A brief history of Llandudno Town Band
In the early years of the twentieth century, the seaside town of Llandudno had established itself as one of the most fashionable holiday resorts of Edwardian Britain. The town was still expanding rapidly under the management of the Llandudno Urban District Council, who kept a firm grip on all developments, facilities and entertainments available for visitors. From 1879, £100 was made available annually from the Council budget for the services of a band to provide outdoor entertainment around the town; each year, the Council considered tenders from various Bandmasters, and awarded exclusive rights to one band for the following season.
However, in 1908 the local St Tudno Silver Band, who had never been awarded the annual contract, wrote to the Council with an unusual proposition: if the Council would pay for a Bandmaster, the Band would provide any music for any occasion as required by the Council, and, additionally, would make over all their instruments to be held in Trust by the Council. The idea was considered half-heartedly for two years, but eventually, after the standard of the currently engaged ensemble became unacceptably low, the Council decided to invest their year’s £100 in the St. Tudno Band. On 31st August 1910, the Trust deed was officially signed and sealed, and the St. Tudno Silver Band became the Llandudno Town Band.
There were many applicants for the post of Bandmaster, but the final choice fell on Mr. Francis Lucio Traversi, a New Zealander passionate about brass bands, who was at that time the Bandmaster of the Barrow Shipyard Band. He set about improving the playing standard of the Band and rehearsing a repertoire for the summer season.
There were many mutterings about the cost to the Council of running the Band, for although deck chairs were charged for and collections were taken at every performance, there were many initial expenses to be borne, such as uniforms and music. The band members themselves were paid each time they attended, and the Council was concerned that they would be subsiding this enterprise at a loss. But they needn’t have worried: under Mr Traversi’s direction, the Band was a huge success and was soon paying its own annual expenses and repaying Council loans for their equipment. The standard of playing improved steadily and the Band became one of the principal attractions of the resort.
A perennial moan was the lack of a proper bandstand in the town, and many discussions were held, and shelved, about such a provision. The main problem was that none of the hotels wanted it outside their premises, because of the noise and inconvenience to their patrons. Eventually a mobile, horse-drawn bandstand was commissioned. Nick-named ‘The Juggernaut’, it was trundled very noisily to a new location every day. The Band played every evening from Monday to Saturday at various locations, from the pier at North Parade to Craig y Don.
Mr. Traversi had established a learners’ band almost as soon as he had arrived in Llandudno, and this proved to be prophetic, when several of the players volunteered for Lord Kitchener’s Army in late 1914. It was feared that the Band would be unable to continue during the War years, and this would have a serious effect on the touristic fortunes of the town, but soon the young boys from the learners’ band were able to step in and keep the show going. Llandudno was one of the very few British bands who managed to keep a full programme going during the War.
Fortunately, all but one of the enlisted men returned after the War, and the Band embarked on a period of rebuilding and development. By now, the years’ activities were well established – every evening on the bandstand (wherever it was) from Whitsuntide to the end of September, and weekly concerts in the Town Hall during the winter months. The standard of musicianship continued to increase and the Band won several prizes in local eisteddfodau.
The perambulating bandstand finally became unusable in the mid-twenties, and at last the Council provided a permanent base for concerts. The present bandstand on the Promenade was inaugurated on Whit Monday 1926 and became the nightly venue for concerts, hymn-singing and even crooning competitions. Audiences were huge – around 1,000 deck-chairs were set out, and filled, every evening, and many more people stood behind and on the Promenade. The Council, evidently satisfied that their gamble was paying dividends for the town, also assisted by providing daytime employment for several of the musicians, as well as for the Bandmaster.
On the outbreak of the Second World War, Mr. Traversi started a learners’ group each autumn, and the boys regularly graduated to the senior band to fill gaps left by men joining the Forces or engaged in vital war work. In addition to the nightly Promenade concerts, the Band turned out on many occasions to support fundraising events such as ‘Salute the Soldier’ and ‘Wings for Victory’. The “Warship Week” effort eventually resulted in the commissioning of HMS Llandudno, a 656-ton Bangor-class minesweeper, built in 1941.
In 1947 Mr. Traversi retired as Bandmaster due to ill-health, and was replaced by a well-known tenor horn virtuoso, Mr. William (Bill) Skelton. After continuing the Band’s traditional activities for five years, he moved on and was replaced by a long-time member of the Band, Mr. Robin Williams. Under his leadership, the Band qualified for the finals of the Daily Herald National Brass Band Championship in London two years in succession, winning the second prize in the fourth section in 1956. Mr. Williams also developed the evening entertainments on the Promenade to include talent competitions and Family Nights – bands have to move with the times! These programmes were very popular right up to Mr. Williams’ retirement in 1972.
Since then, conductors have come and gone, but a unifying force in the Band from the 1940s until recent years was Mr. George H. Brookes, who, having joined as one of Mr. Traversi’s 1940 band of learners, served many years as solo cornet, solo euphonium, learner’s group leader and Bandmaster. Indeed, several members played with the Band from the 1940s and 1950s into the 2000s- David Jones, John Edwards, Walter Shaw and John Ridler (and the late Hughie Hughes). George H. Brookes was awarded an M.B.E. for services to the Band, and his cousin, the late Hughie Hughes, was also awarded an M.B.E. for services to the Llandudno Lifeboat. David Jones and John Ridler are still playing with the band today.
2010 was the Band’s Centenary Year and there were several events to celebrate the occasion, including a gala concert in Venue Cymru with the euphonium soloist David Childs and a visit to Wormhout, Llandudno’s twin town in France.
Until September 2014 the Musical Director was Mr. Clive E. Wolfendale, formerly the Deputy Chief Constable of North Wales Police, and then head of CAIS. Under his direction, the Band competed in the National Eisteddfod three times, gaining second prize in the fourth section in 2009.
The senior band is now conducted by Mr Jim Roberts and the training band by Mrs Sue Hughes, B.Mus.