Godalming band has always aimed to be self-supporting, meeting all running costs through its own efforts. Historically, the major source of income has been through paid engagements, performing in and around Godalming. In 1937 when the band was first formed, all much-needed income went towards the ‘instrument & uniform fund’.
During the 1940’s & 1950’s, through connections with the Band’s first president. Lt Col Phillips, the band worked closely with the British Legion in Bridge Street and many engagements were for the legion or ex serviceman’s associations. In 1949 we joined forces with the Guildford British Legion band to take part in a parade at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, where Queen Elizabeth took the salute.
The band also started to move into other areas of work. In 1947, the Godalming Co-op invited them to perform at their annual fete, something that continued until 1968. Busbridge flower show was another engagement the band undertook for many years; from 1948 until its demise in 1990. We still have regular annual engagements and every year since 1983, we have been played at the St John’s Church spring fair.
Assembling the band and instruments in those days wasn’t easy and many bandsmen walked to the more local venues like Milford or Busbridge. Anything further afield meant organising car-sharing with those who had transport or for long-distances, a coach was booked, often from Blackburn’s in the town.
In 1953, Godalming Borough Council paid us £36 for what we referred to as ‘borough jobs’. Every year we performed for the Mayor’s Parade, led the march for the Remembrance Day Parade and gave four bandstand concerts at the Phillips Memorial garden. Not wanting to fill four separate Sundays, the band decided to perform an afternoon concert, go back to the rehearsal room for some tea and then return to the bandstand to give an evening concert. These grants continued until 1976.
With a change of musical director in 1950, there came a change of emphasis in band engagements. More time was spent contesting but throughout the 1950’s and 60’s we continued playing locally, accepting bookings for bonfire night parades where we marched in processions at Shere, Chiddingfold, Cranleigh and Billingshurst. Some more ‘unusual’ performances included leading Billy Smart’s Circus parade in Guildford and playing at the old Guildford City football club on match day. We continued regular summer concerts, going as far afield as Bognor Regis, Worthing and Littlehampton. Arguably the bands first ‘overseas’ trip was in 1946. We led a parade on the isle of Wight that included a march across Ryde pier. Because of the pier’s instability, we were told to break from ‘proper marching’ - something we don’t need to be told in 2010!
In recent years we have continued playing in and around the Godalming area, giving outside summer engagements and concerts. We have also involved other musical groups; in earlier days we performed with Dennis Motor Works male voice choir and Westborough Ladies Choir. During the last twenty years we have performed joint concerts with Godalming Theatre Group, Farnham Youth Choir, Surrey Police Choir, Hart Male Voice Choir, Godalming Choral Society and St Hilary’s school, as well as most local brass bands.
A 1940’s bandsman returning to the band today would probably not feel too out of place as the basic format of engagements has not changed much. We march less these days, partly because of the lack of military experience and the increased traffic, but our concerts and engagements are more varied than ever before, including several overseas visits.
We are privileged to lead the parade for Remembrance Day through the town of Godalming to the Parish church. This we do every year and the band still consider this a privilege.