Band History

The Early Years

There is a rich history of brass bands in the Somerset Coalfield region. Radstock is recorded as having a brass band in 1881, when it was called the Radstock Coal and Wagon Works Brass Band.  During the band’s evolution it had various names such as Radstock Coal Company Brass Band, Radstock Silver band and Radstock Silver Prize Band.  The Radstock band originally met at the Parish Rooms at the bottom of Wells Hill, but that was short lived and they quickly moved on to the mess room at the British Wagon Work Company.  One of the early conductors, Mr Elihu James,  strongly believed that there were just as good musicians in and around the Somerset Collieries as in any other part of the county, and he encouraged the band to enter contests and show what they could do.  And enter they did – entering and winning or being highly placed in local contests and, even winning first place in their section in the prestigious National Band Festival at the Crystal Palace, London, in 1929.  The prize that year was the Cassells Challenge Cup and £15 in cash (which today would have a value of over £1,000!).  In fact, contests became so popular in the region that throughout the 1920’s, the town of Radstock hosted many brass band contests, attracting bands from all over the South West of England and South Wales.

Unfortunately, the fate of brass bands in the region followed the fate of the collieries, with many, including Midsomer Norton and Radstock bands, folding by the late 1960’s.

A New Era

In July 1980, Angela Lowe formed The Midsomer Norton and Radstock Silver Band using instruments from the old Radstock Silver Band held by the trustees, £400 from the Midsomer Norton Band held in trust and a further £600 grant from the Local Council.  The money was used to overhaul the instruments.  Fourteen people turned up for the first rehearsal and as this was not enough to form a full band, Angela decided to start teaching learners.

Angela was born into a non-musical family and began her musical career at the age of ten, playing the cornet with the Shepton Mallet Town Band.  In 1973 she took up the post of Principal Cornet for Mere Manor Brass and she remained here until founding the Midsomer Norton and Radstock Silver Band.

Her boundless enthusiasm drove forward the band, which went from strength to strength and as well as her involvement with the Band she was also a well-respected local brass teacher.  She taught brass in local schools and started a band at Fosseway Special School using old instruments belonging to the Midsomer Norton and Radstock Silver Band.  Sadly Angela passed away on 23rd May 2003, but the Band has continued to thrive since then.

Since 2003 the Band has had 4 conductors all of whom have helped to develop the band in their own individual ways. From 2003 until 2004 Keith Haines conducted the band, until he left due to work commitments, he was followed by Stewart Lewins who remained with the band until he moved away in 2007. Rupert Bond then led the band for 6 months in 2008 until he to moved out of the area and in June 2008 Colin Cunliffe was appointed Musical Director of the Band. Unfortunately at the end of April 2010 Colin resigned from his position due to ill health and in June 2010 Jo Sykes took over the position of MD.

In November 2011 the band entered the 4th Section of the Regional Championships and came second winning the Newcombe Cup.

 In March 2012 they won the 4th Section of the Regional Championships and attended the National Finals in September 2012.

In January 2013, for the first time in their history, the band were promoted to the 3rd Section of the Regional Championships and in March they came 7th, in March 2014 they came 11th, in March 2015 they came 5th and in March 2016 they came 3rd and qualified and attended the National Finals in September 2016.

In March 2017 the band again entered the Regional Championships and  finished in 3rd place,  as well as earning themselves a 2nd successive qualification for the National Finals in September, the band also finished top of the 3rd section.

In January 2018 the band were promoted to the 2nd Section, therefore achieving the highest national ranking in the history of the band and in March they again attended the Regional Championships and for the first time in their history competed in the 2nd Section and finished a very pleasing 8th position out of 16 bands.