I am thrilled to become Grimethorpe Colliery Band’s Honorary President in its centenary year.
The band has experienced severe challenges in its 100-year history, not least when Grimethorpe’s colliery closed in 1992. This could have signalled the end, but with determination it survived and adapted. Its story was immortalised in the 1996 film “Brassed Off”, and as many of us know, the band played on screen alongside the actors throughout the production. After the film’s box office success, the band was invited to perform at the 50th BAFTA Awards ceremony to a star-studded audience at the Royal Albert Hall in 1997. 21 years after it first appeared, the film has not lost any of its appeal, and I was extremely honoured to join some members of the cast to witness the band and members of the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra performing the soundtrack ‘live’ during a screening of the film to a packed Royal Albert Hall on 9th May this year – a sensational evening mixing live music, good humour and powerful political film-making.
This iconic band has contributed so much to Britain’s artistic and cultural life throughout its long history, and I have attended rehearsals and performances, and met many members of the band, on several occasions.
Grimethorpe Colliery Band has always been a trailblazer: it was one of the two bands to first perform at the BBC Promenade concerts in the Royal Albert Hall (1974) and the very first band to play in the European Parliament Building in Strasbourg (1997). Over the decades it has been no stranger to television and film audiences, appearing at some of Britain’s most prestigious national and international events. The band has been centre stage at of such events as the Eurovision Song Contest and the FA Cup final at Wembley and has toured the world from Japan to Australia, from Africa to Hong Kong and New Zealand as well as to many European countries closer to home. In spite of all its success, however, the band remains firmly rooted in the village of Grimethorpe in South Yorkshire where its band room is located.
Grimethorpe band has regularly been a source of creative inspiration for some of Britain’s leading composers including Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Sir Michael Tippett, as well international composers such as Hans Werner Henze. Many of the works which resulted from such composers collaborating with the band have become noteworthy contributions to Brass Band literature and have been immortalised under the baton of the legendary Elgar Howarth in recordings with the band.
The band today, beyond its own artistic goals and excellence, is committed to mentoring and training young brass and percussion players so as to create opportunities for future generations – hence it has created a Grimethorpe Youth Band Summer Course. Beyond this, the band is also involved in a number of local initiatives to enhance musical training for school-age children.
Grimethorpe Colliery Band is part of Yorkshire’s and our country’s cultural fabric, successfully blending a glorious past with vision and openness to the future. I look forward to working with them to secure a sound financial future and ensure that they continue to be able to entertain and delight audiences all over Yorkshire, the UK and the world. I invite you to join us at one of our musical events and share in their unique and inspiring story.