4BarsRest logo



news desk

articles & features


results archive


classified ads

your comments

go shopping




One Foot in the Grave – Life in the 4th Section with Carlton Brass

Ever wondered what real pressure is like? You know. Sat on the Royal Albert Hall stage, lip in pieces, not enough spit to lick the back of a postage stamp and top Bb at ppp staring out at you from your part. For the players in the Championship Section - the Premiership bands, this is part and parcel of playing at the top level, and if you can’t handle this type of bum clenching pressure then you are in the wrong business and certainly in the wrong band.

This is not real pressure though. Try raising £5000 to keep afloat each year, spending hours on end phoning around for players to come to practice, finding a conductor who will wag the stick for love not money, paying the overdue electricity bill and putting in a few hours self practice a week to justify your own position in the band, and then you know what real pressure is. This is life in the 4th Section.

The Carlton Brass band from Nottingham are the current Midlands 4th Section champions after their win in a field of 25 bands and in the next few months they will be going through the agonies (as described above) and hopefully the ecstasies (as in winning the National title) in their attempts not only to survive, but to flourish down in the basement of banding.

Founded in 1902 as the Netherfields Railwayman’s Band, the became the Carlton Silver Band in 1950 and finally Carlton Brass in 1998 when following a sponsorship deal with Nottingham City Transport, the learners section which was titled, The New Carlton Silver Band decided to begin contesting and changed it’s name to Carlton Brass to avoid confusion. Got it?

With a new name came success, but the problems of life at the foot of the banding ladder are always evident. Players - young, old, fulltime, part time, interested, committed, not really bothered, making the odd effort, university students, beer lovers, shift workers, unemployed. This is the make up of bands in the 4th Section. Carlton like any other band has to juggle rehearsals around how many players can make it to the bandroom on a given night, and when playing in a band comes a very enjoyable second to the more practical things in life such as paying the mortgage, keeping your job and getting an education, full rehearsals every week are a minor miracle.

The standard of rehearsals is also another problem about life down in the lowest section of all. You know it’s not going to be YBS or Brighouse and Rastrick, even on your best of days, so intonation problems, tuning, playing together and more importantly, playing the right notes is the thing to aim for before you get any lofty ideas of musical interpretation and insight. Carlton are conducted by Tony Wilson, a very experienced former solo cornet player with the band, who knows what is what and how it should work. So much so that the band of course walked off with the recent 4th Section Midlands Regional crown and has put together a pretty impressive run of contest successes in recent times. OK, it may not be the same as winning the European, but 3rd prize in Leamington Spa and 2nd place at Derby is a good a foundation as any. And the band has the Chrich Tram Contest to look forward to as well!

The social life is great though. Contests are usually over by 12.00am and the rest of the day can be spent in the pub or actually listening to bands if you really want. After rehearsal, going to the local boozer for a natter and gossip is deemed obligatory and Carlton for one adjourns to the local Fox and Hounds for a well-earned pint or two. Just as Faireys or Grimethorpe players pack their bags and head home after a two hour practice, Carlton unwind in the splendour of the snug bar of the local. Add the very easy excuse to keep band funds going by organising a social night at the drop of a hat in the pub as well, and you can see why so many worn out top section bandsmen are quite envious of life in the lower sections.

Money!! Just think of Black Dyke having to scurry around pubs and clubs every Christmas to get a few bob in the coffers to keep their band on the road. Life in the 4th Section is a continual story of financial demand exceeding financial supply, and Carlton work their socks off each year to ensure they can not only meet the bills, but can also afford trips to the Pontins Finals at Prestatyn – a great weekend that offers some proper prize money. Fund raising the like of which only Blue Peter can do, is par for the course year in year out.

And what of the future? Well this enterprising band have realised that to have a future they must encourage their own youth, and have set up a thriving learners section and training band that will hopefully supply the talent for the main band for many years to come. Like football teams in the lower divisions, 4th section bands cannot afford to “buy” the odd star name and so must rely on young players learning their trade to make up the numbers. Every now and again they will unearth a star, who will move on a make a name for themselves – but that’s the nature of the game.

And so that’s what life is like in the 4th Section – not only for Carlton Brass, but we believe, for just about every 4th section band in the country. Money, players, money, conductors, money, fund raising, money – it’s a never ending circle of trials and tribulations that sometimes seems to get harder and harder each year.

However, please take heart. As the few pictures we have of the band show, it’s all worth while, because one day you’ll get to win, and then it tastes just as good as anything that Black Dyke or YBS have ever done!

© Copyright 4barsRest

Produced with many thanks to Ray Ward, Public Relations Officer for the band.

The Carlton Band have their own website and quarterly newsletter entitled “The Crossed Trumpet”

For further details on the band, please contact Ray Ward at: rayward49@hotmail.com

back to top

 © copyright & disclaimer

Fax: 01495 791085 E-Mail: