4BR Time Team - January 2008


This month we delve into the history books to find out what the brass band media hoped to see come true with their New Year resolutions over the past 45 years

New Year resolutions, proposals, comments and wishes. We all make them – and we are invariably fail to live up to them too. 

Over the years the brass band media has made its own – all with high hopes for the brass band movement as a whole. Not many have come to pass it seems…


Prototype Margaret Thatcher?

British Bandsman led with St Francis of Assisi in its first edition of 1965.

…where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness,
where there is sadness, joy;

Remind you of someone some 14 years later as the great she elephant called Margaret Thatcher walked into 10 Downing Street?  Was she a closest brass band fan then or just a destroyer of brass band communites….?

Eric Ball1967:

Keeping youth interested

This was the headline comment from Eric Ball, British Bandsman Editor in January 1967.

”Keep the young folk interested in music, and build the band’s organisation in the best way possible to suit this purpose and the mental and moral welfare of all concerned, whether they be ten or twenty.

May their enthusiasm rescue the brass band movement from its sameness and all too often prevalent lack of a musical approach to its activities.”

41 years later and the comment remains just as relevant…


’Public Awareness Year – 68’ 

That was the headline comment of British Bandsman in the first week of January that year.

It asked: ”Why no bands on TV? Why no press coverage of national events? Why so few broadcasts?

And we were asking this in 1968?


The meaning of success

British Bandsman Editor, Geoffrey Brand commented in his preamble to the New Year: ”The aim is to make more musically worthy performances… more meaningful performances. Then, how many prizes, how much money, how many engagements we attract are seen as not being the important things.”

Try telling that to bands at the regionals….


Public recognition

Brass Band NewsThe now defunct Brass Band News (Bandsmen made it – bandsmen keep it going – was it proud boast) led with its thoughts for the Silver Jubilee year:

”It is important, however, that the band movement should not rest upon its laurels, and to merely maintain standards is not enough.”  It went on to add: “It is possible for bands to achieve better recognition from the general public, but it needs the application of sound commonsense and a concentrated effort from everyone.”

Where have we heard that before…?


Ticket touts

The first comment from British Bandsman of 30 years ago surrounded ‘ticket touting’ at the National Finals.

Editor Peter Wilson remarked that, ‘Considering a total gate of 12,000… we can help to reduce the menace by:

a) Ensuring that our band uses its allocation
b) Returning unwanted tickets
c) Reporting the number of tickets purchased outside the hall
d) Refusing to pay more than face value

12,000 people at the gate?  We should be so lucky.

Meanwhile the now defunct British Mouthpiece newspaper, announced in its January 7th edition:

“The year 1978 will bring success to the movement if we gain unity and this can only be attained if all bands join forces with others in membership of Brass Band Associations and then the Associations link together on a national basis…Bandsmen think about this and ensure that we do have unity.”

Guess what happened….?


Will there be changes?

The British Mouthpiece newspaper lamented; “Will there be any changes?” in its downbeat look towrads the New Year of 1982.

”The year ahead will no doubt find the usual hard working officers of band Associations carrying on their unrewarding task, having to accept all the brickbrats and receiving few words of praise. Nobody can understand why they do it but the movement has always been able to produce some dedicated persons willing to take on the job.”

Some things never change…


Break free from the shackles

British Bandsman Editor, Peter Wilson commented in his comprehensive look towards the future, that it was time he said, “… to free our composers from the shackles of the 10/12 minute time limit imposed by traditional contests formats. The facility to paint on a broader canvas would interest more composers of stature to contemplate the brass band, to the overall benefit of the scene.” 

And they came and beat down the doors ever since did they not…?


A Way Forward

After its first year of publication, Brass Band World declared in its 1992 New Year comment – “A Way Forward”

”Will bandsmen rally around the British Federation of Brass Bands flag?” it asked. “There are cracks and fundamental weaknesses in the movement but there are great strengths, outstanding artistic talent and administrative brains. We must not lose them. Bandspeople and band leaders must not become disenchanted. We must develop a structure in which they can flourish. This is the challenge of ’92.”

A lot of progress has been made here then….


More from Brass Band World and their Editor Bob Mullholland in 1997.

”An exciting future beckons – so why do we hesitate over the cost?” he asked.

”The benefits of proper National representation must be worth £75 a year (only 5p per player) to a band that pays £40,000 for a set of instruments.”

” It would seem reasonable,” he went on “…for the Federation to persuade the 16,850 registered contesting players that the National office could realistically provide a whole bunch of co-operative benefits, direct and indirect, that will far outweigh that modest cost.”

And have they done that then…?


The New Millennium brought this resolution from Brass Band World: ”Invest more in music.”

”If brass bands are serious about engaging mainstream composers, and in particular, attracting new names, we must realise that we live in the real world,” Bob Mullholland pertinently pointed out. “Why should a successful composer write a substantial work for brass band and expect not to be paid the established rate?”

Perhaps its because we have always wanted things on the cheap… How much for a James Macmillan for the Nationals do we hear?


4BR meanwhile wondered whether the end of 2004 and the start of 2005 heralded a new era of the start of terminal decline:

”It may have not been either a vintage or disastrous year, but it was one that could either be the start of a new era of progress or one that heralds the beginning of terminal decline. Let us hope 2005 is the start of the former and not the latter, and that it stems from our ability as a movement to start organising itself to meet the important challenges that will surely come our way.”

Just over 500 bands took part in the 2007 regionals – a further drop in numbers…

Not many of those wishes or resolutions have come true have they now….


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