Shaftesbury Town Silver Band could soon have new headquarters in a different location. Shaftesbury Town councillors have agreed, in principle, to lease land near Tesco’s entrance road, so the band can build a new hall.
In 1973, as Ridley Scott filmed a bread commercial on Gold Hill, Shaftesbury Town Band was building its existing hall, at Barton Hill. The musicians were rehearsing ‘Cwm Rhondda’ when Alfred’s Keri Jones called in on practice night. Just like ‘The New World Symphony’, used on the Hovis ad, the hymn has stood the test of time. The silver band’s building has not.
“It was only meant to last for about twenty years, I believe,” explained Shaftesbury Town Silver Band musical director, Martin Hill. “We are still here now, and it is wooden and it’s not a brilliantly substantial building.”
Martin says that the damp and aged structure is putting band equipment and resources at risk. “Obviously with equipment ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds, plus all of our music library, you’re looking at around £50 for a piece of music and we have got hundreds in our library,” said Martin.
The band’s chairman, Greg Lowe, says the hall doesn’t meet the expected modern sustainability standards, either. “The windows are not airtight. It gets very cold and that means quite a lot of energy is used just to heat the building, so that people can use it. It is very energy inefficient. With climate change, that’s a big point,” Greg explained.
The band committee has a vision for a new facility that meets the needs of musicians in the 21st century. “It will look very different from the one we have today. This one is just a hall with toilet facilities and a kitchen. That’s it. This new one would have areas that can be sectioned off. We could potentially have two groups using the hall at the same time. A lot would depend on what the soundproofing is like and the size of those groups. It is early days so we have to see what room would be available and what plans could be drawn up,” said Greg.
He says a purpose-built hall could bring new community facilities to our town. “Various plans have included recording areas, so local bands can make demo CDs to send off. It could be used by the people of Shaftesbury and not just the band,” said Greg.
Cllr Andy Hollingshead has been liaising with the Town Band on behalf of the Town Council. Whilst the band volunteers built the current structure, it is on council land. “The building is probably at the end of its life and, in terms of size, there just isn’t enough room for their kit. The band is growing too. It’s very popular as the people of Shaftesbury know. A lot of people want to join. They simply need more room. They also need some parking as well. It’s always a problem there,” said Andy, referring to the Barton Hill location.
“When we do competitions, it does require percussion sometimes. We can’t get all the percussion out because we can’t fit the band and all of the percussion gear in the room,” Martin added. He says it is a good problem to have. “I’d rather have it that way than the other way. But we are outgrowing the building. It would be nice to have a new, purpose-built building that we can all fit in comfortably. It will help with the training band as well, because they can have their separate rooms for rehearsing, practising individually rather than sitting in the group where some are not quite as good as others. You can take them to one side and help them to progress, but you can’t do that when you are in the same room as others playing in the background.”
The Town Council has found a site that could accommodate a new band hall. “One of the options is a piece of spare land which the Town Council owns,” said Andy. “It’s just after the Tesco access road on the other side of the petrol station. There is a scrap of land there which may be suitable,” said Andy, referring to the green space between Christy’s Lane and Coppice Street.
Councillors attending the General Management committee agreed to the principle of leasing this land to the Town Band, obviously subject to further negotiations. Andy accepts that the full council, which meets this Tuesday, has to ratify his committee’s decision but he expects this to be a formality.
During the debate, Cllr John Lewer said he was concerned that this new site may not offer enough parking space, but Cllr Hollingshead said it’s too soon to go into that kind of detail. “What the Silver Band committee wanted was just an assurance from the Town Council that we would support them before they went and committed their cash to an assessment of that site. The next step is to have a look at the site in detail and see whether it meets their ambitions,” Andy said.
Andy says if car parking provision is available, it could increase the new building’s potential. “Car parking allows them to rent out or bring in revenue to support the development of the band and the training of youngsters who want to play in the band,” he said.
The band needs to finance the project. Greg says they will look at fundraising and grants. “We are saving as much money as we can. Once we get concrete plans, we can go heavily into fundraising and push to raise funds ourselves,” said Greg.
When the Town Band leave their Barton Hill premises, Shaftesbury Town Council will take back the site. But Andy says the council won’t fund the building costs of the new hall. “There is no council money devoted to this. Should the town band want to apply for a grant then they are perfectly entitled to as many other organisations do,” he said.