A BRIEF HISTORY
The Early Days
The Grimethorpe Colliery Band was formed in 1917, as a leisure activity for the workmen at the colliery. It was initially financed by the colliery, a sister company, and a welfare fund set up by the miners themselves. The musicians, most of whom worked at the colliery full-time, perfected their skills through competition. From 1932 to 1945 the band entered 42 such competitions, winning 19 and never coming lower than fifth!
The Turning Point
The turning point in Grimethorpe's history, however, was the appointment of Elgar Howarth as professional conductor and music adviser in 1972. An outsider to the brass band world, (although he did play in a band, conducted by his father, in Manchester, as a boy) Howarth's association with Grimethorpe was the inspiration behind the commissioning of new works by leading avant garde composers. The band has commissioned works from such composers as Hans Werner Henze and Sir Harrison Birtwistle.
More Recent Developments
In 1992, shock waves reverberated around the mining community in Great Britain when the government announced its programme of pit closures. It soon became apparent that Grimethorpe was on the list of mines to be shut. Even as recently as 1992, 17 members of the band were employed at Grimethorpe Colliery. All these players were soon made redundant, and the future looked bleak. The pit closures were announced just 5 days before the band were due to contest the National Brass Band Championships at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Needless to say, the pressure was immense, the world's media seized on the band as a 'new angle' for their stories, but, as in all the best fairy tales, the band triumphed to become the Champion Band of Great Britain.
Soon after the victory at the Nationals a board of trustees was formed to manage the finances of the band through this difficult period. Financial backing continued from British Coal until 1995 when Richard Budge, Chief Executive of RJB Mining PLC agreed to fund the band, an agreement which continued until 2011.
Greater international fame came to the band with the making of the 1995 film Brassed Off! The film told the story of the fictional South Yorkshire village of Grimley, and how the local colliery's band won a national competition only a few days after the closure of the colliery was announced. The film, starring Ewan McGregor, Pete Postlethwaite and Tara Fitzgerald, was a far bigger hit than anyone could imagine. For the band, which provided the soundtrack music and the extras for the on-screen band, the spin-offs have been vast. Since the release of the film (whose soundtrack was nominated for a BAFTA award) the band has toured extensively in Europe, including a film festival in Norway, The World Cup in Paris and the Eurovision Song Contest to an estimated television audience of 50 million! Perhaps the best bonus from Brassed Off!, however, were the recent tours of Japan and Australia, Japan and Australia, New Zealand & Hong Kong. The band has also recently become the first ever brass band to become an ensemble-in-residence at the Royal College of Music in London. With the continued support of RJB mining, and the success of Brassed Off! the band was in good health and the future secured.