I was so excited to be cataloguing the programmes for the Ardwick Hippodrome. I had heard so much about it from my parents and my aunts and uncles. I was especially looking forward to seeing famous names on the programmes. I was surprised to see that it was originally called the Ardwick Empire and was […]
The brass band movement is a national movement. Yet, in the popular imagination, brass bands are considered working class and northern. My latest article published in the journal Northern History examines the roots of this cliché. The link to the full article can be found here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0078172X.2016.1254379
The abstract and opening paragraph of the article are shown below.
In spite of being a national form of music-making, the brass band movement is accepted — almost without question in the popular imagination — as working class and northern. Hence, in 1974, Peter Hennessy described a band contest at the Albert Hall: ‘A roll call of the bands is like an evocation of industrial history. From Wingates Temperance and Black Dyke Mills to more modern conglomerates …. Grown men, old bandsmen say, have been known to cry at the beauty of it all …. Of all the manifestations of working-class culture, nothing is more certain than a brass band to bring on an attack of the George Orwells. Even the most hardened bourgeois cannot resist romanticising the proletariat a little when faced with one. (The Times, 11 Oct. 1974) This stereotype, which emerged in the nineteenth century, generated the following questions about northern identity: what elements in the brass band movement created this reportage of northern bandsmen and how did bands, which thrived in large numbers in the Southern Pennines, emerge as a musical and cultural metonym of the industrial landscape? This article explores notions of music-making and the creation of a musical space, place and region through the reporting of brass bands c. 1840–1914.
In spite of being a national movement brass bands have become a clichéd representation of northern working-class identity.[i] Writing in the Daily Herald in 1963, Dennis Potter wrote a review of a play by Ron Watson called Man of Brass. The play starred Jimmy Edwards, who played Ernie Briggs, a B-flat bass player, who preferred playing in brass bands to staying at home with his wife. Potter captured the tone of the play by writing, ‘this “northern saga” grimly celebrating slate-grey rain and polished euphoniums was firmly in the eh-bah-goom heritage of North Country humour.’[ii] As Dave Russell maintains, this image of the northern working-class brass band ‘has become so taken for granted in the national comic grammar that it is easy to smile (or wince) and move on.’[iii] The aim this article is not to move on but to pause and ask questions about these assumptions. When and how did Southern Pennine Brass Bands become a metonym for the industrial north? What elements combined to create this clichéd identity? Through an examination of the brass band movement’s journals and external commentary I will show that the origin of the brass bands’ cliché of ‘northernness’ was a construction that grew from the reporting of bands c. 1840-1914. In spite of the national nature of brass bands commentators singled out the Southern Pennine bands as a symbol of not only northern music-making, but also a representation of northern industry and production over, and in contrast to, what reporters saw, however fancifully, as the unmusical and unproductive south.
Notes and References:
[i] The British Bandsman’s Easter Contest listing from 1903 is indicative of the high amount of national brass band activity. Contests were held, for example, at: Mountain Ash, Carlisle, Abergavenny, Compstall, Stourbridge, Senghenyyd, Barnet, Wigan, Rugby, Lewisham, Colne, South Hetton, Elsecar, Ilkley, Lindley, Pwlleheli and Rotherham. Source: British Bandsman, 18 Apr. 1903, pp. 124-127.
[ii] Quoted in the British Bandsman, 7 Dec. 1963, cited in, D. Russell, Looking North: Northern England and the National Imagination (Manchester, 2004), p. 2.
[iii] Ibid., p. 2.
“Mungoe’s Christmas Adventures”
From the Cornet, 15 January, 1900, p. 3.
This time a vaary owd friend ov mine, Billy Blowtop, came to spend a few days with us. Billy ewst to play t’ cornopean in t’ band in t’owd days,when ahh yewst to play t’ buzzoon. He turned up this time reight enuff at Kersmas Eve. We gav him a warm welcome, en after we’d hed a good meeal en toosted wer knees in t’front ov t’fire en tawked aboot t’owd times oover a glass ov toddy, we tewk a walk into t’taan. We called attwo or three haases, en Billy met a few own friends that he hedn’t seen for many a year. Ov course we’d to hev a glass with ’em all, en there wor soa much to talk abaat wol it wor turnin’ aght time afore we fairly knew where we wor….
