Black Dyke Arts Festival - Retrospective


Malcolm Wood was on hand to enjoy a weekend of music making and internet filming at Leeds Metropolitan Universaity.

Black DykeThere is one word to describe the inaugural Black Dyke Arts Festival that took place last weekend: impressive. 

Since 2005, the Black Dyke Band has formed a partnership with the Leeds Metropolitan University and this weekend’s Festival was the latest initiative in that collaboration.

The relationship is one that is clearly flourishing; very proactive and innovative, and one that is clearly strategically designed to maximise dividends for both organisations.  The University is renowned for being a leader in creating new partnerships within arts and sport and it has cultural links with Opera North, The Northern Ballet, West Yorkshire Playhouse. Now it has Black Dyke as its flag bearer.

Shared ambition

The shared ambition to look at new opportunities have included the formation of the Yorkshire Youth Brass Band, as well as a funded Doctorate that will commence this autumn in a PhD on the cultural significance of Black Dyke itself.

This particular weekend was slick, professional and benefiting from the input of Head of Communications at the University, Hannah Hughes (formerly of Sellers International Band), Nicholas Childs and Alison Childs, who acted as Festival Administrator.  The marketing of the event was extensive but paid off with the concerts being full on both days and with a terrific response to the Lower Brass Event.

Friday evening saw an ensemble of Black Dyke Band gather in the refurbished Gandhi Hall to perform music written by some of the Composer’s Collective from the Yorkshire Youth Band.

Absolute delight

Saturday afternoon was an absolute delight with the spotlight falling onto the lower brass, with around forty players gathering with Black Dyke players to perform repertoire of varying nature under the watchful and very enthusiastic eyes of Joe Cook, David Thornton and Philip Goodwin, all tailed off with a thrilling romp ‘William Tell’.

Whilst standards in the levels of the playing ability varied, it mattered not a jot, as the enjoyment of those involved was clearly seen and heard – a gentleman who turned up with a serpent had an absolute ball!

Through the support of Leeds Metropolitan, all the players had to do was turn up, as there was no cost involved for the participants - a great gesture when the many players we spoke to told us that they would gladly have paid to be part of the event and they can’t wait for the next one.

In the middle of the afternoon, a recital from Joe Cook, David Thornton and newly crowned British Open Quartet Champion, Scherzo Brass allowed everyone the chance to relax – a small oasis of clam in a hectic weekend!

Internet coverage

Filming took place throughout the weekend with the concerts on Saturday and Sunday streamed live on the Internet.  This is all part of the vision to bring brass bands to a wider audience but as the Norwegians showed in February when their own National contest was screened live on the web, this is something now for other concert and contest promoters to seriously think about too.

Watch the concert

You can watch Sunday afternoon's concert at the following link:

The music on offer was of a serious nature, and very much on a par with the RNCM Festival of Brass. The invitation to Elgar Howarth to become the Artistic Director (and give the great man the opportunity to conduct the band for the first time in over twenty years) was inspired and led to an outstanding new commission for principal cornet Richard Marshall.
With pre-concert talks beforehand, the rest was down to the band. Dyke certainly gave an indication at Bradford in March that they are intent on raising their own standards once again, and they were in great form over the weekend. 

Contesting is one thing, but the importance of events such as this to the players was visible too. They enjoyed it, even though it was hard graft of course with the Yorkshire Youth Brass Band meeting early on Sunday morning (and they were terrific during the concert). The overall ethos of the weekend has to be applauded though and it seems set to become an important part of the brass band calendar for many years to come. 

Malcolm Wood

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