley Show, although its membership was still pretty low. It is possible that the Leeds broadcast may have revived interest in the Band locally for by April 1938 the Rector of Slaidburn, Rev'd Bowker, was able to write in the Parish Magazine:
We are all delighted to know that our Band has emerged from the obscurity in which they were hidden for a few years and are now able to turn out in full force and show what an asset they are to the Parish. They have just acquired at considerable expense new uniforms and they will now be able to turn out and bring honour to our village both by their musical abilities and skill and also by their smart appearance. The band makes Slaidburn known wherever they go and of course bring credit to the village.
The provision of new uniforms was marked by the commissioning of a formal band photograph taken at the Whit Monday Festival of 1939, and the players were identified by the late John Peel who is seated in the foreground on the right. John was at that time the youngest member of the Band and recalled arriving at the bandroom for the first time to ask about joining up. He was unceremoniously given a tenor horn and a tutor book and told to go away and not to come back until he could play it properly!
7. The Half-way Point
The Second World War was again to disrupt the social activities of the Hodder Valley and the Band no doubt found engagements scarce. By December 1945 the Band again had revived its activities:
At long last the Slaidburn Silver Band is on its feet again. A number of new recruits have joined and are diligent in practices. Under the able leadership of Mr. Oddie, the Band will soon be competing at Band Contests. In the meantime, the band needs financial support. On Boxing Day the Band will tour the village with this end in view, and it will once again be good to hear Christmas music played in the street.
The Rev'd Castle's magazine article sounds very encouraging --- "soon be competing at Band Contests" --- but no records of this happening exist. At least the old tradition of touring the village playing Christmas Carols to elicit funds was revived. In the same edition of the Parish magazine another old custom was also revived --- the ringing of the curfew at the Parish Church, 30 strokes on the 5th bell before the clock strikes eight, then the tolling of the days of the month on the first bell. Not only did the Band tour the village at Christmas, but the Carol Singers also turned out to and the Parish Church acknowledged the services of Mr. W. Eastwood and Mr. H. Clements for "augmenting the choir with their instruments."
Through the late 1940s the Band continued to turn out for the Whit Festival and for a new engagement connected with the Parish Church --- Rogation Sunday, the day when prayers were offered for God's Blessing on the land. The Band played for the Service in church and then led the procession to Duckmire where the land was blessed by the Rector.
In 1948, which may have been marked as the Band's 50th Anniversary, the Band presented 2 concerts, one at Grindleton School, the other at Clitheroe Congregational Church for which programmes survive. The musical content is interesting: besides expected items like "Slaidburn", and "Rimington", the Band was also including items like "Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs" which was relatively up-to-date as Disney's cartoon was fairly new at the time. Also included in the programmes were the services of vocalist Irene Souvain, elocutionist Elsie Kershaw and comedian Mr. J. O'Donnell. Band soloists were named as Mr. T. Wilson and Mr. T. Stewart. Admission to both concerts was 1/6d.
By 1950 the membership must have dwindled again for in 1951 the Parish Magazine again reports another revival:
From all sides we hear nothing but genuine praise of our re-formed Silver Band. Under Mr. Harry Clements much progress is being made and their music during the Garden Party gave very real pleasure and satisfaction --- in fact we all felt rather proud of them in front of our visitors.
The name of Harry Clements was to appear regularly in reports of the Band's activities and coupled with a newer member of that time, John Wooff, these two men were to be responsible for the running of the Band through "thick and thin" until the mid-1960s.
As always, the traditional local events were still undertaken throughout the early 1950s with fees being received for the Whit Monday Festival (£10-0-0d in 1951 and 1952) and the Hodder Valley Show (£5-0-0d in 1951 and £10-0-0d in 1952). The playing of Christmas carols around the village of Slaidburn raised usually between £9 and £12 around this time and to supplement the Band's income a fund-raising "concert and film show" were given in November of 1951 which also raised £9-17-0d.
1953 was the Coronation year of our present Queen and the band found itself with extra work at a number of villages although John Wooff recollected that the Band struggled to muster enough players to fulfil the engagements and had to "borrow" players from other bands to fill the gaps. In addition to playing at Slaidburn's Coronation celebrations (fee £5) the Band also played at Tatham (fee £15) and Sawley (£17). These would be the last major events that the Band would perform at for some 11 years. Christmas 1953 saw the usual tour of the village to raise funds and the Band also took the opportunity to have 2 cornets overhauled at the workshops of Thomas Reynolds, well-known instrument dealers and repairers of Manchester, at a cost of £7-10-0d. It is questionable as to how much use these repaired cornets got over the coming years as the Band was now struggling to continue and records show that it only played at Christmas in 1954 and 1955 probably to raise enough cash to pay the day to day running costs such as heating and lighting in the bandroom. John Wooff recalled the instruments not in use hanging from pegs on the bandroom wall gradually becoming tarnished on the outside --- the challenge of cleaning these instruments was something that future band members would find out!
8. The Revival
By 1964 with the Band barely ticking over both Harry Clements and John Wooff decided to take the "bull by the horns" and call a public meeting at Slaidburn to discuss the future of the Band. An article about the meeting in the Clitheroe Advertiser & Times quotes Harry Clements as saying "we cannot even raise a quartet" so things were indeed in a pretty poor state. The meeting was held with only 9 people attending and the decision was reached to formally disband and sell the Band's instruments and assets and whatever funds were raised from the sale, plus the money held in the bank account, was to be divided between the 2 churches in the village. The notices announcing the sale of assets were published and interestingly 2 letters offering to buy the instruments are amongst the band archives, one from Mellor, and one from York. With interest being shown in the sale of the property the activities of the Slaidburn Silver Band were at an end --- or so people thought.
