Origins of the band
Audley Band holds a long history in the local community - it is believed the organisation was formed as a mission band in 1902. At the time of its inception, the brass band movement was just developing and growing in popularity with numerous bands being registered in the local area - including Burslem, Hanley, Longton, Kidsgrove, Silverdale, Stafford, Stone and Audley. Of these original brass bands, very few still exist today.
The original band was connected to the Primitive Methodist Church and led by Mr Mothershaw. In July 1921, the band members purchased their very own bandroom from Thomas Rowley for a princely sum of £120 (about £15,000 in today's terms). The hall was located in Dean Hollow, Audley - a site where the band still rehearse today (albeit in a slightly newer facility).
The band began to compete becoming very successful and won the Stalybridge Cup in 1925 which led to a name change to 'Audley Prize Band'. The band continued to rehearse and perform throughout World War II under a number of conductors including Bob Herod, John Henry Mayer, Percy Bateman and Vic Johnson.
1970 - 1988: Coming full circle
In the 1970's, a disagreement within the Prize Band led to a number of players and committee members resigning from the organisation.
The members that left went on to form a new band called Audley & District Band in 1977 and were led by Musical Director Vic Johnson. At the time, the band rehearsed in an unused chapel in Wereton Road, Audley. The band did not have to pay rent but were responsible for the insurance of the building. The band continued to rehearse in the chapel for some years with Ken Wareham conducting the band in 1985 - however, in 1988 with the pending sale of the chapel the band were forced to vacate.
Without a home, the District Band approached the Prize Band (who were still rehearsing in Dean Hollow) about a potential merger of the bands and it was agreed this would be mutually beneficial. Hence, the two bands joined together and became known from that point on as 'Audley Brass'.
1990's & 2000's
In 1989, Reg Barley was appointed to conduct the band and remained until 1991 when Marie Harrison began taking the band. Marie was assisted by Granville Jennings, a well-known local brass-bander who had previously played with the famous Fodens Motor Works Band from Sandbach, Cheshire. Marie worked with the band until 1994 until Kevin Birch was appointed as the band's Musical Director.
Having not competed for a very long time, Kevin began to prepare the band to contest again and in 1997 the band won the Fourth Section at the Pontins Brass Band Championships playing John Golland's 'Prelude, Song and Dance'.
In May 1998, the band were successful in a grant application from the West Midlands Arts Council Lottery Fund which enabled the band to purchase a new set of instruments for the main band and to fully equip the organisation's training band with the older instruments.
In 1999, the band qualified for the National Brass Band Finals of Great Britain following a triumph in the Fourth Section Midlands Regional Contest and in January 2000, the band were promoted to the Third Section.
The band continued to flourish under Kevin's leadership picking up prices at competitions in Milton Keynes, Rhyl and Derby. In 2003, the band once again qualified for the National Brass Band Finals - this time being held in Dundee! Promotion came again in 2004, where this time the band entered the Second Section.
Following 11 years of major fundraising, the band were in a position to demolish the decaying bandroom in 2006 to make way for a newer facility. The band finally moved into their new home in January 2008. The band were assisted in the project by fellow local organisations Audley Rotary and Audley Male Voice Choir. During this time, the band were also grateful to St James' Church and Audley Theatre who allowed the band extensive rehearsal space.
Following Kevin Birch's departure in 2006, the band were led by various conductors including Clive Fox, Shaun Farrington and Colin Hartley until December 2010 when Ian Turner took charge.
Taken from A Written History by Ted Llewellyn - Former President, Audley Brass
Throughout the subsequent few years, the band suffered from a decline in membership and dropped down to the Fourth Section in the brass band rankings.
In August 2014, the band appointed local musician Tom Hancock as Musical Director. Less than two years later, the band had doubled in membership and achieved promotion to the Third Section.
Over the next few years, the band continued to develop under Tom's dedicated and hard-working leadership and, along with delivering entertaining concert performances, achieved notable contest success, including:
- runners-up at Bolsover Festival of Brass (2016)
- winning the Third Section at Stalybridge Celtic Whit Friday contest (2017).
The next major success for the band came in 2018 where the band were placed runners-up in the Midlands Regional Brass Band Championships and qualified for the National Finals held in Cheltenham.
The last few months of 2018 proved very momentous for the band as, along with the attending the National Finals in September, the band performed its first of many Oktoberfest event at Hartford Hall, Northwich and performed at Stoke-on-Trent's premier concert venue, the Victoria Hall, as special guests of Audley Male Voice Choir alongside University Hospital Ladies Choir at their 'Remembering Heroes' concert.
2019 saw the band achieve entertainment contest success at Whiston Festival of Brass (awarded first place) and Bolsover Festival of Brass (awarded second place). The latter competition was very significant for the band in that Soprano Cornet player, Craig Shaw, won the Best Soloist award in the Second Section for his performance of Neil Sedaka's Solitaire.
The competitive success continued into early 2020 where, following the Regional Brass Band Championships in March, the band were promoted to the Second Section. As a result of the COVID-19 restrictions, the band ceased rehearsals in March 2020 and did not perform publically again until October 2021 at Bolsover Festival of Brass where they picked up the runners up trophy in the Second Section.
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