A look back at days long gone 
 
Band ranks depleted
Newark has a long and proud tradition of producing fine brass and silver bands.

In years gone by the Newark Borough Band and the Newark British Legion Band acquired excellent reputations in the town while today the NSK-RHP Ransome Band, the Newark Salvation Army Band and the Reds and Greys Youth Marching Band are continuing the tradition to the delight of many.

This month yet another of Newark's present day brass bands, the Newark Town Band, comes under the spotlight with a recruitment drive and exhibition of Newark Library.

Formed more than 40 years ago in 1956, the Newark Town Band became one of the town's most successful competition bands in the Sixties and Seventies, winning prestigious awards at shows up and down the country.

The town band is also noted for its enviable record of encouraging membership among young people, being a tradition established right at the outset by its founder, Mr Bob English. Mr English was a music teacher and acted as brass instructor for schools in the Newark area.

Up until the mid-Fifties he had been an active member of both the Ransome and Marles and Newark British Legion bands, but when the latter closed down in 1956 he quickly realised that there were now very few outlets for the wealth of musical talent that he knew existed around the town.

A meeting was held in December 1956 and under the auspices of Mr English a fund was established for the creation of a new town band.

Instruments were obtained (initially on loan) from the recently defunct Southwell Band, with additional funds being obtained through ad hoc performances at carol concerts around Christmas 1956.

These succeeded in raising sufficient capital for the band to rent its first rehearsal room at the Spread Eagle pub in Middlegate. During 1957 the band developed rapidly with many youngsters joining from local schools.

Their first official public engagement came on a Sunday evening in March 1958 at the Savoy cinema in Middlegate.

The cinema was packed to capacity and the audience treated to a selection of light and popular music played, it was said, with great expertise.

Interest in the town band at this time was considerable and, as an indication of the success of Bob English's concern to involve young players, several local schools began to form their own bands - the first was at Sconce Hills school.

The Newark Town Band became a regular feature at civic events around the town, accompanying the annual Christmas carol services in the parish church, concerts at the Town Hall and Palace Theatre, and on summer Sunday afternoons, open-air concerts in the castle grounds.

Activity reached such a level that alongside its performing activities the band began to develop a social life all of its own.

There was a ladies' section (composed of the wives and mothers of bandsmen) who worked hard in raising funds, a junior section (which operated as a youth club) and even a football team.

Entry to band competitions began in 1969 when the Newark Town Band played at both the Buxton and Belle Vue contests. No prizes were won on these first outings, but a year later the band gained first place in the Fourth Section categories of both the City of Leicester and Wills Championships.

The latter gave them automatic entry to the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain held at the Royal Albert Hall in April 1971, where they turned in a most creditable performance narrowly missing victory in their section by a mere two points. It was a performance, however, which was quite sufficient to ensure their promotion from the fourth to the third section.

Here they gained fourth place in the Midland heat of the national championships in 1973 and fifth place in 1974. In 1980 the band moved from its rehearsal building in the Friary grounds to the old stables at the Ossington Hotel on Beastmarket Hill.

Further moves followed - to a room above the Co-op on Kirkgate and to the Woolpack Inn on Stodman Street - before they settled into their current premises at the Hawtonville Community Centre.

Numbers began to decline. Some younger members left to go to university while other key players were lost through career changes or, in some cases, through being offered appointments to play professionally.

One member, Mr Ian Greaves, went on to join the Household Cavalry's mounted band and played with them for more than 20 years and Mr George Smith joined the brass ensemble of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Newark Town Band had done a magnificent job in training them, but began to find its own ranks sadly depleted. From a full complement of 24 musicians there are today only about eight regular members and the band is in desperate need of new players.

Young or old, beginner or pro, Newark Town Band is interested in hearing from anyone who wishes to become involved in brass band music and who is willing to join them for future engagements.

Full tuition will be given and new recruits do not even need to own their own instruments - they can use one of those already owned by the band. Anyone interested in becoming a member should pick up a leaflet from the band's exhibition at Newark Library or contact secretary Mr Paul Francis on 01636 700813 or Adrian Crampton, 07960 607241.

ABOVE: Where are they now? Newark Town Band pictured at the height of its success in the early Eighties, left to right, back row: Herbert Friskney, Dorothy Wood, David Kirby; third row: unknown, David Dawkin, Colin Burwood, David Wood, Linda Walker; second row: Reddford English (son of the band's founder), Richard Wood, Andrew Winfield, Paul Fletcher, Alan Dobbs, Barry Fletcher, Kevin Kirkham; front Row: Ian Greaves, Russell Redford, Michael Parker, David Gatiss, Walter Ritchie (musical director), Peter Footitt, Alan Ritchie, unknown and Graham Walker.
 

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