Editorial ~ 2004: July & August


This month we give our views on the SP&S takeover of the British Bandman, the need for devolution in England and the need to support the New Zealanders at the Open.

Saving an Icon

The British Bandsman newspaper has become over the course of its long and illustrious history, something of an icon within the brass band movement. It has weathered World Wars, the loss of the Empire and even the change from high to low pitched instruments. However, like all icons, age and technology has wearied its vigour and more importantly its immediacy, so the news that Savationist Publishing and Supplies Ltd has taken over its stewardship should be welcomed.

Producing a general weekly newspaper is a hard enough job in itself, but producing one that deals with such a limited specialised topic as brass bands and making it topical, entertaining and informative is a Herculean task. In the past few years the editorship of Nicki Bland has seen the British Bandsman regain a great deal of the lost ground of years of under investment and conservative editorial approach that  stagnated the newspaper and meant that its readership became isolated and demographically aged. The advent of competition in the form of first, the Brass Band World magazine and then the internet and the likes of 4BR and chat room sites has meant that retaining and expanding the readership base has become vital for its continued existence, and so a new input of both financial and potential readership lifeblood from the Salvation Army would seem to be the ideal answer to its long term future.

Over the last decade the Salvation Army, through its subsidiary arm of SP&S has become a major player in the secular brass band world.  Under the current direction of Managing Director Trevor Caffull their considerable financial investment has been imaginatively used to help promote brass music making, and which has been done with a "neutral" approach to their evangelical mission that has not only made new friends but has also increased understanding of their increasing pastoral role within society as a whole - their presence and religious message are there to be seen and understood, but at no time does it over impose itself on the projects they involve themselves in.

This is why the purchase of the British Bandsman should be seen as the start of an exciting new era and the recent statement from Trevor Caffull on 4BR [see comments section] as a firm proposal of what the future holds . The Salvation Army can offer a venerable old lady a new future - an increased readership, increased investment and a sense of renewed vigour and relevance. The brass band movement needs a strong and vibrant British Bandsman and SP&S seem the ideal choice to offer it.

What do you think?
Send an email to:

English Devolution

It was the Americans who demanded of the British "No taxation without representation" at the beginning of the War of Independence over 200 years ago, and the current climate within the English brass band movement concerning the changes to the All England Masters and the lack of qualification to the European Championships for a "Champion English Band" are a reminder that the need for an authentic representative voice for English bands has never been more needed than it is today.

The problem is though, that the English bands have only themselves to blame for the way in which the current situation has come about. Some years ago, Howard Snell and others tried to set up an organisation that would have been the ideal forum for Championship Section bands to act as one coherent body, but they were defeated by apathy from the very people they were trying to assist. Since that time, the Welsh and Scots have ensured that they have a mechanism (long argued about, it must be said) that has been agreed to determine what band qualifies for the European Championships, yet the English have left things fester and stew for such a long time that they now find themselves even further away from an ideal solution to the problem than ever before.

The Masters should have been the answer, but a combination of reticence and lack of foresight from the British Federation and near total apathetic support and action from the English bands themselves to actively support the call for the Cambridge contest to be the "English Qualifier" for the European, made it almost inevitable that the changes now instigated by Philip Biggs and Richard Franklin were made.

The English are therefore left in a limbo of their own making. Biggs and Franklin have tried and failed to get the representation they deserved, and now a fledgling - and currently a rather sparsely manned and informative organisation (if their website is anything to go by, it must be said) entitled the EFBB has been set up to try and cater for the needs and aspirations of English bands and to instigate a new qualification process for the European. 

English banding needs a method to send a recognised Champion Band to the European Championships. At the moment, just like with our fight with the Yanks, they are paying their taxes and not getting anything back in return.

What do you think?
Send an email to:

A Brave New World

4BR has just come back from a very enjoyable trip to New Zealand where we were able to experience first hand the current strength of the brass banding scene in the Southern Hemisphere. It is said that New Zealand reminds visitors from these shores of Wales - lots of splendid rugged countryside, friendly inhabitants and a slightly unhealthy interest in sheep and rugby union. For 4BR it was therefore a paradise!

The banding movement also has many similarities to that found in Wales; there is a small yet vibrant base of bands throughout the country, whilst the standard ranges from the excellent to the enthusiastic. There are individual players of quite unheralded brilliance within the ranks of nearly all the top bands, yet just about none would even get a mention of recognition outside their own country.  Finally, the prize money on offer for even the Nationals is non-existent yet the sense of pride and achievement in what the movement is trying to maintain and develop is immense.

This will be amply demonstrated when the Dalewool Auckland Brass Band, this years National Champions make the long trip to the UK to compete in the British Open. They are a fine band, superbly directed (by a Welshman) and deserve their place at the finest brass band contest in the world.

Take the opportunity therefore to support them on their short trip - they have been rather snootily denied a chance to play in the Sunday Gala Concert it must be said, and they would love to get a radio broadcast or a concert here to showcase their undoubted abilities further. The New Zealand brass band movement is something that we should do everything we can to help develop and improve and the existing links that have been forged (players and conductors are now making more regular trips to perform there) should be reciprocated and extended further if possible.

What do you think?
Send an email to: