Astley Unlimited Band, based at Leigh near Manchester has returned to musical action following a frustrating 16-month period of lockdown, with a wonderful public performance.
The ensemble band has been working in partnership with the Lancashire Mining Museum, using open sided marquees to rehearse underneath the only surviving pit head gear in the historic Lancashire coalfield.
The first of these rehearsals was held this week, with around 40 members being split into two groups.
Astley Unlimited, is part of the Astley Youth Band organisation and was formed around 5 years ago.
Their membership means that they can rehearse just about at any time of the day or night — an 'all inclusive' policy that has seen them attract players of all ages, standards and backgrounds who are able to fit music making into their personal schedules.
The bands have only played together once since February 2020, but now, as restrictions potentially ease further they plan more outdoor rehearsals at the site, and hope to be joined by the organisation's choir later this month, as they prepare for their annual prize-giving night.
Lancashire Mining Museum recently opened a small railway at the site, and on the day of Astley's rehearsal the site unveiled a new memorial dedicated to all mineworkers who lost their lives in the industry.
It marked the anniversary of a number of fatal accidents, including one at the Astley on June 6th, 1939 when five people are killed in a fire at the pit.
Six members of the band stayed on after practice to play at the ceremony, performing the Miners hymn 'Gresford' and with Mark Harrison (above) performing the 'Last Post' after the monument was revealed to the public.
The bands and choir will continue to rehearse at the museum until the end of July and hope to hold their concert on Saturday, July 10th4BR
The bands and choir will continue to rehearse at the museum until the end of July and hope to hold their concert on Saturday, July 10th.
In September, they are also looking forward to resuming rehearsals at Astley Christian Fellowship Church, allowing all the groups to rehearse on the same site for the first time.