Strike up the Band!
Working with West Lothian Museum Service and funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, we are running an eighteen-month project recording the history and memories of various brass bands in West Lothian.
Although the Reminiscence Centre is open for visitors of all ages to drop in and share their memories, we are particularly focused on collecting reminiscences about brass bands. Lloyd and Joyce have been visiting bands, meeting and recording members, past and present, as well as collecting photos and other materials: uniforms, posters, programmes and instruments. A selection of which is currently on display. We have recorded retired members, playing members and some very young players for the Newlands Junior Band. Maureen and Lloyd are doing some school visits. We held a weekend of brass instrument related events in October and are hosting an afternoon tea party for past members in the unit.
Training sessions will start in March and we will be starting a series of art workshops to create a collage incorporating memories of brass bands and life in West Lothian. We will be running reminiscence sessions in community locations, as well as in the centre.
Brass bands have a long history in West Lothian, in part due to mining and other industries associated with the area. Many villages had their own bands, which were very important to their traditions, culture, identity and community life. Some of the earliest bands, such as Bathgate, Armadale, West Calder and Whitburn, started in the nineteenth century. While some bands are no longer in existence due to changing employment, others have continued to evolve and thrive. Members may not necessarily come from the local community, although the bands are still very much located in their home towns. The funds for instruments, rehearsal space and uniforms were often provided by local welfare institutes and supportive bodies such as churches, schools and families so the connections are very strong. Bands, in turn, played at the Gala Day parades, concerts and other community occasions such as playing for the bells at midnight on Hogmanay.
At the end of the project we will produce a booklet and website as well as create a larger exhibition incorporating memories and images donated by participants, which will be displayed in the centre.
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