SPOTLIGHT ON: ISOBEL DAWS - Talented trombonist on her flourishing career

Issue 6072

EUROPEAN CANCELLED - Major contest off for second successive year as COVID continues

SOUND OF CHRISTMAS - Bands in England given green light to resume as lockdown ends

Melanie Sykes endorses #SaveOurBrassBands campaign

Tuesday 10 November, 2020

With the festive season approaching, bands would usually be dusting off their carol books for a hectic period in the build-up to Christmas. The ongoing pandemic may bring most events to a halt in 2020 but a new campaign from Brass Bands England and Crowdfunder hopes to save bands across the UK – and has received celebrity endorsement.

The #SaveOurBrassBands campaign is to be led by television and radio personality, Melanie Sykes, whose roots are in the brass band world.

The fundraising campaign will be hosted free of charge for all brass bands by the fundraising platform, The aim is for every brass band struggling with the current economic climate to be able to create its own Crowdfunder page and to raise money in its community under the umbrella of the wider national campaign. Bands can make their free pages and add a range of unique rewards, ranging from personalised Christmas performances through to delivering online lessons:

The campaign follows the successes of previous #SaveOur…. style Crowdfunder campaigns, such as #SaveOurVenuesand #SaveOurTheatres, which have raised more than £3 million and £1.2 million respectively.

Speaking about the #SaveOurBrassBands campaign, Melanie Sykes commented: “I’ve been involved in brass bands since I was about eight years old, and going to band as a child was a very good education on teamwork, sticking to rules, discipline to practise, communication and listening, but mostly it was fun. My father, Robert Sykes, is a brass bandsman, like his father before him, who was also a composer and conductor. My dad plays euphonium and conducts and he taught me the basics on an old trumpet we had at home. He actually taught my whole family and did private lessons for others too.”

Looking back over her family’s banding career, Melanie continued: “I played a cornet that belonged to Mossley St John’s Band; my dad must have been with them at that time, but I didn't actually play with them. I really cannot remember when I first picked up the baritone. I desperately wanted to be a euphonium player, but alas it was a tad too big for me when I was a child and the baritone just stuck. I played mostly at Ashtonian Brass, a Fourth Section band. My older sister, Samantha, played trombone, my little sister and my mum both played tenor horn, dad was on euphonium and I played baritone. I played with the band until I was about 15 years old and I had a nice tone apparently - well that's what my dad always said - and obviously when I practised, I was quite good. I always hold fantasies about being a euphonium soloist like him and, to be honest, I still do.” 

Speaking about banding highlights, Melanie added: “I absolutely loved Whit Friday and I used to love marching. The competition side of it was a bit scary but it was so much fun too. I loved the community spirit and it was fantastic to be a part of that for a good few years there. I would still love to be in a band and if I could make rehearsals regularly, I would absolutely do it. I have an instrument at home and have a blow on it now and again, mostly at Christmas. I can still get a decent sound out of it, but my fingers take a bit of time to limber up and my lip is shot easily.”

When asked about the best thing about being in a brass band, Melanie replied: “For me, being in a brass band meant spending time with my family, being part of a community, learning how to present myself, exercise a bit of showmanship and, in competition, how to handle my nerves.”

Kenny Crookston, chief executive officer of Brass Bands England, said: “Save Our Brass Bands is open to all bands in the UK, which will have access to the online platform free of all charges for the duration of the campaign, as well as some brilliant resources provided by Crowdfunder to help them maximise the return on their efforts. The real benefits of the campaign will be seen when as many bands as possible get involved and we can help to raise the profile of the existential issues facing brass bands at the current time. We are delighted to welcome Melanie Sykes on board to help us do this and hope that every band in the country will consider the benefits of getting on board to help both themselves and each other raise as much cash as possible.”

#SaveOurBrassBands national campaign will run from November 17 to December 18. Further details of the campaign, including recordings of group coaching webinars and campaign support materials, are available on the BBE website at:
View the campaign page here