“That Minutes of Last Meeting Pass as Read”: Helmshore Prize Band’s Committee Meeting Minutes, A Case Study of ‘Life as Normal’ and ‘Moral Contracts’ in the First World War

“That Minutes of Last Meeting Pass as Read”: Helmshore Prize Band’s Committee Meeting Minutes, A Case Study of ‘Life as Normal’ and ‘Moral Contracts’ in the First World War

Dr Stephen Etheridge

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Helmshore Prize Band, with committee and supporters,  taken at Sunnybank,  Helmshore, c.1906. (Permission Gavin Holman, http://www.ibew.co.uk)

Helmshore Prize Brass Band were formed in the 1870s and were active in East Lancashire’s Rossendale Valley in the late nineteenth century and throughout the First World War and beyond. They could not be considered a ‘crack’ band, but they were ambitious, entering the majority of local contests and employing trainers and players that would help them win.[1] This was the experience of most bands from the 1860s onwards. Like other bands in the regions surrounding Manchester Helmshore were driven by the need to raise money for the purchase and upkeep of instruments, uniforms and music. In addition, they had to maintain and run a bandroom where they could not only rehearse but also hold social events. [2]

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‘The Man Fro’ Lancashire’: Prisoners of War and Lancashire Musical Donations

‘The Man Fro’ Lancashire’: Prisoners of War and Lancashire Musical Donations

Dr Stephen Etheridge

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Figure 1. French, Belgian and Russian Prisoners of War forming a band. Including, with the baton, ‘the man fro’ Lancashire’. (Rossendale Free Press, 3 June, 1916)

On June 3, 1916, the Rossendale Free Press published this picture which included an unknown ‘man fro’ Lancashire’, who, the photograph and the newspaper suggests, was the conductor of a ‘scratch band’ of musicians in an unknown German prisoner of war camp. The piece intrigued me not only because it tells us a little about the nature of these camps, but also because the local reporting from Rossendale, in East Lancashire, informs us about the musical nature of people in the regions surrounding Manchester, the very people that would have attended concerts, park events and brass band contests in the city.

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