by Ted Llewellyn, Former President, Audley Brass

Prior to the 20th century when radio and television were yet to be invented, people were required to make their own forms of entertainment, and music was one form available to most.  At the beginning of the 19th century the British brass band really came into being and the formation of such bands was actively being encouraged by employers.

Most cities, towns and villages could boast to having a band and North Staffordshire was no exception having bands registered in Burslem, Hanley, Longton, Kidsgrove Silverdale, Stafford, Stone and Audley.  Of these areas few of the original bands remain.

It is believed that the Audley Band was formed as a Mission band in 1902.  The band was connected to the Primitive Methodist Chapel and was led by a Mr Mothershaw.  In July 1921 the Band members purchased their very own band room at Dean Hollow in Audley village, where we continue to practice up to the present day (albeit in a newer facility).  The hall was brought from the trustees of Thomas Rowley (deceased) for £120.

The Band began to become very successful and won the Stalybridge Cup in 1925 and were thus renamed Audley Prize Band.  The Band kept going throughout the Second World War and continued to perform well under a number of conductors such as Bob Herod, John Henry Mayer, Percy Bateman and Vic Johnson.

In the 1970s a disagreement over the purchase of an instrument led to the Band almost folding.   The Band was run by two committees: the Management and the Ladies (the latter of whom were responsible for fundraising).  The Management wanted to take control of the funds raised by the Ladies, who in turn wanted to purchase a new trombone for the Band.  Solicitors were brought in to resolve the situation but the Ladies had already purchased the instrument leaving no funds for the Management!

The result led to the Ladies resigning from the Band, taking their families with them.  Those that left formed a new Band in 1977 called the Audley & District Band taking with them Vic Johnson as Musical Director.  At that time, the Band rehearsed in the disused chapel in Wereton Road in Audley village.  The Band did not have to pay rent but were responsible for the insurance of the building.

In 1985 the Audley & District Band were conducted by Ken Wareham and were continuing to practice in, and pay rent on the Chapel.  Meanwhile, the Audley Prize Band continued to rehearse in Dean Hollow, with very few members.  In 1988 with the pending sale of the Chapel, the Audley & District Band were forced to leave the Chapel.  Without a home, the District Band approached the Prize Band to see whether they would consider a merger.  It was thought that a merger was mutually beneficial and the bands joined together to form Audley Brass.

In 1989 Reg Barley was appointed to conduct the Band and remained with the Band for two years.  In 1991 Marie Harrison began taking the Band with the valued help of Granville Jennings, a well known local bandsman who had previously starred with the famous Fodens Motor Works Band from Sandbach in neighbouring Cheshire.  Marie worked with the Band until 1994 when Kevin Birch was appointed as the Band’s Musical Director.

Having not contested for a very long time Kevin began preparing the Band to compete again and in 1997 the Band won the 4th section at the Pontins Brass Band Championships playing John Golland’s ‘Prelude, Song and Dance’, this demonstrated the degree to which Audley Brass had improved.

In 1999 the Band reached the National Brass Band Finals of Great Britain following a triumph in the 4th section at the Midlands Regional contest.  In January 2000 they were promoted to the 3rd section of brass band competition.  During this time the Band also submitted an application to the West Midlands Arts Council Lottery Fund to supply a new set of instruments, which was approved in May 1998.  The subsequent receipt of the money enabled the Band to re-equip and pass on the old instruments to our Training Band.

Audley Brass continued to improve under the leadership of Kevin Birch, with the Band picking up many prizes at contests, including awards at Milton Keynes, Rhyl and Derby.  In 2003 the Band again qualified for the 3rd section National Finals this time being held in Dundee!

Promotion again followed this success and in 2004 the Band moved to the 2nd section.  The level of banding at that level is extremely tough and sadly solid performances were not enough to keep the Band up and in 2007 Audley Brass were relegated back to the 3rd section.

Kevin Birch left the Band in July 2006 and was replaced with Clive Fox who had a short stay with the Band leaving in October 2007.  His replacement Shaun Farrington also had a short stay, departing in October 2008.  Following Shaun the Band appointed Colin Hartley as their new musical director, Colin worked with the Band until December 2010, when Ian Turner took charge.

Back in 1995, a major fundraising project was initiated to rebuild the Band’s decaying band room.  After many year of fundraising, and saving, the Building Fund enabled the old band room to be demolished in July 2006.  After long wait building delays and rising costs the Band finally moved into our rebuilt home in January 2008.  The Band was assisted in its completion of the new facility by Audley Rotary and Audley Male Voice choir.

During the time without a permanent home Audley Brass were extremely grateful to the support received by St James Church and Audley Theatre who allowed the Band extensive rehearsal space.

Throughout its history Audley Brass has always worked hard in its community providing musical enjoyment for the many players that have passed through its band room and to its listening public.  The Band continues to perform in many concerts and contests across the local area taking the name of Audley wherever they travel.