In 1945 the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain began superceding the ‘Great National Band Festival’ which had been held at the Crystal Palace and Alexandra Palace from 1900. These contests were just called the ‘Crystal Palace Contests’ prior to this. The new ‘National’ title was won a year later in 1946 for the first time by B&R, conducted by Eric Ball, one of many famous names to be associated with the band.
The ‘World Championship’ was introduced in 1968 and B&R were the first victors, conducted now by Walter Hargreaves. They successfully retained the title a year later to become the only band to win this short-lived contest more than once.
Further National Championship titles followed, in 1973, conducted by James Scott and 1980, conducted by Derek Broadbent. In their centenary year, Brighouse and Rastrick were National ‘runners-up’, but the following day managed to triumph at the 1981 European Brass Band Championship.
A new competition, the All England Masters Brass Band Championship, was established in Cambridge in 1989. This quickly gained prestige, attracting entries from the top English bands. Brighouse and Rastrick became the first Yorkshire holders in 1993 conducted by professional conductor, Allan Withington, and his first major contest success with the band.
A real ‘purple patch’ of contesting success followed in the late 1990’s. The National Championship was won again in the autumn of 1997, at the Royal Albert Hall. The following May, in Kerkrade, Holland, B&R won the European Brass Band Championship again, followed just three weeks later by another victory at the All England Masters. Allan and the Band had created a new unique entry for the record books, the ‘triple championship’, by holding concurrently the English, British and European Championships. The National was successfully defended in 1998 with a third National title in a row narrowly missed when they were runner’s up in 1999.
Success in ‘media’ entertainment competitions has also been enjoyed over the years showing off the bands entertaining concert style. In 1968 B&R was the BBC Band of the Year, in 1975 the Granada Television Band of the Year. Their inaugural entry into the ‘Brass in Concert’ entertainment contest held in Gateshead in 2005 saw them achieve second place but a year later they triumphed becoming the ‘2006 Brass In Concert Champions’. Retaining the title a year later in 2007.
Brighouse & Rastrick have always been prolific prizewinners at the Whit Friday March contests held annually in the Saddleworth area of Northern England. They are always popular participants in this unique event and easily recognisable dressed in their famous purple and gold outdoor uniforms. They have won more top prizes during this very special evening than any other band including in recent years the overall ‘Saddleworth Championship’ title.
A more unusual and unique success came the bands way in 1977 when for nine weeks they were at No.2 in the British ‘pop’ charts with their recording of ‘The Floral Dance’. This was is a musical arrangement of the well-known Katie Moss song with strong Cornish associations, made by resident conductor, Derek Broadbent. Doggedly held off the top spot by Paul McCartney, they still achieved sales of over a million, earning both Gold and Silver discs and attracting fame well beyond the UK. ‘The Floral Dance’ has now become the band’s ‘unofficial’ signature tune, alongside the long established ‘official’ signature tune, the March ‘West Riding’ composed by Sam B. Wood and based on the famous Yorkshire anthem, ‘Ilkla Moor’.
In addition to fine players and conductors, to achieve real success, the musical part any band operation has to be underpinned by sound management of its business affairs. Brighouse and Rastrick have been very fortunate over the years in attracting many able, dedicated and often unsung administrators who have taken on band management roles. There are also players who in addition to their playing duties have also been deeply involved in administration work. From ‘working’ Presidents (not merely figureheads) down to the humblest tea-maker, the determination to do a task well for the ongoing success of B&R has been paramount. Many names could be listed, but Herbert Wood, Jimmy Squire, Charlie Badrock, Jack Lakey and latterly Eddie Noble MBE come easily to mind as examples of people who have given tremendous service through both good and bad times.
Brighouse & Rastrick’s foundations for the new millennium were firmly established with a victory at the 2001 All England Masters Championship.
Allan Withington succeeded William Halliwell as the bands most successful professional conductor. With countless radio and TV broadcasts and CD recordings to its credit, Brighouse and Rastrick Band is kept very busy.
In addition to competition work, each year up to thirty concerts are performed at venues across the UK ranging from small village halls to the major concert halls of the land, the majority being organised in aid of local or national charities. With such a fine reputation for high quality music and entertainment being associated with the band’s name, high-ticket sales with full houses are the norm. The same reaction occurs when the band occasionally travels abroad such as on its highly acclaimed debut North American concert tour to Canada during 2005.
Very firm roots were re-established in the town of Brighouse in 1995 with the building of the band’s own purpose built ‘West Ridings’ headquarters. In 2010 and 2011 the Band won the highly competitive Yorkshire Area Championship before being crowned ‘Champion Band of Great Britain’ at the Royal Albert Hall in the same two years. So successful overall was 2011 that Brighouse and Rastrick were voted ‘Band of the Year’ and Professional Conductor David King, ‘Conductor of the Year’, by the readers of the 4Barsrest brass band website. Since then the band have continued to consistently feature in the major contest prize lists to achieve at the time of writing in 2017, the No.2 position in the World Brass Band Rankings.
Today, the band continues to make its mark on the new century with all the promise that holds, whilst maintaining their great traditions and continued quest for musical excellence. With over 136 years of proud history behind them, the band is still fiercely financially independent and beholden to no one else other than itself.
It is still true to say that no other public subscription band has held such high status for as long as The Brighouse and Rastrick Band.