Wandering minstrels get real home at last

Wandering minstrels get real home at last

Band members practising in their new headquarters. Picture: OX57783 Denis Kennedy

The band pictured when it started in 1973

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

AFTER 40 years, £270,000, hundreds of members and thousands of concerts, Wantage Silver Band has moved into its first ever permanent home.

And it is already planning an extension. to the purpose-built building constructed in a field on the outskirts of the town.

Formed in 1972 for a handful of children, the musical collective now boasts 150 members in four full bands, a training band and four beginners’ groups.

Since the band’s last rehearsal space – Wantage C of E junior school on Newbury Street – was converted into housing ten years ago, it has had a nomadic existence, using six different rehearsal spaces each week and storing percussion in three sheds.

So for the last 10 years, every concert has been a fundraising opportunity, and the band has amassed a staggering £270,000 to build its first ever real home.

Trombonist Lucy Scott, 53 from Highclere Gardens, said: “I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but we deserve a fanfare.

“It means a new phase of our life, and we can start concentrating on the important things, like winning competitions, instead of organising which village hall we will practise in next week. Now we really want to build a concert hall so people can come and watch us, and it will be a real community facility.”

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The band received donations from the town council and local music lovers, but raised the majority itself through concerts.

In December alone, it raked in more than £8,000 through 50 performances and a further £3,000 at three full concerts.

Band master of 30 years, Eileen Sykes, 68 from Belmont, said: “These sums indicate the great support the band receives from the people of Wantage and district. In addition, the carol playing attracted new recruits, and we have just started a beginners’ class with eight new members.”

The new band hall has one large rehearsal room, one small rehearsal room, a kitchen and toilets.

Work began in August last year, and the band officially moved in on March 1.

The land at Tugwell field, off the A417 by Charlton, has been supplied to the band on a peppercorn lease by the county and district councils.

Wantage Silver Band is registered charity and has a dedicated board of directors who oversee activities, supported by a players’ committee with members from each band who organise the day-to-day running and engagements.

Band chairman Eleanor Turner, 68, said: “This gives the band an identity and cohesion. It means we’re not rehearsing in a different village hall each week.”

The arrival of the hall fulfills one of the band’s main ambitions: the other is for the A band to reach the Albert Hall finals in the National Brass Band Championships.

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