The article in the Clitheroe Advertiser & Times announcing the end of the Band must have had some effect on people within the Hodder Valley who realised that once the instruments had gone, so had any chance of reviving the Band in the future. A small campaign by the few surviving members to enrol "new blood" into the Band began to gather momentum and at the beginning of December 1964 the Clitheroe paper was able to report:
New Lease Of Life For Silver Band.
Slaidburn Silver Band, rescued from disbandment by a last ditch appeal to villagers, held its first practice in the bandroom on Tuesday night. The Secretary, Mr. John Wooff, said that about 15 members were present at the practice including a large number of youngsters. "We have a lot of new players who don't know too much about music yet" said Mr. Wooff. The Band has plans for touring the village playing carols at Christmas.
The Band was at least saved, but those who joined realised that a tremendous amount of work was to be done. Some villagers who went to the bandroom early to help clean instruments found them literally black with tarnish on the silver plate, covered in cobwebs, valves seized up and in a pretty appalling condition. There was only one way to clean them --- soap, water, pan scrubs(!!) and plenty of elbow grease and enthusiasm. It obviously worked, because as promised in the paper the newly reformed Band turned out at Christmas 1964 to the delight of the residents of Slaidburn. Harry Clements continued his role as Conductor, John Wooff acted as Secretary and William Worswick undertook the Treasurer's duties. Amongst the membership at that time was a wide cross-section of people from the Hodder Valley to whom we should be very grateful for ensuring the future of the Band.
In 1965 the newly- reformed Band turned out for the Whit Monday Festival for the first time and undertook its usual duties to lead the procession and play on the field. Allan Wood recalls the Band only having one march in its repertoire --- "A Joyous Greeting" and this was played endlessly on the march. It is assumed that there were other pieces the Band could play on the field, but Allan remembers one piece in particular. Harry Clements suddenly announced that they would play the march "Slaidburn" --- very appropriate, but only 2 in the band had ever seen this piece before, Harry and John Wooff! After a brief instruction on the piece the Band commenced playing and like Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony the new recruits one by one dropped out unable to play the march until only Harry and John were left playing! It was to be a few more years before "Slaidburn" was heard again!
In 1967 and 1968 there was another influx of new members from both the Hodder Valley and beyond thanks to Bill Worswick's role as driver of the Slaidburn to Clitheroe Bus Service. Because of the bus timetable and Bill's membership of the Band, the last bus to Slaidburn arrived just as practice was to commence, so the bus became a handy means of getting to Slaidburn and quite often up to a dozen players could be travelling to practice. Getting back from Slaidburn was no problem either. The bus was parked up until practice ended and then returned to Dunsop Bridge ready for duty next morning. Players needing to travel further down the valley usually arranged for a lift to be waiting at Dunsop for them.
By this time illness had forced Harry Clements to retire from the Band and the duties of Conductor were shared by John Wooff and Bill Worswick. This was not a case of power sharing but came about because of the musical requirements of the pieces played. If the music had a significant role for the Euphonium then Bill conducted and John played and if it required a cornet then Bill played and John conducted. What happened when both parts were needed was not clearly defined, but quite often either player would have to conduct and play at the same time --- something not easy to do! The Band at this time met twice a week --- Tuesdays and Fridays --- but somehow could never get everyone to turn up at both practices and eventually decided after much discussion to hold one rehearsal a week and this was to be on a Thursday.
By now the Band had a reasonably stable membership and was now fulfilling the usual 3 engagements in the Hodder Valley --- Whit Monday, Hodder Valley Show and Christmas Carol Tours --- and the occasional event in local villages further afield. In 1969 both the Clitheroe Advertiser & Times and the Lancashire Evening Telegraph ran features on the Band's activities which resulted in a new wave of interest in the Band, both from prospective members and particularly from organisations who were looking for a band to hire for their own event --- one engagement in particular is still remembered by some members who were there. A telephone call to John Wooff enquired if the Band would play for a church procession in Clayton-le-Moors. Although John explained that the Band had no uniform and little experience of such an engagement it would take on the job somewhat reluctantly. Because of the distance involved, and to make sure everyone got their safely, it was decided to travel by bus --- guess which bus and who drove! The day dawned and the bus arrived safely with all the band at All Saints, Clayton-le-Moors. Whilst waiting for the appointed time to start, the other band taking part in the procession arrived, marching to their point in the procession with a very slick display of marching and counter-marching. The members of Slaidburn Band began to wonder what they had let themselves in for! The march commenced and Slaidburn were placed near the front of the procession, the other band towards the rear. Up until now the processions the Band had done were usually fairly short and so the band tended not to have too long a break between pieces, but on this occasion they noticed that the band behind them had only played one march when Slaidburn had played four! For those who know Clayton-le-Moors the main road climbs steadily uphill and then rises steeply over the canal before levelling out --- not the best of inclines for a marching and playing band. No wonder the other band were taking it easy! Despite this setback the band had almost completed the march when traffic conditions forced part of the procession and band onto the pavement and unfortunately John Wooff, concentrating on this diversion and reading his music, failed to see a lamp-post in front of him and marched straight into it. The collision resulted in John's mouthpiece cutting open his lip and blood pouring from the wound. The Band returned on the bus having gained much experience on the joys of banding in that couple of hours!
9. Entente Cordiale
From the 1970's onwards the Band's activities are easier to define as the running of the Band became better organised. A Minute Book is kept now to record all meetings and this is helpful to verify dates and events, and a Register of Attendance shows who is, and isn't, attending both rehearsals and engagements. The membership lists in the early 1970's show the tradition of "family banding" still existed at Slaidburn: 3 members of the Skellorn family from Dunsop Bridge, 2 from the Slater household in the same village, 2 also from the Wright house, neighbours of the Slaters, and 3 Cowkings, continuing the family tradition begun with John (Jack) Cowking in the early 1900's. The most important aspect of the membership however was the inclusion of the "fairer sex" into the Band. Slaidburn, like many other bands, was to find that the all-male dominance of the brass band was ending and that the female members would contribute just as much to performance of the band and would also want to have a say in how the band was run!
