135 Years of the Durham Miners Gala

The Durham Miners Gala is one of the world’s biggest and most colourful celebrations of trade unions and community spirit. With over 50 banners representing mining communities, each with their own brass band, it is also one of the most exuberant!

The band travelled up to Durham on the Friday night to take part in the 135th Miners Gala held on Saturday 13th July.

The atmosphere at the Gala is electric with an estimated 100,000 people in attendance every year. All the participating bands take great pride in representing their respective banners and entertaining the crowds as they parade through the centre of Durham, and our band is no exception to this. We are extremely honoured to have been marching in the Gala again, representing the banners and the members of our sponsor Unite the Union.

Taking a band of over 35 players to this year’s event, along with some traditional marches, we entertained the crowds with renditions of Sweet Caroline, Tragedy, YMCA and Delilah. There’s even a video of the crowd singing and swaying along to our performance of Delilah under the balcony of The County Hotel on our Facebook pages.

After completing the march, members of Unite the Union head on to the Racecourse and the playing fields where there are speeches, exhibitions and a fair. The band departed the parade here for a well-earned drink before making our way back to Sheffield later that afternoon.

Whilst the Gala is a celebration of the trade unions and continuing traditions, even if you are not a trade unionist, the Gala is a truly spectacular event for everyone to enjoy. It is one of the highlights of the bands year and we would highly recommend everyone to come along and experience it at least once. (Keep an eye out for the big red Unite balloons while you are there). The collieries may be gone but long may the Gala traditions continue!

For further information about the Gala, please visit the Durham Miners Association website: https://www.durhamminers.org/


Drum roll please!! The opening for many cinema experiences over the years has begun to this sound and the bands’ most recent concert was no exception.

“Movie Music in the Gardens”, hosted by the Rotary Clubs of South Yorkshire and North East Derbyshire on behalf of the Sheffield Area Kidney Research & Children's Heart Surgery Fund charities took place on 7th July in the Sheffield Botanical Gardens. What had been a fabulous weekend of music making and performances culminated in the band and the Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra performing a range of music from the big screen.

Thousands of people joined the band as we took them on a journey that included the sword fighting antics of a masked vigilante in Spanish California to the latest superhero animated action from Disney. From the scenes of a cult American fantasy-comedy-horror to the very real horrors of the second World War, the band showcased film music from across the years and genres. Our performance was punctuated with some fabulous solos from the bands’ flugel player Maria Beazer and solo horn player Melissa Maddison. As if that wasn’t enough, we even managed to squeeze in some dressing up!

The Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra then took up the baton as they transported the audience to the far reaches of the galaxy, battled pirates across the high seas, marvelled at dinosaurs and enjoyed an escapade with the Secret Service. It was then the audiences turn as they sang and waved their flags through the traditional Last Night of the Proms music before closing the weekend with the fireworks display.

The band immensely enjoyed being part of this event again, which is now in its’ 15th year and has raised over £400,000 for various charities. We would like to say a huge thank you to the Rotary Clubs of South Yorkshire and North East Derbyshire for inviting us to perform at your event, and to everyone who helps to make this event such a success.

To use another great cinema tradition to sign off; “T..t..t..th..th..th..tha..tha..that’s all folks!!”

Photographs: Russell Hague Photography Services https://www.facebook.com/pg/russellhaguephotography/photos/?ref=page_internal

For more information about the Music in Gardens events, please go to www.musicinthegardens.co.uk

For more information about the charities: Sheffield Area Kidney Association - www.saka.org.uk  & Children’s Heart Surgery Fund https://chsf.org.uk/

Davis joins the Union

The Band are delighted to announce the appointment of John Davis as our new Musical Director.

John has enjoyed success as a conductor over the years with Riddings, Dronfied Genquip and more recently Foresters Band, whom he will continue to conduct alongside Unite. 

John was initially engaged by the band on an interim basis to conduct at the Spring Festival contest at the Blackpool Winter Gardens in May, where the band achieved a solid 10th position securing our place in next year’s contest. He conducted the band in his first “official” engagement, ‘Movie Music in the Gardens’ hosted by the South Yorkshire Rotary Clubs in Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens on the 7th July 2019. 

John is looking forward to his new challenge:

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have been offered the role of Musical Director with Unite, a Band that I have both admired and worked with a number of times over the years. The Band have a number of prestigious engagements and fantastic work ethic. I am very much looking forward to getting stuck in!” 

John Davis

A spokesperson for Unite the Union Band said:

“The Band thoroughly enjoyed working with John for the Spring Festival and found his musicality, enthusiasm and hard work to be second to none. The band were thrilled when John expressed his interest to work with us on a permanent basis and we are all very excited to see what the future holds”.

Coal Not Dole - 35 Years

Saturday 15th June saw the band leading the Orgreave Truth and Justice Rally in Orgreave, Sheffield.

