Band members agree that it would be hard to live in or around Lofthouse and not know someone who is involved in some way with the Lofthouse Band.
It was set up in 1999 by cornet player and conductor Andrew Whitaker, with just a handful of children and a few instruments. Since then it has grown into a flourishing organisation, helped by the brass tradition of supplying instruments and tuition to players for a modest subscription. There are three bands: Beginner Brass (mostly primary school aged children) and a Brass Roots Band (lots of children with some adults). There’s also the top flight Lofthouse 2000 Brass Band, ranked presently at the top of the third grade of the brass banding world.
The band is thoroughly involved in activities at all levels in and around Lofthouse and the neighbouring communities. From parades, concerts, fetes, garden parties, event openings, church services and funerals, and with one or two carolling jobs per day in December, the band is never still. Every October they hold a concert in aid of Wakefield Hospice, this year was a special concert version of ‘Brassed Off’ and enabled the band to donate £1000 to the Hospice.
Success for Lofthouse Brass Band has come not only through hard work and dedication, but by making brass banding a fun and rewarding experience that gives musicians, young and old a unique sense of community and in the case of younger members, valuable interpersonal skills to carry into later life. Yes – a community brass band today is as likely to contain male and female doctors, engineers, teachers and other professionals as it ever was miners, shipbuilders or railwaymen.
Brass bands’ industrial heritage is certainly worthy of celebration. For our future to retain any relevance to modern society, however, we need to break out of the Victorian museum of the general public’s perception and introduce the wider world to the best of what we can do, not what it expects from us – that’s just what we used to do.