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Empowering Futures
Grimethorpe's education outreach ambition

One of UK's most famous bands is investing in the education of future generations of players to help rejuvenate community brass band music making.


Grimethorpe Band has a rich history linked to its community

In the heart of Grimethorpe, where the echoes of mining history still linger, a proud new future generation of brass band players is being nurtured and heard. 

They are being powered by an ambitious vision to inspire.

‘Grimethorpe Education’ has become a cornerstone of the famous Yorkshire band’s community outreach programme, one that is focussed with a keen appreciation of how a brass band can be a progressive catalyst for community cohesiveness and improvement. 

Variant strands

Variant strands are brought together – starting with the weekly connectivity that comes with Grimethorpe Brassworks, as Band Manager Richard Windle explained to 4BR.

“At the core of our commitment to education, led by player Jim Fletcher, lies the unwavering dedication to making musical learning accessible to all and based on a foundation provision of free weekly brass tuition. 

This is about discovery, where we provide the ‘guides’ as tutors to navigate youngsters through the first challenges of mastering and enjoying playing a brass instrument.”

At the core of our commitment to education, led by player Jim Fletcher, lies the unwavering dedication to making musical learning accessible to all and based on a foundation provision of free weekly brass tuition. 

Brassworks

There are currently two Brassworks locations; one in Sheffield (every Wednesday 6.00-7.00pm) and another in Grimethorpe itself (Thursday 6.00-7.00pm), both offering welcoming, inclusive spaces to gather. 

The aim is to be more than just instructional classes though – instead becoming nurturing grounds for musical exploration and communal support. Each has 50 members at present, with new youngsters knocking on the doors each week. 

As a member they are provided with a free instrument and tuition from a dedicated tutor from Grimethorpe Band.


Richard Windle (right) is a passionate advocate for the initiatives

No barriers

“There should be no barriers to musical education,”  Richard says, “and thanks to the leadership of Jim Fletcher we are ensuring that anyone with an inquisitive mind can embark on a free transformative journey of learning and self-discovery. 

Our ethos is empowering individuals through music, fostering a lifelong love for the arts and enriching the community in the process.”

 Our ethos is empowering individuals through music, fostering a lifelong love for the arts and enriching the community in the process

The foundations provided by Brassworks and Jim Fletcher's leadership has enabled the band to add extra levels of inclusive music making – led by its Grimethorpe Workshop Days.

Workshop Days

Richard explains: “This is the next level - held each term at Barnsley Civic. Our aim here is to create a dynamic, enriching musical environment, drawing over 100 young brass players together and working as one. 

These workshops start to delve into emerging skill sets, empowering the young players to search and experiment with their playing, gain insight and experience. Our tutors once again lead the way, encouraging and inspiring.”


Enjoyment and fun play their part

Synergy reaction

Richard revealed that the synergy of the approach has produced a fantastic reaction, with a vibrant energy firing an atmosphere of collaborative learning and musical exploration. 

There is pride in everything that is undertaken; something that we believe flows into other aspects of a young person’s life – ultimately enriching their community

“The Workshop Days succeed in so many different ways”,  he says, “and not just musically. Artistic expression is encouraged, and the sense of togetherness and support is palpable. 

There is pride in everything that is undertaken; something that we believe flows into other aspects of a young person’s life – ultimately enriching their community.”

Third level

The third level of progression is found with the Grimethorpe North of England Youth Band, which led by conductors Jim Fletcher and and Mike Howley recently performed at the RNCM International Brass Band Festival in Manchester.

The band offers young musicians with a Grade 6 proficiency level the opportunity to perform in an ensemble that meets once a month at Grimethorpe’s rehearsal HQ. Its aim is to offer a dynamic platform for performance, yet still instilling a sense of collective endeavour.


The Grimethorpe North of England Youth Band played at the RNCM International Brass Band Festival

Opportunities

Following its recent RNCM performance it will soon visit the Leeds Conservatoire, where the players will find out more about higher education opportunities as well as enjoy a masterclass and workshop conducted by trumpet virtuoso Rex Richardson. 

As Richard explains: “With a focus on challenging repertoire, high-quality performances and exceptional opportunities we want to help these young players make informed choices about their futures in whatever direction they wish to take.”

With a focus on challenging repertoire, high-quality performances and exceptional opportunities we want to help these young players make informed choices about their futures in whatever direction they wish to take

At the other end of the education spectrum though, the importance of connecting with primary schools has also been a key feature. 

Primary start

Collaborations have been made with Barnsley Music Hub, with Grimethorpe involved in the funding and support of seven primary school brass bands in Barnsley.