This year was the 35th Anniversary of the Rally on behalf of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC), who are pressing for a full and independent inquiry into the events of June 1984 during the strike at the Orgreave Coking Plant.

The Orgreave Coking Plant was one of a number of plants and mines that were closed during the 1980’s where the National Miners Union called for a mass picket. The plant would receive coal from the South Yorkshire mines which was then converted into coke before being transported for use in steel production.

The band led the march from Orgreave ahead of banners representing the National Miners Union and a number of former mines from around South Yorkshire.

Photo credit: Neil Terry Photography – www.neilterryphotography.co.uk

A Tale of Two Festivals

After weeks of preparation, on Saturday 18th May the band once again took to the contesting arena, this time over the Pennines in Blackpool to compete in the 99th Spring Festival held at the Winter Gardens. This year the band was taking part in the Senior Trophy division with the knowledge that a bottom six finish would mean elimination from the Spring Festival.

Our test piece for the Senior Trophy was Gilbert Vinters’ “Triumphant Rhapsody”, now over 50 years old but still acknowledged as a stern test of any bands’ abilities. We had been working hard under the baton of John Davis and were now ready to take to the stage in Blackpool. 

Friday night and Saturday mornings’ rehearsals were relaxed affairs but still with an air of seriousness and expectation. By the time we were sat on the stage to perform early Saturday afternoon, there was a calm and yet focussed energy around the band, despite the heat in the aptly named Spanish Hall.

Our performance was solid from start to finish and featured excellent playing from all corners of the band that was well received and commented on by our adjudicators:

“Good opening. Great sound! Allegro very nice – solid feel to it” 

“Gorgeous bass sound (160). Great euph before (180). Super cantabile – genuine sentiment here” 

“(230) Very solid and a great sound – good build towards end. Amazing sound from the band! Very good and well crafted performance”.

The descriptive nature and musicality of our performance secured the band a creditable 10th place out of 20, meaning we had secured our place for the 100th Spring Festival contest in 2020. The band had hoped that our highly musical performance would have merited a higher place, but we were happy with our result overall which gives us a good platform from which to develop. Our aim for next year is to win!

The band made the decision to change Musical Director shortly after the Area contest in March. Whilst we are now in the process of looking for a permanent conductor, John Davis of Foresters Brass Band (and a great friend to us), stepped into the breach to lead the band to a fine performance at this contest. We want to say a huge thank you to John for all his work, time and effort that went into delivering a great performance of Triumphant Rhapsody. As a band, we have thoroughly enjoyed John’s descriptive and fun approach to the music in rehearsals, and it is safe to say that very few players have ever sat on a contest stage thinking of psychotic clown cars, Darth Vader or wide mouthed frogs.

Whilst we were happy with our performance, the weekend was tinged with sadness too, as for two of our players it would be their last performance as members of Unite Band.

First, our lovely Freya on back row cornet has now completed her university degree and will be moving back to her home city of Nottingham to begin the next stage of her career development. Freya has been a real positive force within the band over the last 3 years whether in rehearsals, on jobs, or on socials – even joining the committee in her last year – and we will miss her energy and enthusiasm for everything in life. Whichever band you choose to play for next Freya, they will be lucky to have you!

Secondly, our solo euphonium player Lynden has decided to move on to pastures new after 3 years with the band. Lynden has been enduring an 80 mile round trip to rehearsals during his time with us as well as juggling his conducting commitments with Shirland Band, and while we are sorry to see him go, we understand why. We have been very fortunate to have a player of Lynden’s experience on a key seat within the band, and we would like to thank him for his commitment during his time with us. We wish you all the best Lynden for your future playing with Blidworth Band, and continued success with Shirland Band.

Thank you to both Freya and Lynden for being part of Team Unite – you’re welcome back anytime!

The band are now looking forward to our future starting with the appointment of a new Musical Director to further develop the band and build upon the performances and results achieved this year. We are excited for the future possibilities and are eager to start working hard to achieve our goals. The work both in the band room and behind the scenes is excellent, and the band is in a very positive place going into the summer. Our goal is to keep building on our performances, and to carry on pushing together as team Unite. Onwards and upwards!

Musical Director Vacancy

The Band are now inviting applications for the position of Musical Director. We are looking for an enthusiastic and driven MD who will work with the band to help us achieve our aim of regaining and maintaining Championship section status. 

The band rehearse on Mondays and Thursdays 8pm to 10pm.

Please send all enquiries to Clare Moore, Band Secretary, at mail@unitetheunionbrassband.org.uk The closing date for applications is Friday 17th May.

Change is in the Air

After nearly 3 years of musical direction, the band has parted company with MD John Roberts.

