DOWNTON Band is a long way from being "brassed off", with two very exciting dates in the diary.

Continuing its long history of serving the community, the band has been invited to take part in the stage version of the popular film, Brassed Off, by Salisbury amateur dramatic company, Studio Theatre.

Brassed Off is the bittersweet tale of a Yorkshire colliery band faced with disbandment, who pin all their hopes on winning a national competition at the Royal Albert Hall.

The Downton Band is far from being disbanded, and there are no coal mines in Downton, but the band does have a national competition of its own in the pipeline, meaning rehearsals are frenetic. This is especially so as five actors from Studio Theatre, none of them brass players, have been joining rehearsals to get a flavour of band life.

"This will be our big weekend of the year," says musical director, Roland Wright, speaking about the band's involvement with the West of England regional brass band concert, taking place at the Riviera Centre, Torquay on March 9.

"About 60 bands will be taking part, and if we win, we will be going to the London finals, just like the brass band in the film," says Roland, who has been the band's director for ten years.

The band will play Rodney Newton's Four Cities Symphony for their competition, but for Brassed Off, the music will be well known band tunes such as the Florentina March, Pomp and Circumstance, Danny Boy, and the contest piece, William Tell.

Roland was delighted the band was chosen by director Lesley Bates (who lives in the village) to take part. "I was a little bit wary, though. Being a brass band, we are used to playing and not acting, but I suppose it will be a different sort of performing. It is certainly quite an experience for the band and a huge commitment and responsibility."

Downton has had a village orchestra since the 19th century. Originally the White Horse Friendly Society Band of Music, which has been traced back to 1873, the band is now an important part of village life, whether playing carols every Christmas morning from 4am or to taking part in the annual Cuckoo Fair.

Euphonium player Fred Faulkner is the band's chairman, and one of the musicians taking part. He said: "Everyone remembers the film and there's a lot to live up to, and it's going to be a bit different from our regular band concerts."

Fred hopes it will raise the band's profile, and is delighted to be working with Studio Theatre. "Everyone will know the Downton Band, after we perform in Brassed Off," he said.

Fred has high hopes to plan a band concert at the theatre's premises later in the year, performing music from Brassed Off. "We are hoping to pick up some new brass band lovers from our performance."

Anyone interested in booking the band or indeed joining either the senior band or junior band, can contact Fred Faulkner or secretary, Danny Silver, via e-mail at either or

  • Brassed Off will be performed at Studio Theatre from April 8 to 12.