We wor up in good time in t’morning, en when t’band came to play at Aah’r haase we wor sittin comfortable in front of a good fire; we were feet on t’fender, wer glasses ov toddy at t’side on us, an we woor smookin real Have Hannahs. They played us a few nice tewnes, en Billy seemed sewted wol his een fair dazzen led….
After t’ dinner we made it up to hev a walk en hear some of t’other bands in t’district, soa we made wer way to Burstal, where we fan em in good form, en knockin on en makin brass fast. We had a liquor up with em en then wemade wer way to Drighlington, en we walked abaat a good bit, but could hear nowt of t’band, soa we called at a pub to mak enquiries….(More drinking with bandsmen.)
After another haar or two of fun t’ landlord came in and said he’d a conveyance at t’door ready for us. There was a flat spring cart covered wi straw en plenty ov rugs to lap us with, so we gat on an laid daan en covered us en we must have fallen asleep…. [When got home] Just then t’door opened, en t’wife came en said, “Helloa, what hav we here?” but t’driver jumped on his cart, an hes he wor drivin off he shaated, “You’ll find ’em all theer, missis, sooart ’em aght for yorsen.”
Merry Christmas to my followers, friends and colleagues.
“That Minutes of Last Meeting Pass as Read”: Helmshore Public Prize Band’s Committee Meeting Minutes, A Case Study of ‘Life as Normal’ and ‘Moral Contracts’ in the First World War Dr Stephen Etheridge Helmshore Public Prize Brass Band were formed in the 1870s and were active in East Lancashire’s Rossendale Valley in the late nineteenth […]
via “That Minutes of Last Meeting Pass as Read”: Helmshore Public Prize Band’s Committee Meeting Minutes, A Case Study of ‘Life as Normal’ and ‘Moral Contracts’ in the First World War — Making Music in Manchester during WW1
Just before WW1, a photograph of five members of the London Symphony Orchestra returning from the 1912 tour of USA on the liner SS Potsdam, reveals very close connections with Manchester. Prof John Miller Jesse Stamp, Harry Barlow, John Bridge, Walter Hatton, Arthur Gaggs (front) on board the SS Potsdam in 1912.[i] Jesse Stamp […]
The First Manchester Children’s Society Concert, 1916: Royal Manchester College of Music (RMCM) Graduates, Children and Keeping Music-Making Alive? By Dr Stephen Etheridge Through an examination of the first Manchester Children’s Society Concert, which was held in 1916, this blog will show how the Victorian ethos of ‘Rational Recreation’ still existed, and, as an agency […]
The Manchester Local Image Collection contains over 80,000 online images of Manchester’s people, streets and buildings stretching right back to the nineteenth century. It’s a great way to access our local history and get a glimpse into what life in Manchester looked like many years ago. One of the local history Facebook groups recently posted up an […]
Today I am launching a crowd funding project to support my new research that explores the influence of women in brass and military bands c. 1940-1960.
The aim of this research project is to gain a fuller understanding of the role of women in brass and military bands, c. 1940-1960. This research bridges a gap between the Second World War and the upsurge of debate surrounding gender in the 1970s. As such this work not only contributes to the chronology of brass and military bands, but also significantly adds to the debate around issues of gender, status and identity. This project is indeed interdisciplinary.
This research will take eight months of visits to national and local archives. I am hoping to raise enough for travel, accommodation and some subsistence. I see this research being a journal article in a key musicology or social history journal. If you would like to fund this research that will be a substantial contribution to the scholarship of gender, please follow this link.
Saturday night dancing! Who doesn’t remember the excitement and the joyful days of Saturday nights in Blackpool during the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s? “I was under age to go dancing…
Source: The Dance Trains
The Greater Manchester Sound Archive is the new collection of sounds at Archives+ , Central Library in Manchester. It is a rich sonic treasure trove charting the socio-political history of the city…