It is with great sadness that Unite the Union have taken the very difficult decision to part company with John Roberts as the bands Musical Director. John has been an asset to the band over the last 3 years and his dedication, commitment and passion for the band has been evident throughout his time as our MD.  We have parted ways on very good terms and he will undoubtedly be missed.’

Melissa Maddison: Chairperson

The band would like take this opportunity to thank John for all his hard work with the band and wish him the very best for the future. 

The band are now looking ahead to forthcoming challenges, including the aim of a successful campaign at the upcoming Spring Festival and our Senior Trophy challenge on ‘Triumphant Rhapsody’.

United We Band

Sunday 3rd of March saw the band take to the stage at Huddersfield Town Hall to compete in the championship section of the Yorkshire Regional Brass Band Championships. Weeks of preparation on Ray Steadman-Allen's "Seascapes", were put to the test against some of the best brass bands in the world.
The hardwork and commitment put in by both our players and musical director, John Roberts, was on full display in a performance that garnered praise from both adjudicators;
"Really purposeful playing here - very enjoyable" (S. Sykes)
"An enjoyable performance with moments of musical character" (S. Roberts)
Despite a performance that found favour with both adjudicators, in such a tough field of quality bands, we came 11th out of 13. However, we are not downhearted, as the band's performance was one to be proud of. Everyone played at their best and couldn't have given more. Though we may be relegated for 2020, the band will return to Huddersfield with the aim of winning and reclaiming our position in the top division of banding.
We say a huge thank you to all of our players and MD, for giving it their all in delivering a great performance against some incredible competition.
To the winners Brighouse & Rastrick Band, we say congratulations. We wish you the best of luck along with Grimethorpe Colliery, Carlton Main Frickley and Black Dyke as you head to the Royal Albert Hall to fly the flag for Yorkshire at the National Finals.
Congratulations to all the Yorkshire qualifiers in the other sections too, and good luck as you represent Yorkshire at Cheltenham.
Onwards and upwards!
#TeamUnite #UnitedWeBand
Full Results for the Yorkshire Regional Championships: https://www.4barsrest.com/news/detail.asp?offset=20&id=37497 

Area Preview Night

 We are holding our annual Area Preview Night on Sunday 24th February, 7:30pm at the Burton Street Foundation, Hillsborough, S6 2HH.

Our adjudicator for the evening is Mr Alan Morrison, and the bands taking part alongside ourselves are South Yorkshire Police Band, Oughtbridge Band and Loxley Silver Band.

There is an entry fee of £4.00 for non-performers on the night, and Burton Street will be providing a bar (cash only), on the evening. Doors will be open from 6:45pm. 

Come along and support a selection of Sheffield's bands as we prepare for the Yorkshire Regionals in Huddersfield!!

A Quartet of New Arrivals

We have welcomed a quartet of new players into the ranks the past couple of weeks ahead of our regional contest at Huddersfield.

The band would like to welcome Jason Smith to the front row bench. Jason joins us from Hatfield & Askern Colliery Band, where he held the principal cornet position, and has previously played for Thoresby Colliery Band and Carlton Main Frickley Band.

Joining Jason on the front row is Becky Marsh from Rainford Band. Becky has moved to Sheffield to commence her studies at the University of Sheffield, and we are delighted she has chosen to continue her playing as well.

Not to be left out, our back row cornets would also like to extend a warm welcome to Philippa Smith. Philippa has come to Unite after playing for the Yorkshire Imperial Urquart Travel Band.

Completing the quartet is Sophie Barwick who joins us on tenor horn. Sophie was previously a member of the Roberts Bakery Band and is also studying at the University of Sheffield.

Our Chair, Melissa Maddison has said:

“The band is delighted to welcome some very talented young musicians into our ranks. There is a real sense of unity and positivity as we continue to move forwards and grow from strength to strength. We have a fantastic social scene and are really looking forward to 2019 being a very successful year both in terms of musical performance, and in seeing the band develop”.

Melissa Maddison

This latest quartet for Unite follows the addition of two more players after a reshuffle around the stands in September, and we would like to formerly welcome Rachel Onions on tuned percussion and Max Owen on Eb Bass.

The band are currently preparing to compete at the Yorkshire Regional contest in the Championship section next month at Huddersfield Town Hall before competing in the Senior Trophy held in Blackpool in May. Our Musical Director John Roberts has said;

“I’m enjoying working with the band as we prepare Seascapes, even more so as I remember it the first time round, and I’m also looking forward to the Spring Festival where we‘ll be playing Triumphant Rhapsody.”

John Roberts

The recent signings to the band have certainly had a positive impact, and all of us are looking forward to our future contest and concert performances.

Welcome to the team ladies and gentlemen!


4barsrest Feature: https://www.4barsrest.com/news/detail.asp?offset=20&id=36407

All4Brass Feature: https://www.all4brass.com/2019/02/13/new-quartet-unite-the-union/