The appointment of a full-time conductor had been made in 1970 when Roy Wilkinson from Bentham accepted the post and did much valuable work in the basic training of the Band. Due to work commitments he had to resign and in mid 1971 Mr. Jim Waterhouse, an ex member of the Clitheroe Borough Band volunteered his services as Conductor. Jim began to extend the Band's repertoire beyond marches, waltzes and hymns to include show selections, solos and medleys from the band's extensive music library collected over the years. A programme list from the Whit Monday Festival at Slaidburn in 1971 shows the band were playing 9 marches, 13 hymn tunes, 5 waltzes and a selection of short pieces from "Tunes and Toasts" nothing too taxing, but certainly ideal as light background music for this type of event.
The Band must have put in a lot of rehearsal during the Autumn and Winter of 1971/72 for the Band presented its first major concert at the "new" village hall at Dunsop Bridge in March 1972 with a more ambitious programme. Besides the usual marches and light music there were 4 selections in various styles, including "The Sound Of Music" which even today is considered a "long hard blow". Solo items were given by John Wooff, John Cowking and particularly the young cornet players who played "Drink To Me Only", no doubt giving much pleasure to proud parents in the audience.
All seemed well at this time and the Band was preparing for the May Queen Festival in Slaidburn, as it had now been re-titled, when Jim Waterhouse suddenly announced his resignation the week before the event. As a new conductor could not be found immediately both John Wooff and Bill Worswick took over the reigns again, helped by John Cowking, the young trombonist in the Band. After a few weeks it was decided that this arrangement was not very satisfactory and both John Wooff and Bill Worswick returned to their much-needed playing roles and John Cowking was appointed as Conductor.
At the Band's Annual General Meeting in 1972 it was decided by the members that the interior of the bandroom needed some attention, particularly the lighting and heating. Up to the demise of the Band in the 1950's a coke stove in the centre of the bandroom provided the heat but this had been taken out in 1964 when the bandroom was tidied up for the resumption of rehearsals. Paraffin heaters had replaced the coke stove, but these were not very efficient and tended to give off fumes and smoke if not carefully tended. Quite often on winter nights the Band would be huddled in groups round the stoves trying to get warm. 4 light bulbs provided basic light but with the growing membership some players were often "in the dark" trying to read music in the shadows --- something had to be done. Tenders were sought for the complete re-wiring of the bandroom to allow electric convector heaters and fluorescent lighting to be installed --- the cost eventually being some £96, but at least now the Band could see its music and be reasonably warm at the same time.
In the same year the Band was approached by the Hodder Valley Royal British Legion to play at the Remembrance Sunday Parade and Service for the first time. The Band accepted and this was one of the first new engagements that have become a "fixed date" on the Band calendar. It is said that the Legion only asked the band to play because several people complained that the use of a record of the Last Post and Reveille at the Cenotaph was not quite the done thing --- "even Slaidburn Band could do a better job!"
Whilst continuing to rehearse weekly to improve standards and increase the repertoire, the Band began to consider the lack of a uniform. There had been a thought to clean and re-use the set in storage at the bandroom but the damp and moths put paid to that idea so the provision of a new set was decided upon but this was going to cost money and quite a lot. With the steady increase in engagements (and the rise in fees where appropriate) it was felt that some quotes be obtained and a figure of about £450/500 looked to be likely. After approaching the Bowland Rural District Council a grant towards the cost was made of £150 and in August 1974 the members were "measured up" for new jackets, complete with badge, cap and tie. The colour chosen was purple --- a surprising choice when first announced to the general public, but when first worn for a presentation concert all agreed it was a very good choice and has become the "trademark" of the Band. The final cost --- £507.
Had the band known what was in store for it at the Hodder Valley Show in September of 1974 it might have decided to get the uniforms a little quicker. The Show held at Duckmire that year was receiving the attention of a film crew from the BBC's "Man Alive" programme who were recording a documentary about the life of reporters for the "Local Rag", in this case the Craven Herald, based at Skipton. To add some musical atmosphere to the recording the producer asked if the Band could play the tune "John Peel" which the Band did. Not once, not twice, but about 18 times! We assume he was happy by the 18th take! The programme itself was shown on a Thursday evening in October --- practice night. The rehearsal that night was finished early so that everyone could get home to see the documentary which gave good free publicity to both the Show and the Band.
Local Government Reorganisation in 1974 found the village of Slaidburn suddenly moved overnight from Yorkshire's West Riding into Lancashire, in the Borough of Ribble Valley. One benefit for the Band from this move was the new Council's interest in the Arts and in the promotion of local performing artists. Slaidburn, along with the other 2 bands in the new Borough, Balderstone and Longridge, were asked to take part in a series of concerts throughout the Ribble and Hodder Valley, plus 1 concert each on Clitheroe Bandstand, up till then little used by anybody. In June 1975 therefore, Slaidburn presented its first concert at the Castle Bandstand and has continued that tradition to the present day. Although the Ribble Valley's participation in promoting the concerts ceased some years ago, the Clitheroe Town Council now presents a series of band concerts in the summer months, including bands from beyond the local municipal boundaries.
This steady increase in the Band's engagements was beginning to take its toll on the old original set of instruments purchased in the early 1900s and urgent repair work was needed on the whole set, coupled with their conversion to "low pitch". As instrument makers had now ceased making the old style "high-pitch" instruments the Band would be unable to buy any new instruments compatible with the old set and therefore had to convert the present ones if new ones were to be used in conjunction with them. A decision was made to have the "conversion" done after the Hodder Valley Show in September 1975 along with minor repairs needed to straighten out dents, loosen valves, plug leaks, etc. A convoy of vehicles therefore left the bandroom, laden with instruments, to travel to Thomas Reynolds in Manchester for the necessary work. A fortnight later the convoy returned with instruments converted and in better order, plus an invoice for £228 for the work involved. Now at least the Band could start planning the replacement of instruments with ones of comparable pitch.
