2017: Upcoming Papers, Publications & Research


Ever since I began my PhD, back in 2007, and finally graduated in 2015, December and January have proved to be busy times not only for research, but also for writing and conferences. So it has proved to be this year. Why the darkest time of the year is the busiest, I have no idea. Nevertheless, here is an outline of current papers, publications and research for 2017.

January the 21st will find me at the University of Durham where I will be giving a paper at the conference: A Great Divide or a Longer Nineteenth Century? Music, Britain and the First World War. This paper is based on research carried out for the Royal Northern College of Music’s project Making Music in Manchester during World War One. The paper will argue that the repertoire played in Manchester’s Public Parks during the conflict reinforced a Victorian ideal of nation and patriotism. The abstract is shown below:

Conference theme number four: In what ways did popular music—whether repertoire, performers, or the industry—change because of the war? In what ways did it carry on Edwardian and Victorian traditions?

 Brass Band Music, Contests and Entertainment in Manchester’s Public Parks in World War One: Reinventing Repertoire, Patriotism and Tradition?

Manchester was the gathering point for brass bands in the industrial regions surrounding Manchester. From the 1840s the growth of brass bands in the region was rapid. In spite of being a national movement, by 1914, the British Bandsman stated that ‘it could not be denied that the cradle of the brass band was on the slopes of the Pennine Chain.’[1] During the war years Manchester was significant for bands because the British ‘Open’ Contest at Belle Vue Gardens was the only large contest that kept going. In addition, bands played regularly in Manchester’s public parks.

1913 was a watershed year for the brass band movement. Labour and Love, Percy Fletcher’s tone poem, was performed at the Crystal Palace Contest.[2] Labour and Love was significant as it was composed music of some substance that was available to all bands.[3] It was the first test piece that was composed for the standardised brass band line-up and that the sources can account for fully. Composers such as Elgar and Bliss would soon follow.

In spite of the brass band movement moving away from its standard repertoire I will show that not only did older working-class traditions of music-making reinforce Victorian and Edwardian values in the public space, but also that public performance encouraged patriotism by reinventing patriotic themes found throughout British history.

.[1] British Bandsman (18 April, 1914), p. 349.

[2] Jack L. Scott, The Evolution of the Brass Band and its Repertoire in Northern England (unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Sheffield, 1970), p. 267.

[3] Paul Hindmarsh,’Building a Repertoire: Original Compositions for the British Brass Band, 1913-1998’, in, Trevor Herbert (Ed.), The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History (Oxford,2000), p. 248.

February will be publication time and I have a piece coming out in the respected journal Northern History.

The article,  Southern Pennine Brass Bands and the Creation of Northern Identity, c. 1840-1914: Musical Constructions of Space, Place and Region examines the ‘northernness’ of brass bands as as constructed metonym in popular culture.

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, writing The Times, 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 romanticizing the proletariat a little when faced with one.

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.

Ongoing research for 2017 includes women in brass and military bands, masculinity and militarism in the brass band, and a biography of a well-known Victorian singing teacher. I am also being drawn towards local rock music, and an exploration of discos in the 1980s. 

So, for someone without a full-time position, it feels full-time. Keeping in the loop, that’s the key to moving forwards in academia, I think.



Unpacking the Archives for A Seminar

A Nice Find

I am currently leading a series of three adult-education seminars at Heritage Quay Archive Centre, at the University of Huddersfield, called, Slate-Grey Rain and Polished Euphoniums: Brass Bands, the Working Class and the North, c. 1840-1914. The rationale behind the seminars is that we dig deep into the British Music Collection, held at Heritage Quay, in the University of Huddersfield, and examine why brass bands are considered, almost without question, in the popular imagination, a metonym of northern working-class culture. (The link to Heritage Quay and the course is here: http://heritagequay.org/events/1742-2016-02-03/

In the first seminar we explored the North of England as a musical region. In other words we discovered that the manufacturing districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire had long been regarded as a centre of excellence for the amateur performance of instrumental, band, orchestral (of sorts) and choral music since at least the 1820s, and that a long oral tradition of folk music had been known for centuries. Brass bands had a secure foundation on which to build a musical reputation.

