Wanted A Local Carnegie
(By our Special Correspondent)
THE DESERTED BANDSTAND
A deplorable dispute has arisen at Rushden between the four bands of the town and the District Council. It should never have happened in such a harmonious town, famous not only for its footwear, its fine church, its clever sportsmen, and especially for its wealth of musical talent. The result is that the bandstand in Spencer Parkthe only recreation ground in Rushdenis now deserted by the four bands of the town. Thus the people have so far this season been deprived of the pleasure of open air concerts. Intense indignation now exists among this music loving community at the scarcity of open air concerts in this thriving town by comparison with neighbouring places.
The primary cause of the trouble is the so-called bandstand. This I found to be a structure more suggestive of an elevated cattle pen. There is not a strip of shelter from sun or storm. Only bandsmen know the purgatory of playing while they are either getting it in the neck from a broiling sun or being blinded by glitter of their instruments in the dazzling sunshine in their faces. The provision for the public is even worse. There are no seats around the bandstand, no beds of flowers, no illuminations at night-nothing but asphalt paths and long, uneven grass. Amid such discomforts how can players and public feel confortable, much less happy? No wonder the bandsmen complain of the paucity of public patronage. So poor is it that the collections average only 30s., which is a paltry return for all the trouble and expense a band of 26 players go to in providing their own uniforms, music, accessories and giving up their leisure time to practices and playing.
The trouble arose at the beginning of the season, when the four bands, the Town, the Temperance, the Mission and the Salvation Army, made representations to the District Council for a suitable bandstand. Their claims were strengthened by the fact that in the much smaller neighbouring town of Irthlingborough, the District Council have provided a proper bandstand, even although the town is without a band and has to advertise for bands to play there.
This has cost the lrthlingborough District Council £300 but the cost of the Rushden bandstand was borne largely by the four bands and public subscriptions, the Council undertaking the cost of erection.
Mr. Fred Knight, J.P., Chairman of the District Council, admits that a better bandstand is desirable, but he feels that the expense of erecting an entirely new one is a matter requiring earnest consideration.
Another member intimated to me that the trouble has been brought to a head because the Council intimated to the four Rushden bands that they could no longer monopolise the concert season, as the Council proposed to introduce some outside bands.
The case for the Town Band
In reply to this, Mr. M. J. Roberts, the bandmaster of the Rushden Town Silver Band, said to me: "It is quite untrue that we are jealous of any outside bands. We have far too many engagements elsewhere to be envious of others, but we do desire and I think deserve, more consideration at the hands of the authorities. We also resent very keenly the insulting insinuation that we have been infected by the strike epidemic. As a proof of that we are giving our services for the Hospital Jubilee Effort, the Miners Fund, the Blind and Crippled Children, and other charities. I have been associated with the band ever since it was formed as the Rifle Band, 25 years ago, and we have never refused any request for help for charity, irrespective of any denominational considerations. Our services too, for these causes are entirely voluntary. This is no light sacrifice, for practically all the members are factory workers and have to go to considerable expense in maintaining efficiency. If the Band Club did not supplement our financial resources we could not carry on as we do.
Mr. Roberts is not only a clever conductor, but is one of the best cornet players in the country. During the war he served in a naval band. All the members of the Rushden Town Band, who were eligible for service, also joined up, and several were killed or wounded. From a patriotic standpoint, therefore, they are entitled to every encouragement.
The Town Band's Fine Record
Prom a musical point of view, the Rushden Town Silver Prize Band is a combination of which any other town might be proud. Mr. A. W. Neville, Chairman of the Band Committee and the euphonium player, assured me: “We have been on the test stands six times this year and come off with something every time. We were champions of the Midlands in 1910, and our other successes include the Duke of Bedford’s Challenge Cup, 1905; the Club Union Shield, 1912; first prize, Pymoor, 1913; third out of 23 bands at Leicester, 1925; seventh position in the first section at Leicester, 1925; first and second at Kibworth, second at Cambridge, and second at Coalville, 1926.”
Such a record is indeed one upon which they are to be heartily congratulated. When I heard them practising the other day, I was surprised and delighted with their enthusiasm and efficiency. It was obvious that conductor and players were heart and soul in their work.
Rushden's Great Opportunity - Who Will Help?
My visit to Spencer Park impressed me with the opportunities being wasted there of making it a resort almost as attractive as Wicksteed Park at Kettering. It could be converted into a place as picturesque as Abington, which would bring hosts of holiday-makers to the town. There are about a dozen acres belonging to the Council and adjoining are several acres of woodlands and undulating pasture land, which ought to be acquired by the authorities and added to the park. There is a stream running through with sufficient flow to make a lake, but at present it is fenced off by iron railings and the banks covered with rank undergrowth, instead of flowering shrubs. There is not a single flower bed in the place and apart from the bowling greens, tennis courts, a small sand dump and pool for children, there is nothing but uneven stretches of grass, disfigured by the unsightly bandstand, a tank, and a dilapidated army hut, which has to serve the purpose of the Territorial headquarters. Carnegie has set a munificent example by giving Rushden a splendid library. Are there no public spirited gentlemen of Rushden who will come to the rescue of this recreation ground? They have a golden opportunity of rejoicing the hearts of the people by making the park worthy of a progressive place like Rushden. A all events there should not be much difficulty in securing sufficient support for supplying a bandstand and surroundings suitable alike for the players and the public.