One source of worry for John Wooff had always been the legality of the public meeting held to discuss the Band's future and its decision to "wind up" the Band. At a Band meeting in November of 1975 the members decided that some form of Constitution for the Band would be useful to govern both the day to day affairs of the Band and instructions on procedures should the Band become inactive in the future. Legal advice came from a very useful local source --- the Squire of Slaidburn (and President of the Band) Col. L. King-Wilkinson and his son Richard who were practising in the family firm of solicitors. With their advice and assistance in drawing up a basic set of rules and regulations the Band experimented with these for the next 4 years, again with advice from a solicitor who was also a member of the Band too! Eventually a formal Constitution was submitted to the Charity Commissioners for legal approval. In 1980 the Band became a Registered Charity and most importantly safeguarded the future of the Band's assets. Interestingly, at the time the final draft was being made a clause was included setting out the reasons and method by which the Band Committee could require a member to resign. The national press had run a feature about 2 members of a northern band taking the band committee to court claiming unfair dismissal --- Slaidburn was not taking any chances!
In 1976 the Band found itself playing for a revival of an event it had undertaken in the late 1940's. Slaidburn Parish Church decided to resurrect the Rogation Sunday ceremony and the Band once again provided music for the Service at Church and for the procession to Duckmire. The Rector at this time, Rev'd George Gaze, also took an interest in the Band, his 3 children had been members and his organist was also the Conductor! The Rector's interest and involvement in tourism, both local and national, and his friendship with Tony Perry, a tourism entrepreneur from Hurst Green, was to give the Slaidburn Band "international" status.
For some of the Band, "catching the bus" meant the Slaidburn --- Clitheroe Bus Service. For Tony Perry it meant boarding the bus in Manchester and alighting in Paris, France! A new daily service was to be launched in July of 1976 and needed a high profile launch. In a conversation with the Rev. Gaze, Tony Perry outlined his plans and Rev. Gaze suggested inviting the Band to give a musical flavour of the North West of England to the French. This idea was put to the coach company who seized the opportunity and so Slaidburn Silver Band found itself rehearsing the French National Anthem and then off to France. The local press were invited plus civic dignitaries, and tourist officials from the North West Tourist Board.
That weekend in July will be remembered by many for various reasons --- firstly the weather --- blazing hot. The Band as part of its duties had to march through the centre of Calais, much to the delight of its inhabitants. The Lancashire Evening Post takes up the story:
A French lady asked me who they were and when I explained that they were "l'orchestra d'argent de village de Slaidburn en Angleterre" she smiled and exclaimed, "Ah, Les Anglais" as though that was sufficient explanation for the band's exertions --- clad in heavy uniforms --- on a furnace-hot day.
Secondly, the food and drink. The band was plied with French hospitality wherever it went. At the formal evening reception the Band provided music prior to the meal and were then invited to dine. As the evening wore on so did the speeches --- once in English, then in French. What the Band had not noticed however was the attention of the French wine waiters who constantly replenished empty glasses and on a hot night the wine intake was increasing! This would not have been a problem had not the French Interior Minister suddenly arrived at the reception and another rendition of the French and British National anthems required. One or two members found themselves unable to focus on music and keep steady on their feet! Thankfully they were leaned against a wall and those able to continue and play covered their embarrassment!
Thirdly --- the hotels. These were found to be of variable quality and standard, particularly the loos! One over-zealous hotel proprietor impounded the Band's instruments until the account was settled --- he did not trust the English! Thankfully all was settled amicably and the Band returned to the Hodder Valley having done their bit as musical ambassadors for the North West.
Whilst finding that very favourable public reaction to their overseas trip enhanced the Band's reputation, it was soon to discover that being in the public eye meant that good behaviour and discipline mattered and dissension in the ranks could not be allowed when out on an engagement. The Band had played at the Gisburn Gala for a number of years and on this occasion was to lead the parade wearing its new uniforms. The weather conditions could be described as humid and sticky, with the possibility of heavy showers, not the best of conditions for wearing full uniform, particularly as the new jackets had not yet been worn in rain. Some members felt that it would be better to go in "shirt-sleeve order" whilst others maintained that the uniform was purchased to be worn, and worn it should be. Impasse! As the Band argued amongst itself the Gala organisers began to wonder if the Band would ever get the parade started. Eventually the Band marched off some 10 minutes late in shirt-sleeves.
The Band was never invited to play at Gisburn Gala again. It taught the members one important lesson --- save the arguments for the bandroom.
On a happier note in September 1976 the Band was invited to play for the Harvest Service at Whitewell Church for the first time, which along with the Christmas Carol Service there have become another of the Band's long-standing engagements. (Particularly the Carol Service with its traditional supper afterwards -always something appreciated by band members after a hard blow!)
Food and drink are never far from a bandsman or bandswomans thoughts. In the early 1970s an engagement would be accepted with a fee "plus refreshments" and the Band became quite adept at remembering which event had the best food! The Queen's Silver Jubilee Celebrations in 1977 were to provide the Band with a number of special events to play for at various villages in the area, each with its own "Jubilee Tea". Many of the Band recall that the Sawley event provided the best meal overall --- well done for such a small place. It was also the year when the Hodder Valley saw one of its residents elected as Mayor of the Ribble Valley --- Coun. Edward Newhouse --- who seemed to appear at every Jubilee event the band attended. The Jubilee celebrations for the area were rounded off with one of Clitheroe's great Torchlight Processions --- the first one that Slaidburn Band took part in --- and members were delighted with the reception they received as the "local" Band contributing to the musical proceedings.
