Sometimes it might seem as if I’m a little detached from what is going on in the world – yesterday I did a huge long post without mentioning Remembrance Sunday. I think this is because when I write on here I’m often looking back on what has happened – today I feel compelled to write about yesterday.
Me and the hubby went to the Cenotaph in Barrow for the service – I’ve played in so many Remembrance Sunday services – when I was a child in Leicester, Unity Brass Band used to play every year at Victoria Park. Although I can’t say I enjoyed it – it involved playing hymns, marching and standing for a long time, usually in the rain (and anyone who knows me will know what a terrible leaner I am – I find it really hard to stand up without leaning on something) I still did it every year. When I moved to Barrow, I started to play with the Barrow Shipyard Band every year at the Cenotaph.
This year, the Barrow Shipyard Band have ceased to exist. All of their kit, instruments and uniform have passed to the junior band which is thriving with 36 members. So I was interested to see which band were playing and it was the Barrow Steelworks Band. There were about 12 of them, and I went and introduced myself to the conductor Ian Bird, who I’ve not actually spoken to before. We agreed it would be good to collaborate – the Steelworks are struggling for players as well and would like to encourage some young people to join, and I want to support the last remaining brass band in Barrow.
I felt really sad on Sunday – obviously it is quite a sad occasion anyway, but it got me thinking about brass bands and the part they play in the local community. I didn’t see one general member of the public go and thank the band for playing the hymns for the service. Nobody really seemed to notice they were there. The band didn’t seem bothered about this, they packed up and went good naturedly. But what will happen when the last town band dies out, which it will do, unless something drastic changes. Who will play the hymns in November then? What will happen to all those years of tradition – the jackets, the name of the band, which always carries a weight of history with it – the Shipyard Band, the Steelworks Band.
Youth bands seem to be flourishing – I started a beginner band last week for primary school pupils and 43 children turned up. As I’ve said before, the junior band which I also run has 36 members and is closed to new members now because we can’t fit any more in. Why isn’t this translating into the adult bands? I don’t know, although I have my theories. I’ve also not been teaching long enough to see what happens to the kids. I guess they go away to university – whether they join a band as adults and help keep the brass band tradition going remains to be seen.