It’s been a year where we have continued the program of improvement and development. The committee and I would like to thank Gareth, who has settled well into his role of Musical Director. He brought with him a level of skill and professionalism which given time will take us back towards the award winning glory days of our former M.D. Lynda Nicholson. Gareth and the band also benefit throughout the year from the generous support given by Rainford Band and a team of alumni SHYBB members. Between them, they mentor at rehearsals and concerts; they have been amazing and need to know just how much they are appreciated.

In 2015, we moved back to the wonderful and inspiring rehearsal space within the URC. It was just like coming home. A big thank you to every member of the church for making us feel so welcome.

This year, at the business end, we’ve maintained fundraising links with loyal local supporters including The Rainford Trust, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Morrisons. We’ve improved relations with the St Helens Music Hub, renewed links with The Rainhill Rotary Club and formed a new partnership with national funding organisations such as Youth Music.

Youth Music is a funding body helping to support organisations like SHYBB. This year, in an effort to boost band numbers, David Groves and I applied for a £30,000 grant which would enable us to hold brass workshop weekends for young people not currently in a youth band, to help them improve their brass playing skills and in turn to encourage them to join us. It was a 6 month process which produced a balanced and well thought through business plan. Our bid was very well received, but unfortunately we were not successful this time round. Having read the feedback, both David and I feel that they really do want to help us … indeed; they’ve given some very good pointers in the few areas which need fine tuning in order to be successful next time, so watch this space!

In the last 12 months, we’ve brought more tutors into band on Saturdays to offer private lessons to those who don’t have lessons at school. We now have 4 talented tutors including Ben Grimshaw, who is now helping create a new percussion section for the future. Congratulations to all our band members who have passed grades this year, and good luck to those currently preparing for their exams.

As part of our improvement programme, we are returning to the ‘Beginners Band’, ‘Training Band’ and ‘Youth Band’ system, where more experienced band members help support and mentor the younger players. This worked well for band over many years helping the younger ones progress more easily through the organisation. John Burke continues to nurture and encourage young talent, he is the foundation stone of the whole band and I’m sure all parents would like to join me in thanking him for his tireless efforts, SHYBB simply wouldn’t be the same without him.

Our band members always work hard and through bag packing, busking and plant sales, our young players were able to fund a very successful and enjoyable summer weekend workshop to the Barnstondale activity centre on the Wirral. They all worked hard. Mentored by guest championship tutors Matthew Routley and Paul Duffy. We held social events including archery, shooting and everybody joined in with our Saturday evening BBQ & quiz followed by singing round the camp fire, an additional event which we invited other organisations attending the centre to join in with. We plan to do a bigger version of this in 2016, making a mini tour out of it and include concerts in North Wales, Chester and hopefully a first for band, a concert on board a cruise ship.

The band concerts this year have all had a theme of ‘inspiration’ woven within them, with guest players performing alongside our bands, inspiring our young players by showing them what is possible with hard work and dedication. Our thanks go to David Thornton, Paul Duffy and also The Rainford Band who with our massed bands, lifted the roof off the town hall at this year’s Summer Gala concert. A special mention must be made with regard to the contribution made by Amy Hopkins, who played in our alumni quartette at the recent URC concert. Amy spoke glowingly about her time at SHYBB, recollecting memorable moments including being made to run round the car park after daring to yawn in one of Lynda’s rehersals! Amy made such a positive impact during the evening, I’m happy to say that after all this time, she is now unanimously forgiven!

Thank you to everybody on the committee who’ve all worked hard to manage and maintain their own areas, particularly to Sheila who once again has kept everybody (including me) in order. An organisation like ours depends on volunteers like Sheila. 2016 will be another great year for SHYBB… we have a plan in place which we hope will boost band member numbers, but band members move on, and so do committee members … Here’s the thing – YOUR help and support is vital!! Our committee is made up of band parents and we desperately need the next generation of volunteers to come forward to start learning how the band operates. If you have organisational, librarian or accounting skills, experience in communication or fundraising, or simply have time to organize a raffle and sell tickets, make tea or photocopy, YOUTH BAND NEEDS YOU, because without you there simply will be no future. Our young people continue to benefit hugely from band, we are an organisation that St Helens is very proud of, so please put your fair share back into the organisation if you can, your help would be very much appreciated.

Finally, the committee and I want it placed on record just how proud we all are of the behaviour, teamwork and bandsmanship demonstrated by our amazing young people. They are a credit to both band and themselves, continuing to promote brilliantly youth participation and youth community work here in St Helens.

Jerry Rowlands