As always the Torchlight programme contained a few details about each participant, usually in a light hearted manner and Slaidburn did not escape:
SLAIDBURN SILVER BAND
In their musical production 'AIR
This Band always carries its own wind about,
Fresh air caught high on the moor,
Tons of it, stored in their 'airy chest,
Halitosised, breathalysed, pure!
And it takes a lot of mountain air
When your blasting fortissimo,
'Cos a soaring crescendo dies out innuendo
When the pound, per square inch gets low!
Whilst the Jubilee events had kept the Band busy during the summer months of 1977, the winter and spring of that year had been occupied by another momentous event in the Band's history --- its participation in a contest. The Hardrow Scar Contest, held near Hawes, had been revived in 1976 and some of the Slaidburn Band had gone along to listen. When an invitation arrived in 1977 asking the Band if it wished to take part much discussion took place on the topic. It was eventually decided that the experience of taking part would do the Band some good, after all the other bands taking part were of similar status, so it would be good to find out how we rated against other bands. So the Band started rehearsing its 3 own choice pieces, the march "Sons Of The Brave", hymn tune "Penlan" and fantasia "Hampton Court". Of the 16 bands taking part Slaidburn managed a 12th placing which for a first time effort was not considered too bad. Afterwards some players made the comment that the Band should work harder next time to improve its placing and take the contest more seriously. With those remarks were sown the seeds of unrest which were from time to time to come to the surface particularly before the contests and not always with happy results within the Band.
Following the jaunt to France in 1976 the Band must have been getting itchy feet for in 1978 another trip was planned, this time to include a journey into Belgium too. Also included in the party were the Longridge Band plus the Clitheroe Morris Men. In the party from the village of Slaidburn were members of the Hodder Valley British Legion, including Murray Walker who was to lay a wreath at the Menin Gate. The weekend in September had gone reasonably well until the coaches arrived at the French/Belgian border where the problems began. Administrative errors resulted in the coaches being refused entry into Belgium despite protests from the Mayor of Ribble Valley, British Legion and Bandsmen. This of course was a bitter disappointment for the ex-servicemen on board for whom the visit to the Menin Gate in Belgium was to have been a highlight of their journey. As the coaches turned around to return to their French base the coach with the Slaidburn contingent on board decided to try to attempt to cross at a lonely customs post inland. A "donation" of 300 francs to the lone customs official on duty resulted in the coach passing through and arriving many hours late at Ypres where the organisers were still waiting. Following a short ceremony at the Menin Gate where Slaidburn Band's Chris Skellorn played the Last Post, Murray Walker was able to lay the Legion's wreath. This incident in the trip made news in the national newspapers a few days later and letters of apology from the Belgian Government made their way to the Ribble Valley.
The Band President, Col. King-Wilkinson, when being told of the drama by members of the Band summed up the feelings of some; "Well, I never did like the Belgians anyway!"
Shakespeare once wrote "if music be the food of love, then play on" and certainly for some in the Band it must have rung true. In August of 1978 two members "tied the knot" when Conductor John Cowking and cornet player Alison Skellorn married. Over the coming years more couples from the Band would marry --- there must be something in the air, or the water, at Slaidburn!
10. Crescendos And Dimenuendos
The Band's register for the start of 1980 showed a membership of 26 and evenly spread amongst the various sections of the Band. Charitable status was granted in this year and the replacement of the old instruments was going well apart from one area --- the basses, the most expensive to renew. After consulting with various instrument dealers the Band came back to Reynolds who offered 2 good second hand basses at a good price --- £900 each. The only problem with this offer was money --- or the lack of it. The Band's funds stood at approximately £500 --- only £1300 short! It was agreed that Reynolds offer was a good one and it would be a pity to miss it, but where was the extra money to come from? John Wooff and John Cowking went to see the Band's bankers who whilst sympathetic were not too keen on giving the Band a loan. On reporting back to the Band a suggestion was made that perhaps individual members could offer interest free loans and after a few days the £1300 was loaned from 6 members and the basses were purchased. Not only had the generosity of the members helped the Band's finances but it also meant that each section of the Band's instrumentation had been replaced and the 70 year old instruments could be given a well-earned retirement.
By October of 1981 the loans had been paid back to all donors, with grateful thanks to all concerned. One of these basses was being put to good use by a new member, William Carter, who began to show great talent on the instrument and often gave solo items in concerts. When William left the Band in 1983 he briefly took up a musical career in the army before taking a degree course at the Salford Brass Band College and then joined the Leyland Daf Band, one of Britain's finest brass bands with whom he toured all over the world. Slaidburn was rather proud of having given William his first experience of brass banding.
In 1982 the Band was invited to present a concert at Clitheroe Civic Hall as part of a Ribble Valley Music Festival. A traditional programme was given and the night was a great success. For the Band however the night was a sad one. John Cowking had learnt just before the concert that John Wooff had died in hospital after a long illness. The Band had lost its solo Euphonium player, the one playing member who had links with the "old band" and who had done much to encourage the revival of the Band in recent years.
The Band continued to take part in the Hardrow Scar contest with variable results but some members were not happy about the carefree way other players approached the rehearsals and preparations before the day and this unease had simmered for a number of years. This finally boiled over at the 1983 contest when at the last minute a number of players announced they could not take part. In the weeks following the contest 3 or 4 players made it known that they were considering joining a band who would "take things more seriously" and leaving Slaidburn. The tension and unease was increased by the fact that the Band already knew that some members were leaving anyway to continue full time education or moving away from the district. By July the atmosphere was tense as the players considering moving to another band had made no move and giving no indication of their intentions. The Band Committee met and decided an ultimatum must be given and so John Cowking was "elected" to do it! The players were simply told "shut up or go". They decided to go. From a membership of 25 at the start of the year the figure dropped to 17 by the end of July. The Band in theory could still continue with this number, but unfortunately because key players had left, the Band had basically no members to "play the tune", only the accompaniment. At the first rehearsal after the departures some radical changes were made. As the Band had no remaining experienced cornet players left, the relatively inexperienced "back row" cornet players were promoted to the "front row" in order to provide the melody line. This rapid promotion was not without its difficulties as the players had no experience of solo cornet pressures and would not be able to cope with this for some months. A decision was therefore taken to cancel all the remaining engagements for the year and concentrate on re-building the cornet section.
