World’s oldest brass band could face extinction due to shortfall of players

  • Present brass band down to just fourteen players;
  • Open rehearsals to be held every Monday.
St Peters Catholic Church with Stalybridge Old Band, Armentieres Square, Stalybridge
Your Local Brass Band Needs You: Stalybridge Old Band, apart from playing numerous concerts, Whit Walks, and Whit Friday Brass Band Contests, performed during the Peterloo Massacre. Cuts in music education and the Tories’ penchant for non-creative subjects could jeopardise the band’s future. Here is Stalybridge Old Band, taking part in the 2014 Whit Walks in Armentieres Square.

Stalybridge Old Band are the World’s Oldest Brass Band. They have performed in the Peterloo Massacre, survived local government reorganisations, Thatcherism, and Michael Gove’s tenure as Education Secretary. From 1814 onwards, the band played on: even Adolf couldn’t stop the ‘Bridge Old Band from performing.

Today, the odds that have been stacked up against Stalybridge Old Band are greater than ever. The possibility of a no-deal Brexit could see arts funding slashed to the crumbs of the crumbs. Locally, traffic problems and swingeing cuts to the town’s rail services (and resultant unreliability) may have put off potential members.

As with most brass bands, players may leave for other bands due to personal reasons. Their journey to work or change in working hours may inhibit their chances of attending practice nights. They may have moved house or gone to university. Finding suitable replacements is a thankless task for any musical director irrespective of their section and contesting/non-contesting status.

This week, Stalybridge Old Band are calling for your help. The World’s Oldest Brass Band are short of nineteen players. A full brass band has 33 players plus the Musical Director. At present, the band has fourteen players which is enough for a ten-piece ensemble but not a fully-fledged brass band.

A brass band with a shortfall as bad as Stalybridge Old Band is unable to take part in local and national contests. This inhibits their standing in their respective sections. Without enough players, no concerts can be planned which restricts their earning potential. Relying on loanees – Deps as they are known in the brass band world – are dependant on each player’s goodwill and engagements with their band(s).

Without a full band, their presence in the community is diminished. The capacity to provide a full band for community events is undermined. It gives the impression that the town, village, or city does not care for its brass bands. With reduced funds, players, and status in the brass banding world, interest could wane, resulting in a merger with another band or their demise.

That Stalybridge Old Band is facing personnel problems should be seen as part of a national problem. Particularly with our government’s penchant for STEM subjects (Science, Technology, English and Mathematics) over creative subjects. Yet, Music should also be seen as a STEM subject as well as a creative subject. How can you read music without a basic grasp of mathematics? What about tempo and time signatures? Arrangement requires the same attention to detail used for building a website or a database.

Today, access to the arts is increasingly a preserve for more wealthy families. The areas that have suffered most from a drop in arts funding are, unsurprisingly working class areas. Where most of our brass bands are based. Since 2010, Stalybridge has suffered with drastic cuts to opening hours of the Astley Cheetham Art Gallery. Cuts in music tuition services have been made across the UK.

Brass bands play an important role in their communities. You could say the joy of a good concert and sense of accomplishment is good for mental health. Winning local and national contests is a source of local pride as well as nationwide and global fame. The town, village or city is in the public eye and any noble institution – like a brass band – draws people to the locality.

What if Stalybridge didn’t have its iconic brass band? It would be like going to a Rolling Stones gig without Mick Jagger. A massive, massive hole, several times larger than Electricity North West’s hole on Portland Place during August.

How you can help to save The World’s Oldest Brass Band

Starting this Monday, Stalybridge Old Band will have a series of Open Rehearsals at Stalybridge Old Band Club (above Judge’s Bar on Corporation Street). These will take place from 8pm to 10pm each Monday.

There has been previous recruitment drives for Stalybridge Old Band, promoted through more conventional channels. This year, things have reached a point where the Members and the Committee have taken a different approach. On his Facebook page, Musical Director David W. Ashworth said:

The Band has existed, in continuous operation, since it’s first public performance in 1814. Though there have been one or two name changes the Stalybridge Band has never ceased performing, including during both World Wars. They even played at the Peterloo gathering in August 1819.

However, during the last few months, we have lost several players due to University and work commitment etc, but now we are down to only 14 players.

We have tried through all normal channels to recruit players, but without success and now we are starting this appeal to Save the oldest Civilian Band in the World. It is in times like this that we realise that the stopping of our childrens Music Education is dangerously damaging the Brass Band Movement. Please help.

D.W. Ashworth, 14 September 2018.

In their appeal, the members and the committee of Stalybridge Old Band are calling for any brass musicians or helpers to lend a hand. They have also called for the return of ex-Stalybridge Old Band personnel. From this Monday onward, practice nights will be once weekly. Once the band has regrouped, they will revert to their twice weekly schedule. At this time of writing, there are vacancies for:

  • Solo Cornets (with the Principal seat available to the right person);
  • Second and Third cornets;
  • Flugelhorn;
  • Second Horn;
  • Solo Trombone;
  • Eb basses;
  • Bb basses;
  • Kit Percussionists; and
  • Tuned Percussionists.

If you are interested in joining The World’s Oldest Brass Band and in securing its future, please contact Musical Director David W. Ashworth on 07785 257129 or send an email to

Getting to Stalybridge Old Band bandroom

Stalybridge Old Band band room is situated on the first floor above Judge’s Bar on Corporation Street. It is just two to five minutes walk to the Armentieres Square bus stops, and five to seven minutes walk to the bus station off Market Street. It is also ten minutes walk from Stalybridge railway station.

Postal Address: Stalybridge Old Band, Judges Bar, Corporation Street, Stalybridge, Cheshire, SK15 2JL.

  • By Bus: 237 (from Glossop, Mottram and Ashton-under-Lyne), 348 (from Ashton-under-Lyne, Cockbrook, Copley, Millbrook, and Carrbrook), 389 (from Ashton-under-Lyne, Ridge Hill and Yew Tree estates, Newton, and Hyde) from Armentieres Square. Hourly 408 service available from Stalybridge bus station (from Hurst, Oldham, Royton, and Shaw). Please note that the last 340 service to Hyde, Dukinfield, Mossley, and Oldham departs before 10pm. All services omitted on this list finish before 8pm.
  • By Train: Transpennine Express services from Manchester Piccadilly, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Leeds and Hull Paragon stations. Hourly Northern service to Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Victoria.
  • By Taxi: both Swift Radio Cars’ and Cavalier Radio Cars’ taxi offices are five minutes walk from the band room. You may call Swift Radio Cars on 0161 303 8137 or Cavalier Radio Cars on 0161 338 4055.

Whatever you do…

Please share this blog post as widely as possible. If you know someone who wishes to play in a brass band – The World’s Oldest Brass Band no less – please pass the message on. You could also follow them on Facebook or visit their website. When I say they need your help, they really do!!! Do not hesitate before it is too late.

S.V., 14 September 2018.

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