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Bouncing Back Into the Spotlight

You have to go back over 30 years to find the last time that the name of Askern Colliery Band featured on the winners’ board at the Yorkshire Regional Championships. 1987 to be precise, when the late Graham O’Connor took them to first place in the 2nd Section, playing “The Margam Stones”.

The intervening years have been hard on the band, as players and engagements slowly dwindled until the band almost disappeared from the radar altogether in the early 2000s. Following the closure of the village pit in late 1991, it was almost a case of “the writing on the wall”. The band and its assets were placed into the trusteeship of the Askern Miners’ Welfare Club in early 1992 and thereafter it was just a handful of players who managed to meet in their upstairs rooms at “the Wellie” from time to time that kept the music alive.

It was the circulation of players around the other local bands that helped keep a light on in the gloom, until around 2014 when Doncaster’s premier brass band – the Hatfield Band – approached the residual Askern group with a merger proposal that would help to preserve the futures and histories of both bands. Playing under the Hatfield name, the band rehearsed in Askern and incrementally pooled resources and assets culminating in a formal merger as “Hatfield and Askern Colliery Band” that was ratified in May 2018, thus pulling together the musical core of two South Yorkshire pit villages separated only by eight miles and a few fields and rivers.

Given the longstanding support of Hatfield Town Council, and under the leadership of Stan Lippeatt, Hatfield Band managed to gather a few contest prizes in the years to 2018, when they were unceremoniously relegated from the Championship Section after coming 13th in the Area contest. Since then, the path has been one toward restoration of status and the band has collected a 5th in the Senior Cup at the 2018 Spring Festival, a 3rd place in Brass at the Guild (Preston) in January 2019 and lately, a 1st place in the NEMBBA Contest on 24 February 2019, when airing the test piece for this year’s Area contest, with killer Sop Mike Kilmartin also scooping the soloist prize on the day.

Building this momentum has generated a sound feel-good factor amongst the players. There is still a final polish to be applied this week, but there is no doubt that the name of Askern Colliery Band is back in the spotlight, the Phoenix is rising, and the might of Hatfield and Askern Colliery Band will be striving for top spot and another notch on the honours board on Saturday 2nd March 2019 at Huddersfield Town Hall.


NEMBBA Win is in the Bag!

So it came to pass that in sunny South Normanton on Sunday 24th February 2019, the band went out to give this year's area test piece Symphony of Marches an airing ahead of the Yorkshire Regional Championships on 2nd March. Stealing away into Derbyshire with a few other Yorkshire bands was an easy way to try things out without exposing too many secrets to the Area competition. But what a day we had!

Playing before a good sized crowd the band gave a strong hint of its Area potential by winning the 1st Section trophy with a very comfortable and stylish all round performance of Gilbert Vinter's piece. And in a further show of force, hot Soprano Cornet Mike "Killer" Kilmartin stole away with the Solo prize for his sweet cameo in the second movement.

All in all, a "good day at the races" that sets us up well. Just a little polish here and a refining tweak there, followed by bags of concentration and focus …… and who knows what can be achieved next week!

A Sniff of Success in Preston

A bright start and dash across the Pennines on Sunday morning saw the band arrive in Preston at lunch time, well ahead of schedule and in good time for a quick blow through in the Stanley Arms' upstairs function room in readiness for a walk across the road to the Guild Hall for our contest performance around 2:30.

And so we settled in eager anticipation of a winning blow around 3:30. Alas, time stood still as we swigged cokes, coffees and teas in the bar(not a drop of alcoholic pop ahead of the contest!). A delay of 95 minutes saw us eventually take to the stage around 5 o'clock.

Of 10 bands in the 1st Section, we were the only band to choose Force of Destiny as our test piece, all the others running with the Area test piece Symphony of Marches. A stand out performance was what we needed and this was perhaps one way to make it happen! Eight and a half minutes later, it was done and dusted.

Then came the reckoning up. 3rd place was our reward and we soon cracked the bar for a welcome and rewarding glass before once again embussing for a return to home turf with our spoils in the bag.

Next up is the NEMBBA Contest at South Normanton at the end of February. A chance to run the Area test piece under contest conditions a week before the big one at Huddersfield - and hopefully add another notch to Stan's baton!

Challenging Times Ahead

Its that time of year again, Contest Season, when the intensity ramps up with extra rehearsals in the run up to competition days.

First up for Hatfield & Askern Colliery Band this year is the Brass at the Guild Contest at Preston on Sunday 27th January, where we will be competing in the 1st Section, playing Force of Destiny. We will be hoping to emulate our success at Preston years ago when the band won the Championship Section and qualified for entry into the Senior Trophy competition at Blackpool's Spring Festival that year (2017).

