The brass band world is sometimes accused of living very much in its own little ‘bubble’ — a world in which the harsh realities of real life pass us by.
That surely cannot be true we thought, so we looked at nine of the most defining moments in our history over the last 45 years and wondered whether or not they made a great impact on the movement through the pages of the banding press.
1. The assassination of John F. Kennedy—22nd November 1963
The British Bandsman led with ‘BBC Challenging Brass Series Final at Sheffield’ with a follow up front page story of ‘French Bandmaster waited for Cue’.
A certain Capt. Monmege failed to play the ‘Last Post’ in front of General de Gaulle after missing the pre arranged cue to play and was put under close arrest for 30 days for the offence.
The world grows smaller—soon we must realise we are part of a united Europe.”—except, it should have added, when England beats the Germans at footy though…4BR
2. England win the World Cup—30th July 1966
Not a single mention of good luck to Alf and the lads in the issue which came out on the day of the biggest football match in the history of English football, although a few weeks before British Bandsman ran an advert for a 6” single of the official ‘World Cup March’ played not by a brass band but by Joe Loss and his Orchestra, by arrangement with the Football Association no less!
The paper’s Editorial comment for that week stated: ‘The world grows smaller—soon we must realise we are part of a united Europe.”—except, it should have added, when England beats the Germans at footy though….
3. Man lands on the Moon—20th July 1969
Not a mention in the issue before (which came out a day before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon), whilst the following week the headline rang out with the momentous news: ‘NYBB Summer Course’.
The other front page news was:‘Youth Champions’—the Bryn Celynnog Secondary School Band winning the Festival for Youth Contest with a fine performance of ‘Indian Summer’.
One small step…
4. Britain joins the Common Market—1st January 1973
With Britain taking its first faltering steps into Europe for the first time since the D—Day landings, the banding press led with the ground breaking news that a total of 35 contest and 25 concert tickets will be available to all bands appearing at the Royal Albert Hall for the National Finals that year.
Wonder what happened to that idea then…
5. Muhammad Ali beats George Foreman in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’—30th October 1974
As Ali and Foreman battled it out in Kinshasa and all the world marvelled at Ali’s ‘Rope a Dope’ trick, the banding press sternly announced—‘Keep Contesting in its Place’ — with the moral story of two young girls from Northampton who wanted to learn to play brass instruments with their local band, only to be told for six consecutive weeks that they couldn’t because the band was busy practicing for a contest.
The other lead story on the front page of British Bandsman that week was the entry list for the 13th Mineworkers’ Contest in Blackpool.
6. The Falklands War starts—2nd April 1982
With Britain declaring War on Argentina the banding world seemed oblivious to the fight in the Falklands as the press led away with: ‘High Marks for Leyland’ as Richard Evans (an old soldier too) took the North West Area title with what was described as a ‘colossal mark’ of 197 points.
A couple of weeks later under the title: ‘No Defence’ was the press finally reporting that the Argies were on the run at Goose Green?
No. Grimethorpe weren’t going to defend it’s Granada Band of the Year title….
7. The Berlin Wall comes down—9th November 1989
With the news that after nearly 40 years of dividing Europe the Berlin Wall fell, the event failed to raise an eyebrow it seemed in banding circles.
’Flugel player wins trip to New Zealand’ was the front page news just two days after Germany was reunited and the Cold War came to an end.
8. Nelson Mandela freed — 11th February 1990
As the leader of the ANC walked into the South African sunlight a free man after 25 years of incarceration, he could have been forgiven in thinking he may be front page news around the world.
Not so—‘North Skelton BSC takes Milton Keynes title.’ By all accounts, Mandela was delighted when told the news…
Strangely the inside page of British Bandsman announced the retirement of another icon though—Peter Roberts decision to call it a day at the age of 39….
What became of these two chaps we wonder…
9. Princess Diana dies—31st August 1997
You’ve guessed it….
The news that Princess Di had died however made the front page pages, especially as Britain was in a state of uncontrolled mass hysteria and had ceased to function without recourse to people buying flowers, teddy bears and hankies to get them through the day, it was announced that the British Open was to be cancelled.
”On a day when millions of people round the world focus on the memory of one who gave joy and hope, often at great personal cost, a band contest seems trivial” gushed the British Bandsman, adding “But in the dedication, the inspiration of the performances, we might glimpse a reflection of some of the qualities which made Diana unique, and be grateful.”
Pass the bucket...
Given that over the years such as man landing on the moon or England winning the World Cup didn’t get a mention, you can perhaps forgive yourself for thinking that perhaps the brass band world does live in a strangely parallel universe…
Can you think of one?
If you can add a tenth momentous event to our list to find out whether it made a mark on the banding world, let us know….