THE 70's & 80's
On 29th June 1976, the band embarked on its first major tour for the Bi-Centennial celebrations to the U.S.A. arriving back on the 15th July 1976. Concerts were given in Chautauqua (on the shores of Lake Chautauqua and very near to the Great Lakes), in Albany Washington Park, in New York Trinity Church (Wall Street on Independence Day), in Harrisburg (the Hershey' Founders' Hall where the audience included all the Governors of the United States), in Uniontown (a coalmining town) at the Theatre in the Carnegie Institution in Pittsburgh, at Penn State University, in Hazelton High School, and in the Kennedy Plaza Philadelphia.
The highlight of the tour was when the band played in the grounds of the British Embassy in Washington when The Queen and Prince Phillip entertained President Ford and his wife.
In 1977 the band was involved in seven television ventures, an Everyman programme, a television advertisement, a Granada winning programme and four with singer song writer Peter Skellern, the pianist and vocalist which began the band's association with the artist. In 1978, the highlights were an award winning recording which sold over 60,000 copies, and a one night show at the London Palladium. This recording entitled 'Skellern', was followed by a further recording entitled 'Astaire' which sold in excess of 100,000 copies. The band has a Silver and Gold award for the two recordings.
The band toured France from the 10th July to the 25th July 1978. Concerts were given in Annecy (near Swiss border) in Grasse (perfume town) Istres, the Place Des Arenes in Nimes, Aix En Province, Bagnols Sur Ceze, Menton (next to Monte Carlo on the South Coast) in Paris (almost under the Eiffel Tower) and then in the seaside resorts of Berck and Stella Plage in Northern France.
On the 17th May 1979, the band gave a concert performance in the Dvorana Lisinski in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. On the 28th July, the band left the UK for a tour of Italy, returning on the 9th August, 1979. The band participated in the Montepulciano Festival in Tuscanny and also gave concerts in Florence, Pavia and Turin. This particular tour was the subject of a documentary film called "Arriverdeci Grimethorpe" made by Granada Television and which was subsequently shown on most networks in the UK in 1980. Both of these visits were with Elgar Howarth as conductor.
In April of 1980 the band spent just over a week in Austria and gave concert performances in Vienna and Hall In Tyrol (near Innesbrook). In September 1981, the band represented the Coal Mining Industry as part of Blackpool's celebrations with its twin-town in Germany, Bottrop. Apart from playing at concerts in and around Bottrop, the band played in a large square in the centre of Dortmund. Also, in September the band played for the third time at the 87th Henry Wood Promenade Concerts held at the Royal Albert Hall, London, with Black Dyke, conducted by Elgar Howarth. The concert included the first performance of William Waltons Arrangement of The First Shoot performed by Grimethorpe.
On Saturday 27th February 1982, the band flew to Australia, returning to the UK on Wednesday 24th March. While in Australia they travelled in excess of 6,000 miles, taking off and landing a total of 22 times, a total of 10 coach journeys, and staying in 13 different hotels. The band gave a total of 22 concerts, in Perth, Pinjarra (50 miles to the South of Perth), Karratha (1,000 miles to the North of Perth), Adelaide (for the Adelaide Festival, the overall Managers of the tour), Mount Gambier, Sydney (in the main concert hall at the Sydney Opera House), Brisbane, Moranbah, Dysart, Blackwater (these last three towns being in the coalmining areas in North Queensland), Newcastle, Woolongong, Melbourne and Geelong.
A somewhat less ambitious visit to the Republic of Eire was arranged the following year where the band played to capacity audiences in Dublin and Cork. However, this will probably be long remembered by the band for the stormy crossings that were encountered on the outward and homeward journeys.
In December 1982, Grimethorpe took part in a one off competition called "Palace Champion of Champion Brass Bands" held at the Palace Theatre, Manchester. It was unique in that all the major title holders from that year competed, they were - Besses O' th' Barn Band (British Open Champions 1982), The Cory Band (National Champions 1982), The Desford Colliery Dowty Band (the Granada Champions 1982 and Rothmans Champions 1982) and Grimethorpe Colliery Band (Rothmans Champions 1981). It was truly a Champion of Champion competition as it brought the 'Test Piece' winners versus the 'Entertainment' winners, therefore it consisted of two parts, Round 1 - March & Test Piece and Round 2 - Entertainment Programme. The eventual winners were Desford winning £1,500 plus 4 cornets. Unfortunately this style of contest has never been repeated.
In 1982, the band started a series of recordings of Music by Carl Davies for a BBC Television Series entitled "Working Lives", these recordings continued through 1983 with the series being completed in 1984.
A series of good contest results in 1983 led to Grimethorpe being crowned BBC Band of the Year. Also in this year the band recorded it's second film soundtrack for a French film. 1984 was the year of the National Union of Mineworkers' dispute against colliery closures. The band won at the British Open for the third time in its history and setting a unique record in being the only band to win two British Opens on the same piece (the other in 1967) the piece in question being John Irelands "Comedy Overture".
1985 continued with the Mineworker's strike still on and it was not until Tuesday the 5th March, that the band led the parade of the Grimethorpe Miners back to work. This was the end of a traumatic twelve month period in the band's history. The strike had cost the band a considerable amount of money and it had been somewhat of a miracle that the players had remained together throughout that period.
Ken Hirst, the long standing secretary of the band, was awarded a Compaq Portable Computer (together with the Lotus Software Package "Symphony" and a Dot Matrix Printer) in the first week of January. This followed a competition on the BBC2 Television Programme MICROLIVE and a film of the band playing the slow movement from the Moorside Suite by Gustav Holst which was included in the programme.
1985 was the year that Grimethorpe blew entertainment contests apart. Bands were being more gimmicky in the things that were done at these events that (although of his dislike of contests) Elgar Howarth was asked for his ideas for an entertainment contest. He decided that something was needed that was the ultimate and would take entertainment contests back to basics. His idea was a full programme without a conductor, but not just a sit down performance but fully choreographed with interludes composed by Mr Howarth himself. Weeks were spent not playing but performing the choreography to perfection. Needless to say the band won. The win was greeted with the headline in the British Bandsman "Grimethorpe Gambles its way to Victory. The gamble did not pay off in one way, for the entertainment Judge did not give the band top marks and the win was entirely due to the high marks awarded by the two Music Judges. The programme was variously described by some as foolhardy, outlandish, a homogeneous extravaganza and even a bodyline blow. Nevertheless the programme brought the house down and surely this is what the Entertainment Contest is all about.
In June 1985, half a dozen players appeared in the film All Creatures Great and Small, the actual recording being done in the North Yorkshire Village of Askrigg. October saw the band record excerpts for a Russell Harty profile on the Michael Parkinson programme.
In 1986 Grimethorpe (with Sunlife) were the first band to perform at the Kenwood Bowl, Conducted by Geoffrey Brand, finishing with the 1812 Overture, complete with Fireworks.
During 1987, the band took part in the opening celebration of the 750 years anniversary of Berlin, held in the international Conference Centre of West Berlin. They also gave concert performances in the St. Magnus Festival held on the Orkney island of Kirkwall.
Grimethorpe made its first compact disc in 1989, recorded for EMI music at Stockport's Strawberry Studios. The same year the band played in front of Prince Philip during his visit to the Selby Coalfield.