Wingates Band has made its own modest contribution to the plethora of local, national and international projects focusing attention on the centenary of the commencement of the Great War, by publishing a brochure outlining the band’s story during the difficult years of 1914 to 1918. Many band’s were forced to close down during the war (sadly, many never to make music again), but Wingates continued throughout the conflict almost as normal, as a result of the occupations of most of the bands members. Virtually all the players earned their living down the pits of Westhoughton, and as coal-mining was a so-called ‘reserved occupation’, they were exempt from call up.
Whilst very few Wingates musicians saw action at the battle-front (and there were no band casualties), they certainly played their part on the home front, as many concerts were performed in the town, in support of the many and diverse local wartime charities which played such an important part in community life. As most of these concerts were performed without fees, not surprisingly the band experienced extremely tough financial times during the war.
Entitled simply ‘Wingates Band & World War I’, the brochure highlights a most surprising fact: namely that, despite the dark days of war, and the severe financial constraints all round, it was in 1915 that the band made its first-ever gramophone records. A team from Regal Records Ltd. travelled all the way from London to the bandroom in Wingates Square, bringing primitive mechanical recording equipment, which was used to record a total of six 10-inch shellac discs, which were subsequently released for sale on a phased basis in 1915 and 1916. (Accordingly, in 2015, Wingates will be celebrating a century of recorded music – only three brass bands in the world have a longer ‘recording pedigree’– and plans are already underway for a commemorative CD album, and a booklet outlining the band’s recording history, including a full discography.)
The brochure can be requested by calling 01204 696984, or collected by visitors to the excellent ‘Westhoughton at War’ exhibition staged by Westhoughton Local History Group on the upper level of Westhoughton library, with the exhibition remaining in place until Remembrance Day – 11th November. Visitors to the exhibition can also take a look at the permanent tribute to Wingates Band within the local history section of the library, which is a microcosm of the band’s wonderful 141 years history, highlighting the important role it has played as an ambassador for the town since its origins in Victorian times.
Meanwhile, the next local concert by Wingates Band is the 26th in the successful and long-running Folk and Brass series, performed in conjunction with the band’s great friends and Westhoughton neighbours, The Houghton Weavers, on Wednesday, 10th September, commencing at 7:30pm. Tickets can be purchased by callers at the venue – the historic and atmospheric Rivington Hall Barn – or by post from 01204 696984.