Marquee signals the brilliant return of brass at Birkwood

A great idea, a wonderful donation, lots of brasstastic children and teacher Mike Dodd wrapped up warm means the sound of brass has returned to Birkwood Primary School.

  The children can now enjoy brass ensemble practice together with Mr Dodd

Thanks to the fantastic generosity of a local donor the youngsters at Birkwood Primary School have been able to return to playing in their brass ensembles groups as part of their musical education.

The children returned to school in September, but due to the Coronavirus pandemic precautions meant that they could not start back straight away with their brass tuition from former Grimethorpe solo euphonium star Michael Dodd.

Outside marquee

However, the combination of a brilliant idea, that wonderful donation and Mr Dodd's willingness to wear multi layers of warm clothing when he teaches, meant the children have now been back playing in a special outside marquee — and enjoying every minute of it since.

The school's brass coordinator Esther Sutton-Smith told 4BR that the return of brass has made a hugely positive impact on the children.

"I think it was approximately an hour or so into our return after six months at home that the first question being asked by the children was not about school meals or play time breaks but when was Mr Dodd returning to start his lessons again!"

Music rich diet

Esther added: "Barnsley Music Hub has been amazing throughout lockdown and we have been fortunate that our children have a 'music rich' diet and access to the arts that they all love. It's made a huge positive impact on everyone with our Birkwood Brass ensemble at the heart of it."

Individual lessons were soon organised with appropriate safeguarding measures and rules in place, with children taught alongside their peers from their class bubble only.

Esther continued: "I'm blessed with a head teacher Julie Allen MBE who supports my 'crazy' brass band plans every step of the way and fully recognises the positives of a rich musical education for our pupils and enables inclusive opportunities for all.

We also wanted to start our 20 strong brass ensemble Birkwood Brass off outside when the weather was nice, so Mr Dodd was soon conducting in the open air at 9.05am in the morning and sound was heard over the area for the first time in nearly half a year.

It was amazing — especially as the school isn't far from Grimethorpe Band's bandhall. The children kept asking if they could hear them!

It was such an uplifting experience, but we knew it couldn't last forever as the weather was getting colder and it had rained a few times.

Then came the idea from Mr Dodd about a marquee and the news that we had received a donation that would help us pay for one!"

All the children think he's the coolest (and coldest) teacher in the world now with his scarves and jackets — but he never stops smiling and encouraging4BR

Idea into reality

With the support of her head teacher and by making sure children could be taught safely in their socially distanced bubbles, the idea became a reality.

"Everyone's been buzzing since,"Esther added. "We sourced the marquee that has the space and ventilation, and the company even came and set it up for us in time for the very next rehearsal.

The gentleman who gave us the money is thrilled that it has been used in this way and the joy it will bring to children in the local community. Perhaps some of that famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band spirit has been shown with the children as they are so determined to get back to playing.

This Thursday I could hear 'Death or Glory' echoing out across our community. Michael has selected this newest piece for lots of relevant reasons.

All the children think he's the coolest (and coldest) teacher in the world now with his scarves and jackets — but he never stops smiling and encouraging."


The school is now hoping to raise funds to put down flooring to stop chairs sinking into the grass.

"We have more to do of course, but we will wrap up warm and keep playing — its makes us all so happy to be playing music together again!"

Become a supporter and help make our future secure.

4barsrest continues to be a proudly independent voice. There are no paywalls to overcome to be able to enjoy what we do to keep our journalism at the heart of the brass banding world. Support us with a one-off donation or subscribe from just £2.50 per month.

Support us    

Nick Prince

Prince to use experience in Germany

September 24 • Trombonist Nick Prince will strengthen his musical links to help the development of German brass players.


Extension to entry date for Butlin's Festival

September 24 • The deadline date for entries has now been extended by a month for the 2022 Butlin's Open Brass Band Festival.


New lead at Blaenavon

September 24 • Dr Christian Jenkins will spearhead the exciting musical developments at Blaenavon Town Band.

Stan Smith

Death of Stan Smith

September 24 • The death has been announced of Stan Smith — a leading performer with Fountain City Brass Band.

Contest: Lower Section National Finals

Sunday 19 September • The Centaur, Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury, Cheltenham, GL40 4SH

Bodmin Town Band - Bodmin Town Band in concert

Friday 24 September • St Petroc's Church, Priory Road, Bodmin PL31 2DT

Regent Hall Concerts - RAF Central Band Brass Ensemble & Seraphim Consort

Thursday 30 September • Regent Hall (The Salvation Army). 275 Oxford Street. London. WC1 2 DJ WC1 2 DJ

Regent Hall Concerts - Fulham Band

Friday 1 October • Regent Hall (The Salvation Army). 275 Oxford Street. London. WC1 2 DJ WC1 2 DJ

Regent Hall Concerts - Bone-afide Trombone Quartet

Friday 1 October • Regent Hall (The Salvation Army). 275 Oxford Street. London. WC1 2 DJ WC1 2 DJ

Lindley Band

September 21 • SOLO HORN required in our friendly First Section band which enjoys a balanced mix of concerts and contests. We are located just 1 mile from M62 Jcn 24. Post Code HD3 3JE Rehearsals are Monday and Wednesday evenings 8.00 to 10.00pm.

Greenfield Brass Band

September 21 • We are looking for an MD to take the band forward into 2022 and beyond. We have a varied selection of concerts and contests in the diary including a trip to play at the Menin Gate in August 2022.. We currently rehearse Monday & Thursday (8pm-10pm)

Kippax Band

September 21 • Kippax Band have a vacancy for front row cornet players and percussionist. Fresh from the national finals and newly promoted to the 2nd section in the Yorkshire area. The band are keen to push on next year after the enforced layoff.

Chris King

MBA, BMus(Hons), LRSM, AoBBA
Conductor, Arranger, Adjudicator, Compere, Band Trainer


 © 2021 4barsrest.com Ltd