brass bands

Mute by Jo Bell

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Jo Bell on her canal boat

I know there are brass bands where I come from in the Midlands. I know there are some further South. But just like Rugby League, brass bands conjure up a vision of the North (of England). (Have a scan of the English brass band population if you don’t believe me).

Jo Bell’s poem for her friend, the poet Tony Walsh (Longfella), is fully aware of the stereotypes associated with perspectives of the ‘muck and brass’ North and the men behind the horns (‘and yes, they’re fat and balding, with beer wet lips/and skin grown pale in club backrooms’). Apparently, one of the reasons favoured by a local owner for setting up the original band in the mid-19th century, was that it would be ‘most likely … a way of keeping his employees from the pub!’ – well it seems that he failed on that count. This reminds me of The North by Paul Summers (‘we..are more than foul-mouthed men in smoky clubs…but not much more’) featured on this site. (more…)