After Preston we start gearing up for the Yorkshire Area Championships, where we will again compete in the 1st Section on Saturday 2nd March 2019. Playing the nationally set test piece Symphony of Marches, the band hopes to rebound and secure promotion back to the Championship Section at the first attempt! Hopes are high for restoration of Championship Section status, but we are all very much aware that we are up against some stiff competition in what is the toughest area in the national set up. Only the best and all that, but the tough intend to get going!

After the Area, we shift focus across the Pennines to Blackpool and our second appearance in a row in the Senior Cup at the Spring Festival on Saturday 11th May 2019. The test piece for this one will be Symphonic Music - one that we have yet to get on the stand and blow through.

So, all in all, a busy few months that will test our resilience as well as our musical abilities, but we hope to arrive back from each challenge with the appropriate silverware (or crystal glass) by way of reward for our endeavours!

Merry Christmas Askern!

Come along and join the fun as we raise the rafters at the Askern Miners Welfare Club to let the old sleigh-driver in with this year's cargo of goodies.

Birthday Boys

Sunday 11th November and half way through the band's WW1 Remembrance "Battle's Over" concert in the Askern Miners Welfare Club, we took time out to celebrate a brace of recent milestone birthdays.

Vintage cornetist Mick Kennedy and the evergreen Blonde Bombshell Roberto Brown have both just crossed the 60th birthday threshold. Rob invited members to join him for a celebratory buffet and it was here that MD Stan Lippeatt grabbed his chance to present them both with a small token gift of liquid sustenance on behalf of the band. Candles were lit and cakes were cut, but it came as a surprise when neither player had the wind to extinguish the flames!

Happy birthdays boys, may you have many more, and blow for years to come. Salut!

More from the Minster

Hot on the heels of our concert in Doncaster Minster on 15th September, the band will return for a Proms Concert on Saturday 27th October. The event is being hosted by the Doncaster Rotary and will raise funds for their chosen charities.

Richard marshalls the Minster

"Saturday night at the Minster" could be the next top 20 hit if the band's 15th September concert in Doncaster Minster is anything go by. A full concert programme enhanced with a guest appearance by the outstanding Richard Marshall had the rafters ringing with applause .... and the audience simultaneously whistling and laughing away as Stan Lippeatt teased their participation in a re-run of Bridge Over the River Kwai's Colonel Bogey scene. Richard literally marshalled attention as he excelled in delivering "Napoli", "All That I Am" and "Virtuosity" (the latter on his stretched cornet, a.k.a. trumpet), before the band's front row cornets got to their feet to join him for "Trumpets Wild". It was also a night of "firsts" - the band's first public rendition of the overture "Jubiloso", arranged for them by the late Ken Johnson and more recently edited and digitised by resident musicsmith and Sop player Mike Kilmartin. There were also first outings for new members Bob Morton (1st Baritone), Lee Durrant (Euphonium), Dave Fretwell (Eb Bass) and Keira Littlewood (Cornet). After a successful night, the band regathered in West Park, Goole on Sunday afternoon to provide musical entertainment and accompaniment for the town's World War 1 Commemoration service. Thankfully, the rain held off long enough and we even managed a poignant overflight by a Lancaster bomber during the finale. Now it's onward to our next appearance in the Minster on 27th October, for a Rotary Club Proms concert.

Ian Returns a Favour: With Thanks!

Less than a year ago Ian Kennedy, solo trombone with the Hatfield and Askern Colliery Band, was a patient undergoing chemotherapy in the Chatsfield Suite at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. Today, accompanied by Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones, he made a return to the suite to say thanks and, importantly, hand over a donation of £1087:68 raised from the band's latest Legends in Brass concert held in the Askern Miners Welfare Club last month. Proceeds from the concert were shared equally with Breast Cancer Now, another worthy cause that resonates loud with band members, and at DRI they will be put to use in the garden and on internal decor to help create a comfortable, tranquil atmosphere for patients recovering after therapy. Ian and Mayor Ros were both full of praise for the work done by the dedicated team at the Chatsfield Suite - and we all wish them continued success with the challenges they face every day. Keep up the good work guys!

A Star On Our Horizon

We are delighted to announce that the band will be joined in its forthcoming September concert at Doncaster Minster by Richard Marshall, currently Principal Cornet with the world famous Black Dyke Band.

The concert will take place in the Minster from 7:00-9:00 pm on Saturday 15th September 2018 and, in addition to the customary solo items, Richard will be joined by the band's front row cornets for a rendition of Trumpets Wild.

The acoustics in Doncaster Minster may have been designed around the grand organ that dominates the head of the church, but they are just as effective when distributing the sounds of a brass band in full flow to all corners of the building. It's surely one not to be missed, so make sure you mark the date now.

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