Time Team - December 2008


Its seems in 2008 history is repeating itself from 30 years ago. Rising unemployment, falling house prices and Liverpool top of the League. Even Cory were on a winning streak...

The last time there was a long hard winter of discontent, rising unemployment, financial meltdown and Liverpool Football Club top of the league was way back in 1978.  

30 years ago, things were bleak indeed.


OPEC had just pushed up oil prices, there was trouble in the Middle East with Iran in all sorts of turmoil and the then Labour Government was in a pickle.  The average house price was £13,650 and falling (soon to be matched in 2008 if it carries on like this), petrol was 79p a gallon (getting there...) and inflation was a troublesome 8.30%.

The most sought after Christmas present was the new fangled mobile phone, which had been sold commercially in America for the very first time that year…


‘Crisis, what crisis?’ as PM Jim Callaghan was alleged to have said as he stepped off a plane from the Caribbean…

Still, in the brass band world, thoughts of Margaret Thatcher, a credit boom and Manchester United becoming the world’s leading seller of football shirts advertising a bankrupt insurance company were far from our minds.


Strangely, there are parallels with December 1978 today. The Cory Band, the number 1 ranked band in the world in 2008, was also on a winning streak 30 years ago too.

Pontins prize: Ron Pryce of Cory collects the 1978 Pontins title trophy from the old Freddie boy himself

In November they had just won the Pontins title, and followed it up by winning the 42nd Reading Festival. Even stranger, Bob Childs’ father, John, had just taken over the reins at Brodsworth Colliery Band, who then went on to win the Leicester Contest in the last week of November.

Cory then went on to win the last Welsh Championship Contest of the year at Pontypridd, but was denied the overall title by long term rivals, Tredegar.

Cook retirement

Charlie CookMeanwhile, the first week of the month saw Besses O’ the Barn declared BBC Band of the Year for their Radio 3 broadcast conducted by Ivor James, and one of the truly great players of the 20th century announced his retirement – Charlie Cook (right), the amazing soprano player of Fodens fame.

In Europe, Silkeborgblaeserne took the Danish National title and Brass Band 13 Etoiles, the Swiss (repeated 30 years later), whilst a note of true British patriotism was sounded by Derek Broadbent (below right), who nominated the ‘National Anthem’ as one of his ‘Top 10 Tunes’ in an article in one of December’s British Bandsman.

Nothing changed

Something that hasn’t changed however was a little piece of investigation work that showed that during the period 1968 – 1978, only 31% of the total top six prizes at the National Finals in London went to bands who played in the first half of the contest. 

Solo and Quartet contests were still going strong with results reported from Scotland, East Anglia and Wales, as well London, where a young Miss Linda Nicholson of Oxted won the Open Slow Melody section.

At the end of the year there was plenty of brass to heard on the radio with the likes of ‘Among your Souvenirs’ featuring the Luton Band, ‘Sam on Sunday’ showcasing Aldbourne, ‘Listen to the Band’ featuring highlights of Harry Mortimer’s 75th birthday celebration concert and ‘Bandstand’ with Sun Life.

Amazingly there were also programmes on Radio Bristol, Birmingham, Leicester, Clyde, Manchester and Newcastle!

Players wanted

BroadbentThe long defunct British Mouthpiece advertised vacant positions in the up and coming Leyland Band (apply in confidence to Richard Evans it said …) as well as James Shepherd Versatile Brass (..do you see yourself sitting next to Jim Shepherd it boasted). Other bands on the look out for players for Christmas were Fodens, CWS Manchester and GUS.

There was also a rather more desperate please by one Betty Smith; Britain’s foremost female saxophonist and vocalist (She’ll make your concert go with a swing… it said). She may have been the first ‘X Factor’ wannabe in history…

The venues and dates for the 1979 Regional contest were announced with exotic destinations such as the Civic Centre, Motherwell; Watford Town Hall; Colston Hall, Bristol; Assembly Rooms, Derby; Town Hall, Middlesborough and Guild Hall, Preston - all venues that 30 years later are no longer hosts to the qualifying jamboree.


Highlights of the 2008 year for Roy Newsome was coming second at the National Finals with Besses off the number 1 draw: “As a Yorkshireman I’ve been told the only good thing ever to come out of Lancashire was the M62, but I must confess to having other ideas on that day,” he said.

For the great Walter Hargreaves it was Fairey winning the Area contest for the first time since 1963, whilst for Geoffrey Brand it was winning the British Open with Brighouse, some 42 years after their last victory at the contest. “On the day, as I joined the band on the platform, I new they were good enough to win. The rest you know,” he said.

So a troubled year ended and 1979 beckoned with hope and the prospect of better days ahead.

What little we knew in the banding world of what would befall us all. 30 years later, history may well be repeating itself…


2016   2015   2014   2013   2012
2011   2010   2009   2008   2007
2006   2005   2004 (1)   2004 (2)   2003
2002   2001