When news of the Band's withdrawal from engagements reached the local press the reaction was quite surprising. Many members found themselves receiving messages of encouragement from local folk who hoped the Band would soon be performing again, and, more importantly an appeal for new members in the press reports found an influx of keen learners joining the band to boost the membership. By the time of the Remembrance Sunday Service and Parade the Band was confident enough to turn out and fulfil its duties and in December of 1983 was able to present a Christmas concert at Newton Village Hall to hear the "re-built" Band and close the year on a happy note.
During the next few years the Band worked at improving its musical ability and by 1985 was getting itchy feet again and decided to visit Belgium in September of that year, hoping that Border and Customs control were better organised than last time! The trip was a great success particularly for two notable events: On arrival at Ypres to hold a short wreath laying ceremony at the Menin Gate the party found they had arrived on "Liberation Day" when the Town of Ypres marked its freedom at the end of the Great War. When Town officials discovered that the Band party also included the Mayor of the Ribble Valley, Coun. Joyce Lilburn, and a clergyman, Rev'd Arthur Higginson, the entire party were invited to join the main gathering at the Menin Gate. What was to have been a short simple ceremony for the folk from the Hodder Valley turned into a service and march along with the townspeople and dignitaries from Ypres itself with musical accompaniment from the Slaidburn Band and the Ypres Town Band. Another highlight of the weekend was a hastily arranged concert on the magnificent flower bedecked bandstand in the central square of Ostend. Although the Band only played for an hour, the pavement cafes around the bandstand rapidly filled up with appreciative listeners, much to the delight of the Band, and no doubt, to the proprietors of the various cafes.
Research into the Band's history had been started by the author back in 1975 and it was realised that 1988 would be the 90th Anniversary of the Band and it was decided to mark the year with a number of special events and hopefully to boost funds enough to buy 2 new basses and therefore complete the replacement of the old instruments. Amongst the numerous events held throughout the year were a formal concert at Clitheroe Civic Hall, a Garden Party at Hill House Farm, home of Band Vice-Presidents Ted and Marjory Pinder, a "Blow By Blow" around the villages of the Hodder and Ribble Valleys presenting a short concert in each village, but for most people the most ambitious event was the sponsored march from Slaidburn to Clitheroe over Waddington Fell --- a distance of 9 miles! On St. George's Day, 23rd April the Band was given "marching orders" by its President, John King-Wilkinson, in Slaidburn at 9.45am and was greeted at Clitheroe by the Mayor, Coun Leslie Nevett at 2.30pm that afternoon. As if marching and playing along the road wasn't enough, the band also found time to stop off at Hill House and the Moorcock Inn to play "Happy Birthday" for two birthday boys, Vice-President Ted Pinder, and mine host at the Moorcock, Peter Fillary. The sponsorship received from this was some £1500 which went a long way towards paying for the basses, and in fact by August the basses had been purchased and paid for --- a remarkable achievement. At the annual Christmas concert in that year the event started with a special buffet supper, including a special birthday cake cut by youngest member Mark Beverley, and oldest member Ernest Cowking who was retiring that night after 20 years of service with the Band. All the members received a commemorative medal and a new trophy donated by the President was first presented. The Band trustees decided that the Trophy should be presented annually to a member of the Band who has made a significant contribution to the activities of the Band in the last 12 months. The first recipient was Bill Worswick whose contribution to not only the last 12 months, but over many years was noted. Another surprise that night was a message of congratulations from H.M.The Queen to the Band followed by the loyal toast to "The Queen, Duke Of Lancaster". Little did the Band know what would happen in 1989 when that toast would be heard again in the presence of certain members of the Royal Family.
The main topic of conversation at the bandroom in early 1989 was the planning of another trip across the Channel for a musical tour of Germany. However, a phone call from the Duchy of Lancaster's Estate Office was to change all that. Would the Band be available to play at Dunsop Bridge in early August for a gathering of Duchy of Lancaster Tenants to meet their Landlord who also happens to be The Queen?! Needless to say the Band accepted the engagement! 1989 was certainly going to be different as the Band also found itself involved in another unusual request. In March of 1989 Rosie Twigg, one of the elderly residents of Slaidburn, died and in her will asked that the Slaidburn Band play at her funeral. The Band led the cortege through the village and played music for the hymns at the funeral service.
Royal visits to an area involve a great deal of forward planning, site visits, mountains of correspondence and fanatical timing! Dunsop Bridge was no exception. Individual farm visits were planned and The Queen was to meet her tenants at Holmehead, Dunsop Bridge for lunch on Monday 7th August and this was where the Band was to play. Security was paramount and some concern was expressed by both Duchy and Palace officials when John Cowking informed them that one of the members of the Band held a licence to handle explosives! Security checks gave the member concerned the "all clear"! The Band was required to play from 10.30am until 3.00pm during the arrival of guests, the arrival of the Royal Party, the lunch and departure. A total of 40 musical items were required plus a special fanfare composed by the Conductor for the arrival of the Queen and, of course, the National Anthem. At the last minute an arrangement of a military march was rehearsed for the Queen's departure entitled "John O'Gaunt" reflecting the title of "Duke of Lancaster". During the proceedings the Conductor was introduced to Her Majesty who, on looking into the Band's marquee, commented on the number of cameras that suddenly appeared from within uniforms! At the end of the afternoon the Band was entertained to a champagne lunch with Duchy of Lancaster officials rounding off a memorable day for the Hodder Valley and the Band.
