Bulkington Silver Band is one of the oldest bands in Britain, first formed in 1848 by George Bicknell and his five sons. The band was based on a pure brass combination, unlike many earlier founded bands which included other wind instruments. It was known locally as The Bicknell’s Band as so many players were Bicknell related, but by 1919 it was known only as the Bulkington Silver Band.
From its early beginnings to well into the 20th century brass bands were very popular and usually played to large audiences in halls and parks. With Bulkington it was no different and it was quire normal to play two 2 hour concerts in a day.
In brass bands of old it was unusual for girls to play in the male dominated environment, Hazel Bicknell, the great-great granddaughter of the founder, played in the band from the age of 13. She later married Jess Wright, one of the Bulkington players and she is still President of the band, being the only remaining member left with direct ties to the founder.
Contesting over the years has always been an important event in the banding calendar, as in all things you strive to be better than others. In 1960 they had their first important success after they won the Area Brass Band Competition and were invited to compete at the finals in London under the baton of Arthur Bicknell. This success has only been repeated on three occasions since 1960. Locally the band had periods of success with contesting. The late 1950’s and early 1960’s was a very good period and so were the 1980’s. Arthur Bicknell passed away November 1997 after being involved with the band for 70 years.
Most Bands go through difficult periods, and Bulkington is proud that it continued to function through the war years. As banding is only a hobby it is difficult to retain players because of more important issues of family life, work, health or education. For years Bulkington has adopted an attitude of teaching people to play rather than poaching from other bands. This started in the 1960’s when Jess Wright and Reg Neale took on the task of teaching and over the years since others have taken this duty but with main long term teaching by Eddie Jones in the 1980’s and 1990’s and Michael Taylor in the 1970’s and who has also been teaching from the turn of the century until present time.
The band has survived financially through subscriptions and performing to earn money, however the fortunate in the late 1980’s to negotiate a sponsorship deal with Dunlop Engineering in Coventry which lasted several years. The sponsorship enabled the band to purchase some good quality instruments and the band still use some of these today. During the sponsorship period the band hosted concerts to assist Dunlop Engineering’s charity causes. The bands charity work still continues and is directed to the raising funds for Mary Ann Evans Hospice at the George Elliot Hospital, each year we perform for their “Picnic Proms” in July and also provide music for an outdoor service of remembrance held in December entitled “Lights of Love”
Bulkington Silver Band once left our shores to entertain abroad and in August 2004 travelled to Hatzenbuhl, Germany. The experience for those who went was unforgettable and it was a pleasure to entertain foreigners on their own soil to show what a little village like Bulkington could achieve.
In recent years the band policy has moved away from contesting and concentrates on entertaining the public locally, If you attend an event in the Nuneaton area and there is a band playing chances are its Bulkington Silver Band.
The band continues teaching anyone who is enthusiastic and wishes to learn with the age of the student being immaterial and proudly boast of teaching from the age of 7 to 70. Moving away from contesting offers a more relaxed atmosphere, though the band is always striving to improve playing quality. By not contesting the restrictions of the number of players is lifted and the only current restriction is the size of the practice room, where the band accommodate just over forty musicians.
In 2005 a youth band was formed as an off-shoot to a main band. It initially had 8 players but this peaked to 26 players covering all brass instruments. This was very rewarding to the bands MD, Michael Taylor who had worked so hard and continues to do so in teaching the youngsters. Due to the dedication of both pupils and teachers no one has failed examinations set by the Royal School of Music.
Currently there are insufficient youth members to function as a band but there are 9 under 18’s regularly performing with the main band with others in the side lines learning. Most of these youth members perform annually in the Nuneaton Festival of Arts.
The band’s performances can be followed on the Facebook page on this web site.