On a warm September evening members and visitors met in Peniel Chapel to hear the fascinating story of the Llandudno Town Band in a presentation entitled The Band on the Prom: A Short History of the Llandudno Town Band. Our speaker was Sue Wolfendale, a former member of the band, who has completed extensive research on this topic and produced a book on the subject. The history was written from a mixture of materials and the memories of band members.
The origins of the town band lie in the late 19th century when the Board of Commissioners for Llandudno paid £100 annually to different bands to provide music. The quality of these bands was not always satisfactory
And in 1908 Issac Williams, the secretary of the local St Tudno brass band, wrote to the Urban District Council to offer his band’s services to the town. In 1910 the St Tudno Band became the permanent Llandudno Town Band. A bandmaster of Italian descent named Francis Traversi was appointed and he remained in post until his retirement in 1947. In 1911 the council built a new temporary bandstand called “The Juggernaut” and the new band had a successful first season. The band went through difficult times during World War 1 due to a total of 18 members enlisting to fight but their places were filled by the junior members and they were one of the few bands in the UK to keep going through the war. In 1918, when the war ended, Francis Traversi started to rebuild the band. They began competing in brass band competitions, played every night on the prom during the summer season and every Sunday at Happy Valley. Band members were paid 1s 6d for each performance and a bonus from the collections. The Happy Valley performances continued until the 1970s and many of our members remember these performances.
In 1926 a new permanent bandstand was completed, and the first performance was on Whit Monday. The Community Singing concerts led by Robin Williams, a euphonium player, were very popular. Robin Williams later became bandmaster from 1952-1972.
During World War 2 many band personnel enlisted and the band lost their original band room on the top of the old fire station (and nearly lost the bandstand as a machine gun post!). Again, as in the previous war, learners stepped in and the band played throughout the war, including live wireless broadcasts to troops overseas. Audiences were swelled by the staff from various government departments which had evacuated to Llandudno from London.
Francis Traversi retired in 1947 and his place was taken by William Skelton under whose leadership new red uniforms were introduced. After he left the post Robin Williams became bandleader for 20 years. Performances were modernised and hugely popular Talent Nights were introduced. Our speaker read out a touching letter from a lady whose blind sister had won one of the Talent Competitions and spoke about how her sister’s life had been enriched by this.
In 1965 the first female band member was appointed. A succession of bandmasters continued to lead the band successfully. These included Jack Beardmore 1972-1976, George Brookes 1981-1992, Jim Roberts 1992-1998, Michael D Jones 1998-2002, Clive Wolfendale 2002-2015 and Andrew Jones in 2015. Under their various auspices the band went on their first overseas tour to Wormhout, competed at the Whit Friday Band competitions in Saddleworth, recorded a CD at Abbey Road Studios, two band members were awarded the MBE and in the band’s centenary year of 2010 the Freedom of the Town was given to band members in recognition of the enormous contribution of the band to the life of Llandudno. In 1992 the band room was moved to the Wages Office at the back of the Town Hall where the band still practise today.
This was a fascinating look at a little-known subject and the audience were very appreciative of the opportunity to hear such a knowledgeable and informative speaker. We were presented with Sue’s book and this will be a valuable addition to our library. A very enjoyable evening and we are most grateful to the speaker.
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