The next seminar will examine the elements found in the performance of brass music that  created a recognisable working-class culture. An ‘invention of tradition’ if you like that was created by how bandsmen learnt to play their instruments.

In theoretical terms the seminar shows how novice bandsmen were reliant on skills and methods that were passed down by other bandsmen. Music was taught through a semi-oral transmission of technique which disseminated advice from tutors through a selection of brass band periodicals, band trainers and more experienced bandsmen. As Pierre Bourdieu described wider working-class educational experiences, the educational level and social origin of the bandsmen resulted in bandsmen creating their own cultural preferences.[1] As Bourdieu argued, ‘this predisposes tastes to function as markers of class. The manner in which culture is acquired lives on in the manner of using it.’[2] Therefore, I argue that the novice brass player entered musical education with no other expectation than to be in a band, to become a bandsman. In other words, the culture of the music was there to produce the working-class bandsman. Writing in 1886 an author in the Musical World noticed that:

There are signs, indeed, of a movement, which must someday assume large proportions – a movement for providing good and cheap music for the poorer working classes […]. Now if there is one thing in the way of music that is dear to the heart of a Lancashire artisan, it is a brass band. It is the height of ambition with a lad to play in a band […]. From many a small cottage in country villages, or in the back streets of a Lancashire town, may be heard the mournful sounds of a cornet, or other wind instrument, as the mechanic struggles to make his evenings a preparation for harmonious concerts later on, when he shall have qualified for admission to the nearest amateur band he can find.[3]


In his attempt to ‘join the nearest amateur band he can find’, this novice bandsman was attempting to learn a code of competence that would allow him to understand the styles that were characteristic of the brass band movement.[4] The education that the novice received was central to this understanding

Below are  some archival pieces that will hopefully unpack these notions further. Or perhaps my students will argue against this basic outline?

The first archival piece is Wright and Round’s Amateur Band Teacher’s Guide and Bandsman’s Adviser, published in 1899. It was a collection of advice pieces made up from earlier editions of the Brass Band News. In the early twentieth century it had gone through at least twenty-two editions, and was in use in the 1920s.

The editors advocated the training methods in use among northern bands: theirs was ‘a synthesis of the systems on which the celebrated prize bands of Lancashire and Yorkshire [were] taught.’ How much, I wonder, will they agree that the notion of bands copying the ‘crack’ bands, such as Besses and Black Dyke Mills, created an environment where the oral-transmission of technique became significant when music lessons were out of reach for many bandsmen?




The next collection are brass band contest entry forms from the Belle Vue Contests from 1901-1910. These are representative of many aspects of working-class culture. The social aspects of ‘banding’, the community support, the development of leisure, the link with band contests and sport. In addition many bandsmen were ‘ringers’ for bands, having the ability to earn money. What did this mean for masculinity? The band contest was a place where all working-class life was found, even poverty. How, in other words, did bands become an arena where middle-class commentators could invent a quasi- anthropological reportage of the working class at leisure?

Many questions in one document

Just these two documents, and there are many more to show,  have opened up questions, of class, culture, community, region and gender. It’s a pity we have only got two hours for this session.


[1] Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, translated by Richard Nice (Paris, 1979, this edition, London, 1994), p. 1.

[2] Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 2.

[3] Musical World, 64/46 (3 November, 1886), p. 725.

[4] Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 2.

