History of Battle Town Band
The original band dates back well into the 19th Century. It was dissolved in 1939, at the onset of the Second World War. Research is underway into the band’s early years.
The Modern Band
The band was reformed in 1975, based around students from a brass evening class run by the then director Angela Holland. Progress was rapid, with the band growing in number and strength. In 1981, the baton was picked up by Peter Mitchell then, in 2003, by Jon Penton. Jon was succeeded by David Clark in 2014 and by John Cornford in 2015. From 1988 to 2007, the band ran an annual workshop and concert in the February half-term, featuring both a senior residential band and a junior band with guest conductors and soloists. Over this period we were fortunate to work with some of the greatest names in the banding world, including Gordon Higginbottom, Ray Farr, Frank Renton, Steve Sykes, Russell Gray, Roy Newsome, Simon Gunton, Keith Wilkinson, Jim Davis, Simone Rebello, Nick Hudson, Bill Rushworth, Richard Evans, Steven Mead, Alan Morrison, Glynn Williams, Shaun Crowther, Sheona White, Melvin White, Nigel Boddice, Rob Wiffin and Bob Childs, with whom the band performed at the Battle Festival.
The band’s concerts, under all its conductors, have been numerous and prestigious. They include the annual summer Proms in Alexandra Park, where the band supported a 100-voice choir in front of an audience of over 1000 (see the picture on the band’s website). Many visits to the famous bandstand at Eastbourne, where cannon effects accompanied the band’s playing of the 1812 Overture. A concert in Old Heathfield Church commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War 1. Two concerts in the 1066-era Pevensey church. Summer fetes at Catsfield, Winchelsea and Wartling. Annual Christmas and Summer concerts at The Battle Memorial Hall. Concerts at Deal and Sevenoaks bandstands. A concert at Heathfield in aid of the children’s charity, Demelza.
Local Band Contest
The band first took up the challenge of contesting when it entered the “Stars of Tomorrow” contest organised by the Southern Counties Amateur Bands’ Association in 1988, winning this contest the following year. This success encouraged the band to enter the SCABA Spring Contest in 1990, where it was awarded a creditable 4th place. Entering this contest regularly, the band was rewarded with 2nd place in the Third Section in 1993, 1st place in 1994, 1996 and 1997, and 3rd again in 1998. In 1994 the band entered the London & Southern Counties Regional Contest and finished mid-way amongst the 24 entries. 1999 was a very successful year, with the band regaining the SCABA Spring Contest 3rd Section title by three clear points. This was followed by a two-point win at the Autumn Contest at Folkestone, as well as winning the conductor’s prize and the best bass section trophy. In 2000, the band was invited to compete in the SCABA 2nd section and gained second place at the Spring contest, and again in the Autumn contest, together with the prize for the best horn section.
Contest Success on the National Stage
From 2004, the band has competed annually in the London & Southern Counties Region of the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain. In 2009, after a few years of mixed results, the band won the 4th Section with its performance of Frank Hughes’ The Talisman, and, in September, qualified to compete in the National Finals in Harrogate. Playing Bruce Fraser’s Alta Vista, the band came 12th out of 19 bands. In March 2010, the band again won the 4th Section of London & Southern Counties Regionals ( a rare feat!), playing Philip Sparke’s Saint-Saens Variations. Once again the band qualified for the National Finals in Harrogate where it came seventh out of twenty-one bands, playing Alan Fernie’s Royal Mile Suite. In 2011, the band was promoted to the 3rd Section, nationally, then, after the 2012 Regionals, where the band played Philip Harper’s Olympus, it was promoted to the 2nd section. In March 2013, the band was presented with its most formidable challenge, playing Edward Gregson’s The Plantagenets. The band was delighted to achieve fourth place. (All the pieces mentioned here can be heard on the band website.)
In the last few years, in common with some other bands, BTB has lost members and struggled to replace them. A band that, in its heyday, had up to 30 players, young and old, now has a core membership of between 12 and 15. The band’s very talented soloists (Principal Cornet, Soprano Cornet, Solo Eb Horn, Solo Eb Tuba, Flugal Horn and Solo Euphonium) remain, however. In 2016, the band took the decision to reform as a 10-12 piece brass ensemble, without a conductor. It is still in the market for smaller jobs, such as Christmas events and summer fetes. But, for the time being, the band is unable to perform the sort of concerts, such as Eastbourne bandstand and the Alexandra Park Proms, which have been such a prominent and enjoyable part of its history.