In September the Band did a brief tour of the Rhine and Moselle Valleys staying at the small village of Briedel on the banks of the Moselle where our hosts laid on an evenings entertainment in the village square when the local choir sang, the village children danced in traditional costume and the Slaidburn Band gave a concert and helped to drink the previous years wine supply! The wonderful atmosphere of that night was especially significant as it was almost 50 years ago to the day since the declaration of war between Britain and Germany. Thankfully past events did not overshadow that weekend.
Many players in the Band were travelling a considerable distance to attend rehearsals and at a Band meeting towards the end of 1989 it was decided to move rehearsals to Clitheroe for a trial period in 1990 to and find a more central point for members and to try and encourage new members who may find the journey over Waddington Fell a little too much, particularly in winter. This decision caused some dismay in Slaidburn and the rumour began that the Band was actually in danger of "folding up" and at the annual concert in December the Conductor had to announce that the Band was alive and well and had no intentions of disbanding now or in the near future!
11. Ninety Out Of A Hundred
The Annual General Meeting held in February 1990 took place at the Scout Headquarters on Lowergate, the Band's new rehearsal room in Clitheroe. It was reported that during 1989 the Band had met to rehearse on 49 occasions and had also undertaken 43 engagements throughout the year, quite a busy schedule for a voluntary band. The level of commitment required from members however was beginning to take its toll on attendances at both rehearsals and engagements. The register at this time showed a membership of 25 players in total, but the average turnout was only 17 for both rehearsals and engagements, not very encouraging. The minutes show discussion on this point and the hoped for increase in membership with the move to Clitheroe, but one or two ominous statements recorded in the minutes show that things were not all rosy. John Cowking's report as conductor said:
...he particularly disagreed with player politics and that players would come and go and that subsequent moves should not be considered as promotion or demotion, but for the good of the Band.
A little further on in those same minutes the Secretary, Andrea Sharples, also had something to say:
...if this was the way dedicated members were treated, then the Band neither encouraged or deserved loyalty and resigned from the post.
The question of loyalty and commitment were to simmer again for about 12 months, a reminder to those who could remember, of the discontent back in 1983. Matters were further complicated when at 2 engagements in June of 1990 the band could only turn out 12 players for either event. As both of these engagements were held on Saturday afternoons the Band Committee decided that no further work be undertaken on Saturday mornings or afternoons as raising a band was now becoming difficult as many members were now working on Saturdays as part of their full-time employment or as students working part-time.
Having just got settled into the new rehearsal room at the Scout HQ in Clitheroe the Band found itself on the move again in late 1990 when the Scout Group wished to use the room on Thursday nights. Thankfully the Catholic Social Centre just a few hundred yards down the road offered the Band rehearsal facilities and so the move was made without too much inconvenience.
By the end of 1990 the absenteeism problem had become acute in certain sections of the Band and so the Conductor decided in early 1991 to move some players to create a better balanced sound. This did not go down well with some of the players concerned who promptly told the Band chairman that if they were not returned to their original positions they would resign. The Chairman therefore overruled the Conductor who then announced that if the moves did not go ahead he would resign. Ructions! The minutes of the 1991 Annual General Meeting are lively with the debate on the topic and Conductor's view that he was being blackmailed by a few people who were not the most committed of players in the Band. A statement from the Conductor on the topic takes up nearly 3 pages of the minute book ending with the following comments:
the Conductor takes the consequences over the right or wrong musical choice made for the good of the Band. The Band decided to support the Conductor. If players have a grievance could they please see the Conductor.
After all the upheaval the Band settled down and with a membership of 23 continued to fulfil the engagements booked for 1991. One noticeable change in the list of engagements was the reduction in the number of traditional events such as garden parties and church processions. Many of the villages and churches involved in organising these events were finding it difficult to persuade volunteers to help run the proceedings and in some cases a complete lack of interest in the event meant that many found it difficult to continue. To compensate for the loss of some of these summer events the Band looked further afield for engagements and accepted a booking to play at the Happy Mount Park in Morecambe where a summer season of concerts are promoted by the local authority. This engagement is now an annual one for the Band and is looked forward to every year as one of the best outdoor functions the Band does.
As the musical ability of the Band improved so did the musical content of its programmes. This meant that the band was now in demand for concert performances during the winter months throughout the Hodder and Ribble Valleys and this helped to "spread the load" of engagements through the year more evenly. One "novelty" aspect of the Band's music library was its collection of ballroom dance music, arranged by the Conductor, which was much in demand to round off a night's music-making. This had only come about following a chance comment at the annual Royal British Legion concert at Waddington when the organisers asked if the Band could play for a little dancing after the concert. The idea caught on and is now a traditional feature of the Band's annual Christmas Concert and Dance each year.
In September of 1991 the town of Valkenburg in Holland was the base for another of the Band's trips into Europe, giving concerts in Valkenburg itself, Maastricht, (before the E.C. countries had heard of it!!), Bokrijk in Belgium and most notably on a revolving bandstand at Bad Neunhar, a spa town in Germany.
One incident in November of that year taught the members a valuable lesson in care of instruments. Whilst preparing to march off with the Remembrance Sunday Parade at Dunsop Bridge one of the players was unpacking his instrument and uniform from the back of his car. Having propped up the instrument against an adjacent car whilst putting on his uniform, the driver of the car reversed out and partially ran over the instrument. Shouts from the player concerned to the driver resulted in the car being driven forward back to its original position, running over the instrument once again! The lesson was soon learned by all concerned.
The Band's President, John King-Wilkinson, held a belated 21st birthday celebration at the Hark To Bounty Inn at Slaidburn on the occasion of his 60th birthday in May of 1992! The estate tenants were all invited and musical accompaniment for the evening was provided by the Band who presented Mr. King-Wilkinson with an engraved silver salver.