Selection of Guest Lectures

Shown below are a selection of conference papers and guest lectures that I have given. They cover all aspects of brass bands as an expression of class, culture, region and gender. I am available to give tuition, speak at guest lectures, or host seminars using these themes to explore social history and musicology. In addition a short adult education course about brass bands, class and regional identity is available. Please email me for more information.ugd0072


Where the Brass Band is Beloved: The Pennine Brass Band and the Working Class a Study of Cultural and Regional Association, 1840-1914


In 1974 Peter Hennessy reported on the National Brass Band Contest, at the Royal Albert Hall, he highlighted the metonyms of working-class cultural and industrial history that brass bands were capable of producing, writing:

A roll call of the bands is like an evocation of industrial history From Wingates Temperance and Black Dyke Mills to more modern conglomerates like the far from poetic Williams…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.

As Hennessy  suggested, whilst the brass band was a national musical experience for working people, that was also popular in the rest of the nation, most notably Cornwall, Scotland and Wales, it is most readily associated with, and indeed has become a cliché of northern working-class culture.  By 1914, The British Bandsman reflected on the fact that, ‘it could not be denied that the cradle of the brass band was on the slopes of the Pennine Chain.’Eric Hobsbawm argues that working-class traditions were invented from 1870 to 1914. The working-class world of labour with a capital L, cup-finals, fish-and-chip suppers, community singing,  performing  Messiah in crowded town halls and the palais-de-danse, that Richard Hoggart wrote bitter-sweet elegies about in the 1950s, all have their roots in memories of working-class life.  This paper will examine reportage of brass bands in the media from c.1880 to 1914, exploring the reasons why popular images of the brass band movement should centre themselves on the northern industrial working class.

Brass Instruments, Bandsmen and Working-Class Identity: Brass Bands in the Southern Pennines and the Creation of Working-Class Identity, c.1840-1900


In 1840, John Murgatroyd was the owner of Oats Royd’s Mill, near Halifax. He purchased seven brass instruments for a fledgling brass band, within ten years he had thirty three players and a number of Besson First Class instruments worth over a thousand pounds. The questions that arise from such philanthropy are how bandsmen in the area used such instruments to create a cultural working-class identity that is still with us today? What elements of musicianship and working-class identity came together by playing these instruments?

‘The Mournful Sounds of a Cornet….’ Music as a Lifelong Pursuit for Bandsmen in the Southern Pennines, c.1850-1914: Reflections on Working-Class Musical Traditions and the Reinforcement of Working-Class Masculinity through these Traditions.  


In 1888, the Musical World noticed brass players practicing so they could join a brass band, writing ‘….. From many a small cottage in country villages, or in the back streets of a Lancashire town, may be heard the mournful sounds of a cornet… as the mechanic struggles to make his evenings a preparation for harmonious concerts later on, when he shall have qualified for admission to the nearest amateur band he can find.’  Then a player could be a member of a band for life, a trait noticed by The Observer, when they wrote, ‘in old age he may end up with the BB flat bass, the deepest instrument of them all, requiring the lungs of a glassblower to fill it.’  This lifelong performance, then, not only created a working-class musical tradition, but also reinforced aspects of working-class masculinity common in the industrial north. This paper examines how the brass band created a metonym of working-class culture and identity that was a powerful expression of working-class masculinity.

‘Dancing was Afterwards­ Indulged In and Kept up Until a Late Hour’. The Pennine Brass Band as the Social Cement of the Community?­


In 1907, The Musical Herald wrote:

Where is Wingates? Where is Goodshaw? You don’t know. The same answer might be given regarding scores of villages whence bands came on Sept.28th to the Crystal Palace…. We have had bands for a generation past coming out of the unknown and making their villages famous.

The Musical Herald showed that despite large industrial output the Southern Pennines consisted of small communities. Brass bands were at the heart of community life. If not the reason for the community event, they were a constant presence at them.
Specifically, it was the band room that acted as a rallying point for the identity of the bands. This paper will show how the brass bands’ community identity grew from individual player, to instrumental section, to band. I show how the band room acted as the social cement that brought the communities musical identity together to represent the village in a larger area from c. 1850-1910. Cloud 14