A Means Of Enlivening The Community

Chapter 8 - The Revival

By 1964 with the Band barely ticking over both Harry Clements and John Wooff decided to take the "bull by the horns" and call a public meeting at Slaidburn to discuss the future of the Band. An article about the meeting in the Clitheroe Advertiser & Times quotes Harry Clements as saying "we cannot even raise a quartet" so things were indeed in a pretty poor state. The meeting was held with only 9 people attending and the decision was reached to formally disband and sell the Band's instruments and assets and whatever funds were raised from the sale, plus the money held in the bank account, was to be divided between the 2 churches in the village. The notices announcing the sale of assets were published and interestingly 2 letters offering to buy the instruments are amongst the band archives, one from Mellor, and one from York. With interest being shown in the sale of the property the activities of the Slaidburn Silver Band were at an end --- or so people thought.

The article in the Clitheroe Advertiser & Times announcing the end of the Band must have had some effect on people within the Hodder Valley who realised that once the instruments had gone, so had any chance of reviving the Band in the future. A small campaign by the few surviving members to enrol "new blood" into the Band began to gather momentum and at the beginning of December 1964 the Clitheroe paper was able to report:

“New Lease Of Life For Silver Band.

Slaidburn Silver Band, rescued from disbandment by a last ditch appeal to villagers, held its first practice in the bandroom on Tuesday night. The Secretary, Mr. John Wooff, said that about 15 members were present at the practice including a large number of youngsters. "We have a lot of new players who don't know too much about music yet" said Mr. Wooff. The Band has plans for touring the village playing carols at Christmas.”

The Band was at least saved, but those who joined realised that a tremendous amount of work was to be done. Some villagers who went to the bandroom early to help clean instruments found them literally black with tarnish on the silver plate, covered in cobwebs, valves seized up and in a pretty appalling condition. There was only one way to clean them --- soap, water, pan scrubs(!!) and plenty of elbow grease and enthusiasm. It obviously worked, because as promised in the paper the newly reformed Band turned out at Christmas 1964 to the delight of the residents of Slaidburn. Harry Clements continued his role as Conductor, John Wooff acted as Secretary and William Worswick undertook the Treasurer's duties. Amongst the membership at that time was a wide cross-section of people from the Hodder Valley to whom we should be very grateful for ensuring the future of the Band.

In 1965 the newly- reformed Band turned out for the Whit Monday Festival for the first time and undertook its usual duties to lead the procession and play on the field. Allan Wood recalls the Band only having one march in its repertoire --- "A Joyous Greeting" and this was played endlessly on the march. It is assumed that there were other pieces the Band could play on the field, but Allan remembers one piece in particular. Harry Clements suddenly announced that they would play the march "Slaidburn" --- very appropriate, but only 2 in the band had ever seen this piece before, Harry and John Wooff! After a brief instruction on the piece the Band commenced playing and like Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony the new recruits one by one dropped out unable to play the march until only Harry and John were left playing! It was to be a few more years before "Slaidburn" was heard again!

In 1967 and 1968 there was another influx of new members from both the Hodder Valley and beyond thanks to Bill Worswick's role as driver of the Slaidburn to Clitheroe Bus Service. Because of the bus timetable and Bill's membership of the Band, the last bus to Slaidburn arrived just as practice was to commence, so the bus became a handy means of getting to Slaidburn and quite often up to a dozen players could be travelling to practice. Getting back from Slaidburn was no problem either. The bus was parked up until practice ended and then returned to Dunsop Bridge ready for duty next morning. Players needing to travel further down the valley usually arranged for a lift to be waiting at Dunsop for them.

By this time illness had forced Harry Clements to retire from the Band and the duties of Conductor were shared by John Wooff and Bill Worswick. This was not a case of power sharing but came about because of the musical requirements of the pieces played. If the music had a significant role for the Euphonium then Bill conducted and John played and if it required a cornet then Bill played and John conducted. What happened when both parts were needed was not clearly defined, but quite often either player would have to conduct and play at the same time --- something not easy to do! The Band at this time met twice a week --- Tuesdays and Fridays --- but somehow could never get everyone to turn up at both practices and eventually decided after much discussion to hold one rehearsal a week and this was to be on a Thursday.

By now the Band had a reasonably stable membership and was now fulfilling the usual 3 engagements in the Hodder Valley --- Whit Monday, Hodder Valley Show and Christmas Carol Tours --- and the occasional event in local villages further afield. In 1969 both the Clitheroe Advertiser & Times and the Lancashire Evening Telegraph ran features on the Band's activities which resulted in a new wave of interest in the Band, both from prospective members and particularly from organisations who were looking for a band to hire for their own event --- one engagement in particular is still remembered by some members who were there. A telephone call to John Wooff enquired if the Band would play for a church procession in Clayton-le-Moors. Although John explained that the Band had no uniform and little experience of such an engagement it would take on the job somewhat reluctantly. Because of the distance involved, and to make sure everyone got their safely, it was decided to travel by bus --- guess which bus and who drove! The day dawned and the bus arrived safely with all the band at All Saints, Clayton-le-Moors. Whilst waiting for the appointed time to start, the other band taking part in the procession arrived, marching to their point in the procession with a very slick display of marching and counter-marching. The members of Slaidburn Band began to wonder what they had let themselves in for! The march commenced and Slaidburn were placed near the front of the procession, the other band towards the rear. Up until now the processions the Band had done were usually fairly short and so the band tended not to have too long a break between pieces, but on this occasion they noticed that the band behind them had only played one march when Slaidburn had played four! For those who know Clayton-le-Moors the main road climbs steadily uphill and then rises steeply over the canal before levelling out --- not the best of inclines for a marching and playing band. No wonder the other band were taking it easy! Despite this setback the band had almost completed the march when traffic conditions forced part of the procession and band onto the pavement and unfortunately John Wooff, concentrating on this diversion and reading his music, failed to see a lamp-post in front of him and marched straight into it. The collision resulted in John's mouthpiece cutting open his lip and blood pouring from the wound. The Band returned on the bus having gained much experience on the joys of banding in that couple of hours!

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