Etheridge, Stephen (2014) 'Slate-Grey Rain and Polished Euphoniums': Southern Pennine Brass Bands, the Working Class and the North, c. 1840-1914. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Brass Bands have become a clichéd representation of northern working-class culture. Hence, in 1974, Peter Hennessy described a band contest at the Albert Hall:

A roll call of the bands is like an evocation of industrial history. From Wingates Temperance and Black Dyke Mills to more modern conglomerates [...]. Grown men, old bandsmen say, have been known to cry at the beauty of it all […]. Of all the manifestations of working-class culture, nothing is more certain than a brass band to bring on an attack of the George Orwells. Even the most hardened bourgeois cannot resist romanticizing the proletariat a little when faced with one.

This stereotype, which emerged in the nineteenth century, generated the following research questions: What musical and social elements in the performance of brass band music strengthened working-class cultural identity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? How did bands, which thrived in large numbers in the Southern Pennines, emerge as a musical and cultural metonym of the industrial landscape?
This thesis therefore examines internal and external reporting of elements of brass musicianship in brass bands that constructed working class and northern identities. An outline of music-making in the north shows how the region supported bands’ development when they began to emerge from the 1830s. Brass musicianship and musical performance strengthened working-class cultural identity. Explorations of musical performances, leisure, rational recreation, social networks, gender and region, all combine to produce a fuller understanding of the northern working class between c.1840 and 1914. Such influences – of class, gender and region – contributed to brass bands producing primary examples of working-class identity. Not only have brass bands been under-explored in the history of leisure, but they also add to the understanding of the origins of stereotypes about working-class culture and northern identity that emerged, and came under scrutiny, in this period.

PhD Thesis
Slate-Grey_Rain_and_Polished_Euphoniums.pdf - Submitted Version

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