40 not out – Uppermill Band to celebrate landmark birthday with anniversary concert

WHEN it comes to brass banding Uppermill Band is a mere infant compared to some Saddleworth senior citizens.

Boarshurst Silver Band, Greenfield was formed in 1849, Delph Band 12 months later and Dobcross Silver Band in 1875.

Uppermill may be still youngsters compared to their musical neighbours but this year’s 40th anniversary celebrations promise to be quite an occasion.

The highlight will be on Saturday, May 4 at Uppermill Civic Hall when members past and present gather for a special anniversary concert.

But 2019 has already been special for an often-nomadic group of musicians formed initially in March 1979 as a youth band under the tutelage of Ted Tooley and Arthur Cooper, the latter becoming the Band’s first president.

Competing at the North West regional championships in Blackpool, Uppermill qualified for the national finals and also secured promotion to the second section from January 2020.

Arthur’s home was used as the band’s first rehearsal space. There have been plenty more over the past four decades: the backroom of a chip shop, the Parochial Church Lee St, the Methodist Church, Buckley’s Mill, the Spiritualist’s Church – all in Uppermill – as well as Austerlands and Saddleworth cricket clubs.

To bring a band into existence in an area saturated with this type of music called for vision, courage and hard work accompanied by enthusiasm and some would say foolhardiness!

A committee consisting of parents with little knowledge of brass bands or musical knowledge set about to raise funds.

Instruments were begged or borrowed and after this inauspicious start the band began to progress rapidly. Numbers continued to swell to 83 players aged between seven and 14.

Now known as Uppermill Band and with the introduction of some adult players the band was able to enter local contests with increasing success.

Harold Robinson led Uppermill to its first qualification for the National finals in London in 1988 and the prestigious Pontins finals in the same year. The baton for the two finals was with Eric Landon.

It was at this point the band was offered rehearsal facilities at Austerlands Cricket Club, which was to become a permanent base for five years.

Peter Weston led the band to its second consecutive qualification to the National finals in 1989 culminating in promotion to the third section.

At this stage the band had six players in the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain.

In 1991, the band took up rehearsal facilities at Uppermill Conservative Club.

Following Peter’s retirement, Jim Hunter took up the baton and led the band for more than 10 years before being succeeded by Simon Wood whose brief tenure resulted in national finals qualification.

In 2007, Uppermill moved to Greenfield. Or to be more precise Saddleworth Cricket, Bowling and Tennis Club.

For the next 18 months members transformed the old tennis pavilion into a modern, bright and acoustically sound band room boasting a fully equipped music library, wardrobe and storage space together with brand new toilet facilities.

During Alan Widdop’s tenure as musical director the band qualified for the 2007 and 2008 national finals finishing runners-up in 2008.

Success continued in 2010 with a fourth consecutive triumph at the Buxton Festival and a fourth consecutive victory at the Pontins Championships-the only band in the UK to achieve this in the long history of the contest.

In January 2011, promotion to the second session was attained. In 2011/12 promotion was secured to the first section from January 2013, the first time in the band’s history.

Alan announced his retirement in 2016 and following auditions Dean Redfern accepted the role of MD.

Having been a player and chairman of Brighouse, Dean comes with immense experience which he’s keen to share with the Band.

In 2018, Uppermill took best third section band on the Saddleworth Whit Friday circuit. The band was also placed in the top three at every contest entered, culminating in a first place at the Yorkshire & Humberside contest in November.

The concert features conductor Dean Redfern, guest conductor, Derek Broadbent plus guest soloists Helen and Glyn Williams. The evening will be compered by Gilbert Symes.

Tickets cost £10, £8 for concessions and £5 for under 16s. They are available from Uppermill Post Office or via John Ward on 07855 869295.

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