The history and heritage of British brass bands is being celebrated in a new exhibition at the University of Huddersfield’s Heritage Quay.

Brass Bands: History and Culture runs from 4 March to 23 April and features a fascinating selection of items from a collection donated to the University’s archive by Brass Bands England.

Their collection, which will now be housed permanently at Heritage Quay, contains memorabilia dating back to the 19th Century including trophies, 9,000 sets of sheet music, 5,000 brass band journals, 1,000 vinyl recordings, wax cylinder recordings, uniforms and photographs, many of which have never been publicly available before.

There has been a long association between brass bands and the Huddersfield area, with the Whit Friday Brass Bands Contests around the nearby Saddleworth villages still attracting bands from all over the UK.

“The whole team at Brass Bands England are really excited to see the Brass Bands Archive reopen at the University of Huddersfield’s Heritage Quay,” says Alex Parker from Brass Bands England. 

“This is the first time the collection has been open to the public since the original archive closed in 2018. We welcome everyone to make use of the collection which sees music, journals, trophies, recordings and other items of interest come together as a resource for research and enjoyment. This is also an important moment to mark the vast volume of work done by our four archivists, 45 volunteers and staff team who, thanks to funding from the cultural recovery fund, spent much of the pandemic sorting, appraising, listing and recording the items in the collection.”

The exhibition will open with a free event at Heritage Quay on 4 and 5 March that coincides with the Yorkshire Regional Championships that will take place at Huddersfield Town Hall.

“We are delighted that the Brass Bands Archive has been deposited with Heritage Quay,” says Rebecca Bowd, University Archivist.  

“This is a significant addition to our existing music collections including the Slaithwaite Brass Band Archive, the British Music Collection, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival Archive, and the British Dance Band Collection.  We look forward to welcoming researchers interested in exploring the rich history of brass bands, and working with Brass Bands England to develop the archive in the future.”

The archive was started by brass band players and enthusiasts Walter Ainscough and Alan Marsh, who originally collected and kept the archive in a flat in Wigan.

Researchers can find out more about how to make an in-person or online appointment on the Heritage Quay website.