Speaking about this aspect, Grimethorpe’s solo horn player Helen Varley told 4BR: “The initiative is designed to bridge the gap between introductory music education and sustained musical exploration. 

Following a year of whole-class learning, children are provided with continued access to brass instruments and invaluable opportunities through these school bands.”


Horn star Helen Varley is keenly involved in the initiative

Free 

As well as free instruments, the collaboration involves the funding of experienced tutors from the Barnsley Music Hub who play a pivotal role in helping players just starting out on their musical journeys.

Helen added: “This initiative ensures that every child has the chance to explore and enjoy their music making, fostering a legacy of creativity and artistic expression in the hearts of the next generation.”

Part of that journey is ‘A Grimethorpe Adventure’,  a project specifically tailored for those primary school starters.

This initiative ensures that every child has the chance to explore and enjoy their music making, fostering a legacy of creativity and artistic expression in the hearts of the next generation.”

Immersive experience

As Helen says: “It’s a deliberately immersive experience that unfolds as a story interwoven with the rich tapestry of coal mining, accompanied by original music specifically composed for beginner brass (and can come with a pre-recorded backing track) to provide an engaging learning environment.”

The initiative has already been enjoyed in Lichfield and, most recently, in Barnsley, where cleverly tailored to become a ‘Barnsley Adventure’  it saw 100 primary school children spend a memorable day immersed in the world of brass bands and their links to the mining industry.

Helen Varley collaborated with several leading composers to develop the project, with its culmination after a fun packed exploration, a concert performed for families and friends - an experience that left a lasting impact on all involved.


Family and friends enjoy the outcomes

First hand success

Helen has seen the results of its success first hand.

“It was simply brilliant witnessing the children's enthusiastic engagement with the project.

The dual objectives of fostering a connection to local heritage and inspiring young players beyond their initial school classes were a huge success – kindling an appreciation for mining traditions but also sparking conversations with families about their coal mining connections, creating a meaningful cultural link.”

The dual objectives of fostering a connection to local heritage and inspiring young players beyond their initial school classes were a huge success

Legacy

Those were sentiments echoed by Alex Francis, Lead Officer at Barnsley Music Service, who praised the collaboration, highlighting Grimethorpe's importance as a music hub partner. 

’A Grimethorpe Adventure’  is an accessible, exciting suite of short pieces that seamlessly aligns with pupils' wider curriculum. It’s a striking example of Grimethorpe's mission to inspire, educate, and build a cultural legacy, fostering a deep appreciation for music and heritage in the hearts of the next generation.”


Crookes Band has also been revitalised 

Crookes revitalised

Over the past year, Grimethorpe has actively engaged in joint efforts and concert performances with bands such as Tapton School Brass Band, Maltby Miners Welfare Youth Band, Dobcross Youth, Grimethorpe & District Band, and the Barnsley Metropolitan Brass Band.

In an exciting additional development, they have also taken a proactive role in reviving Crookes Brass Band in Sheffield – 86 years since it closed its doors.

In an exciting additional development, they have also taken a proactive role in reviving Crookes Brass Band in Sheffield – 86 years since it closed its doors.

Now, every Wednesday evening (7.30pm) players converge to learn from Grimethorpe tutors, marking a significant revival of musical culture in the community.

An inaugural concert is scheduled for April, featuring Grimethorpe principal cornet, Jamie Smith, and there are hopes they will also return to the Whit Friday contests.

All ages and abilities

Richard Windle believes that the success of the rejuvenation of Crookes Brass Band has shown that education outreach is for all ages and all players. 

“Our dedication to education also fosters musical communities at all levels. Through these collaborations from primary schools to local community bands show that.

We want to be a guiding force, a leader, in shaping the trajectory of the great brass band movement

Grimethorpe Colliery Band symbolises a rich legacy of course, but it also symbolises a resolute determination to secure a wider, vibrant brass band future and to give back to the art form that has shaped our identity. 

We want to be a guiding force, a leader, in shaping the trajectory of the great brass band movement. Education is the conduit for nurturing young talent, but so too is inclusiveness with all parts of our communities. We seek to contribute to a future where the vibrant sounds of brass bands resonate across generations. 

Grimethorpe aspires to be a beacon, inspiring other organisations to prioritise education, community engagement, and the cultivation of young talent for the collective benefit of the brass band community.”

Iwan Fox 


‘A Grimethorpe Adventure’ is available for free download at: https://grimethorpeband.co.uk/grimethorpe-adventure/

You can donate to help Grimethorpe’s work at: https://grimethorpeband.enthuse.com/donate#!/

For more information on Grimethorpe’s education initiatives email Education Lead, Jim Fletcher at: education@grimethorpeband.com

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