One year on, by Noah Wild
Wow! How quickly a year in HNBB goes! And an end in a year of playing once again finishes with a band tour. With a schedule comprising the usual engagements and social activities, we departed to this year’s location of Blackpool. This being my first trip to Blackpool, and most likely my last, I wasn’t fully aware of all the quirks of the city (my favourite being the overly large laminated shop signs looking over the promenade: anyone fancy borrowing money from “Loans 2 Go” or staying in the hotel “Craig – Y – Don”?).
Our first site of playing was the National Trust property Tatton Park, where we sheltered from the rain as the audience came and went as the rainfall fluctuated. Though there were showers we still did manage to draw a crowd, and the rainfall eventually ended (just as we had begun playing Singing in the Rain). Music played and small photo opportunity completed, we continued the journey to our hotel. (It’s worth a note that this year the band was followed by the ‘official’ tour photographer, who took some snaps of the band as they played. Check Facebook for photos of crying babies and frightened merry-go-round riders.)
This year, unlike lasts, the hotel had its own entertainment provided. Though I didn’t myself see the two women dressed as turtles I’m sure they were of the upmost quality, and surely better than the Hook Norton Brass Band Choir, who performed just whenever they fancied it, to a private audience (made up of either unsuspecting hotel residents or to other members of the band, forced to listen as the walls of a moving coach don’t give you anywhere to hide). Never has One Voice or Don’t Stop Me Now been sung with such vigour and determination.
Saturday started with a trip up the Blackpool Tower, via the included 4D cinema experience and continued with a drive to the local Salvation Army to pick up some chairs. Ready for some playing of well-known and more obscure tunes we unpacked at the bandstand in the nearby Lytham St. Anne’s. One tricky coach reversal later, we had begun playing to our biggest audience of the weekend. The best piece of feedback had to be from the man who walked past and said: “You don’t get music like this down in the south.” Well, I’m sorry… but you kind of do.
Our final day included the event most worthy of mentioning. I think everyone was happy with the coach provided for the tour, until it decided to break down suddenly in an estate on the suburbs of Blackpool. Stranded in a wilderness of tiny backstreets were: five band members; the coach driver; the band’s suitcases and general belongings; and all the instruments needed for the afternoon’s engagement. Two taxis crammed full of cornets, trombones, tubas and timpani later, along with a replacement bus, the band were able to play in the Winter Gardens and say goodbye to Blackpool. We arrived back in Banbury with tired lips and recovering ears from the tuneful sound of the choir, who graced us with their singing on the last leg of the journey. Bring on next year’s tour, whether in rainy Portsmouth or sunny Northern France.