In July of that year the Band joined forces with the East Woodhey Band from Oxfordshire who had arranged a weekend bandsman's holiday in the Ribble Valley. A joint concert was presented in the ballroom at Calderstones Hospital and the East Woodhey Band gave concerts at the Castle Bandstand and also at the Hark To Bounty where, of course, they played "Slaidburn" in Slaidburn and their Conductor received a Slaidburn Band tie as a memento of the weekend visit.
Slaidburn Band also had a "day out" when they visited York and gave an afternoon concert performance in the city centre, much to the delight of shoppers and visitors.
The membership situation had not improved greatly, despite articles and advertisements being placed in local newspapers during the year. By the time of the Annual meeting in 1993 the membership had dropped to 18 players and was giving cause for concern. During 1992 the Band had received help from ex-members and guest players when needed, but this situation could not carry on indefinitely. Thankfully during the year a number of new players joined to swell the ranks, and it was particularly encouraging to see a number of youngsters taking up instruments in the Band.
Another trip into Europe was being discussed at the end of 1993 but increased costs were beginning to make the idea less attractive. As the players themselves paid all fares and expenses (the Band's funds could never be used under the terms of the Charities Act) the idea was deferred for the time being, but following the recent trip to York a similar day trip to the Lake District was organised and in 1994 the Band found itself performing in another unique location. In return for free passage on the boat, the Band played on one of the large cruisers sailing on Lake Windermere. Passengers waiting to board the boat at Lakeside must have wondered what on earth was going on when members, instruments, music stands and drum kit were taken aboard! However they were delighted at the open-air performance on deck, particularly the American and Japanese tourists whose videos and cameras were busy recording the event.
The election of Slaidburn's Councillor Mrs. Dorothy Pearson as Mayor of Ribble Valley in May 1995 meant that the village of Slaidburn, and its Band were involved in the annual Mayor's Sunday Procession and Service when the Band led the Civic party and their guests through the village to the formal service at the Parish Church. During Councillor Pearson's Mayoral year the Band gave its services at 2 special events to raise funds for her charities. A "Christmas Cracker" concert was given at the Centenaries Theatre, Stonyhurst and a special V.J. Night Concert and Dance were presented marking the 50th anniversary of the end of the 2nd world war. This was the second of two events marking the end of hostilities in 1945, for the Band had organised its own concert and dance at Newton Village Hall in early May marking V.E. Night, when the hall was "converted" to a 1945-style dance hall complete with flags, bunting, wartime posters and, most appropriate, period costume worn by many members of the audience. At the end of her mayoral year, Coun. Pearson also surprised the Band by presenting them with a cheque from her charity fund which was used to purchase new concert music stands.
The membership situation whilst not critical was still giving cause for concern and it was decided to hold 2 open nights in October 1995 and invite interested members of the public along to see the Band in rehearsal and see if any were interested in taking up any of the spare instruments. Adverts were placed in the local press, posters were displayed and the Band waited to see who would turn up. On the first night no-one came! It would be fair to say that the Band were very disappointed and some failed to see any point in holding the second night. However, on the second night thirteen people e arrived plus 2 experienced players and things were beginning to look up! None of the 13 new faces had ever played before so it was decided to hold a beginners class on a separate night to the main rehearsals and train the new recruits.
By the start of 1996 the Band's membership was 22 in the main section and 13 in the learner's class, so hopefully the playing strength of the Band was looking more secure for the future. Despite this shot in the arm for the Band the members were rather surprised to hear criticism from some quarters that the Band was not playing in the Hodder Valley as much as it should and was neglecting the villages. John Cowking on checking back over recent year's engagement lists found that on average the Band was playing between 13 and 15 times in the Hodder Valley each year and took great delight in saying so at such events during 1996, particularly at 4 new events in Slaidburn --- "Brass At The Bounty" --- which in a short time became a very popular evenings entertainment.
At the Hodder Valley Show in September of 1996 the beginners were brought into the main Band for the first time and their own evening's tuition was discontinued as they now rehearsed with the main group. At the close of 1996 at the annual Christmas Concert and Dance the Conductor was pleased to announce that the membership now stood at 34 players, a very healthy position, particularly with a good number of youngsters amongst that number.
It is not often that brass bands are the main feature of a major new film, but in early 1997 a British film --- "Brassed Off" --- was receiving rave revues as it toured the country's cinemas. When it was announced that the Civic Hall in Clitheroe would show the film the Slaidburn Band offered to provide a short "warm-up" concert before the main feature. (in return for free admission to see the film of course!) The hall management agreed and on the last night of the run the Band performed before the film to a remarkably large audience who greatly appreciated the live music.
The 1997 Annual General Meeting began to consider the forthcoming Centenary in 1998 and how the Band should mark the occasion. By the time you are reading this book the plans will have been finalised and Slaidburn Silver Band will have reached its 100th year. This book is only part of the celebration of the centenary of a unique band. Players come and players go but somehow the Band has held together for most of its 100 years. It is a great tribute to the men and women, boys and girls of the Band, both past and present, who have given up untold hours, travelled probably hundreds of miles purely to give their musical services to many organisations in the Hodder and Ribble Valleys and beyond without receiving any payment or expenses of any kind. Tribute should also be paid to the many wives, husbands and parents who allow their spouses or children to "come out to play" with the Band and to many Band supporters who provide much appreciated help and support at Band functions.
Where does the Band go after 1998? Will there still be a steady input of new players over the coming years to keep things going? Will the present membership remain in the Band or will family, financial or social pressures change things again. The present Conductor, John Cowking, always has the same answer: "When I stop enjoying it, that's when I'll finish." Over the last 100 years it would be nice to think that that was the simple view of all the members of the Slaidburn Band. May it continue for the years ahead.