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Ratby Brass Band
There has been music-making in Ratby for hundreds of years, with records of a Ratby band playing to welcome King James to Bradgate House in the 1700's, and providing music in the church and leading the parade of Ox Carts to the Cherry Tree pub in Leicester in the 1800's.
By the mid 19th Century, many wind and brass players in England were forming into the type of brass bands we would recognise today, encouraged by the Industrial Revolution, developments in instrument manufacturing (including one Mr Adolphe Saxe) and the popularity of competitions with cash prizes.
In 1906 the Ratby musicians, like those around this time in neighbouring Thornton, Desford, Croft, Anstey, Enderby and others in Leicestershire, formed a brass band although Ratby Band's exact origins remain indistinct. We know the band was not created by a factory or colliery owner or by a Temperance Society, like many others – most likely it was funded by public subscription from Ratby villagers.
The Band practised in the Chapel in the early years, and took part in the regular “Infirmary Parades” to help raise money for the Infirmary. They also welcomed soldiers back to the village at the station (now the Railway pub) after the Great War in 1919. Practices moved to an upstairs room at the Plough, and then to a room at the back of the Co-op Buildings in Main Street.
Ratby Town Silver Prize Band was reformed again after the Second World War, and the thriving organisation here today owes its existence very much to John (“Jacky”) Bancroft, conductor and teacher, who took over in the early 1960's. Under his guidance, and with a lot of hard work and money-raising, the band went from strength to strength. Practices moved, once the band had dug the cellar out, to Ratby Working Men's Club in Stamford Street and in return the band did 2 concerts a year for the Club. The focus on youth – the players of tomorrow – took hold, and the band started winning prizes again at contests.
By the early 1970's, Betty Anderson was Musical Director and the goal was strengthening the band and reaching the Championship Section. The band won, amongst other competitions, the prestigious W & H O Wills Contest at Kensington Town Hall. In 1973 the Junior Band (now the Youth Band) was formed, under the baton of Betty. In 1978 The Ratby Band won the Spring Belle Vue Grand Shield competition enabling them to compete against the best bands in the country at the famous British Open Championships. At this time Betty had the distinction of being the first female conductor ever to take the stage at the British Open.
The meteoric rise of the band under Betty's direction saw them promoted from the 4th section through to the Championship section within 11 years.
Ratby has had many links with the continent particularly our friends from Holland with exchange visits with the ONDA Band from Middelberg and Stella Duce from Venlo. The band has also visited France, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Luxembourg and Germany. The Junior Band were also particularly pleased to visit Holland and the Mid Band have visited France and Spain, so furthering the links abroad.
The World Musik Contest Festival is held every 4 years in Kerkrade, Holland and since 1978 Ratby Band has represented Great Britain eight times and have been awarded a Gold Medal every time – a record for the contest. The band was judged World Champions in its section in 1997, 2001 and 2005.
The Youth Band organise their own concerts and fulfil engagements in their own right throughout the year and have taken part in such events as the 'National Music Day' and 'Band-a-thon' which was a national sponsored event to raise funds for Muscular Dystrophy. One of their claims to fame was in 1993 when they won through the Northern Qualifying rounds and were invited to appear at the Grand Finals of the 'Child of Achievement Music in the Community' competition at which they were awarded a Platinum Award. Most years they take part in the National Youth Band Championships of Great Britain and in 1993 were awarded 3rd prize at the Royal Northern College of Music under the direction of Geoff Newman.
Ratby Band of of Year 1991During 1987 the Training Band was formed and led by Stuart Osgood to give the youngsters somewhere to learn the basics before starting in the Youth Band. As well as travelling extensively, in 1991 the Band was awarded 'Band of the Year' by British Bandsman magazine. This followed a survey on training youngsters and the judge's comments applauding Ratby's “ongoing dedication to the cause of young musicians” were particularly pleasing.
Ratby Brass Band is pleased to be associated with the Member Relations Division of the Leicestershire Co-operative Society and their sponsorship has proved invaluable in helping the Band teach children and extend music making further afield.
In 1997, Ratby Co-operative Brass Band won the First Section Area Contest under Kevin (“Sid”) Steward, enabling them to participate in the National Finals at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham. This was the same year that the Ratby Mid Band was formed to bridge the gap between the Youth and Senior Bands, with Geoff Newman conducting.
In the year 2000 the Senior Band conducted by Kevin Steward once again won the Midland Area and came 5th in the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall, London. This led once again to promotion into the Championship Section where they have remained since.
The 21st Century has seen much activity on the contest and concert stages for the Ratby Bands, and a consolidation of our various positions. In January 2006, our Centenary Year, we were delighted to launch the Ratby Beginner Band led by Geoff Newman, with 11 brand new learners (including children and grand-children of members of other Ratby Bands). We believe this makes the Ratby Co-operative Brass Band, with one hundred years of history, five bands and around 140 musicians, the biggest Brass Band in Great Britain, and probably the world – a remarkable achievement.