'How many times have I moved the Band Library ?'

Article by James Charles (originally produced in the Foden's Fanfare Magazine)

Dear Patrons,

This may turn out to be the most uninteresting article ever written. After the Band-room fire and other recent events I feel the need to record some of the past that as now been long forgotten. 

First let me take you back to 1980, the people who had been involved with the library from 1980 to 83, Edward Swindles, (Ted), Ted had retired but still helped out. Ted had been librarian for many years before this, I would say from the mid 50s to the late 70s, he was a fantastic Bass player and a good friend to me when I joined Foden's, he died in 1981. After Ted,  Jim Legatt did a spell and in a small way I helped him, after this John French, Tony Goddard and Steve Cooke were involved. I never really wanted the library full time but in the end ended up with it. In 1983 it was mine and mine alone.

The first band room I played in was Station Rd, near Sandbach station. The building was owned by John Pring, (Prings Wire Works) with Fodens renting from them, this was 1960. This room was blown down by strong winds in 1966, (Granville will confirm this). We then moved to a room above the Co-op on the corner of Hill St and New St. New St was where I first lodged with a widow named Mary Wood who was a chef for the Foden directors. If the odd steak was left over there was a good chance it would find me, she made the best steak and kidney pie in the world, a truly wonderful lady, I stayed with her for six years 1960-66.

When the American company Paccar took over and bought Fodens Motor Works in October 1980, the Band moved to a vacant room in the old Foden office block, this was on the corner of Hill St and Station Rd a stones throw from what was the old Prings band room. Again, we had to carry stuff upstairs as we did at the Co-op, bit of a pain given that gravity never sleeps.

Early in 83 the Americans dropped the Band altogether so we had no sponsor, band room, instruments or music. Howard Snell took the lead in this, myself and others worked with him, after a few weeks we won the battle and came out on top, we bought the instruments + everything else back for £25. I loved every minute of it, I have always enjoyed a bit of trouble and I know Howard does too, I remember Howard once saying to me, "Jimmie, sometimes you have to look in the mirror and say to yourself, I'm not much but if they want a fight lets go for it."  There is a lot more to this and I should really just keep to writing about how many times we have moved the library. As well as having the Library I was also in charge of personnel and that kept me busy, I had this job from 1979 to about 83 when the Band formed a committee and I stepped back from this role. Booking Deps was always a pain, however I was in a small way still involved with the running of the Band and also a member of the committee, eventually they got rid of me and I was thankful for that.

So where next? We found a place in Green St, Sandbach, yes with stairs. I set the library up there with help from Garry Russel, also Louise helped me. The problem you always have when moving the library is that you still have to function as a Band and get programmes ready. We only stayed there for a couple of years, in that time we had secured sponsorship from Carton Tickel (OTS), it was from this Band room we went to Buckingham Palace to play for the Queen.

When the time came to move out we went back to the old Foden offices in a room next to the one we had rehearsed in before, this building was now owned by a different company again with stairs. I remember this move well, John French came with a tractor unit which we could get everything in and move in one run, it was winter, bitter cold and miserable, the big boys were carrying the music cabinets upstairs with the draws in. I was upstairs with John Pym, he said to me, "Jimmie, I have a problem with this door", at that moment looking through the window upstairs I saw music blowing up Station road, "John" I said, " let me show you a real problem", it was the 2nd movement of Shostakovich symphony No 11, (the ninth of January), it took me an age chasing after it. So, again I set the library up there. This was 1986, the OTS sponsorship finished and our next sponsor was with the Britannia Building Society, Allan Littlemore secured this sponsorship for the Band.

To save money Allan had been in touch with the headmaster at Sandbach  Boys school and arranged for us to use the premises free of charge. So where do I put the library? Well, first We put it in the loft, this was then the assembly room which is now known as the theatre, a bit of a pain but it worked, but not for long. In this time I had help from Murray Greg, (good friend). When I moved to 2nd Baritone Dave Brunsdon came with me full time, again this would be 1986. Coming one night to sort a programme with Dave only to find the library cabinets taken out of the loft and put onto the stage, no explanation given, so where do we go? To the left of the school there used to be separate out buildings, it's now a car park. Nick Child's, Dave,  Rob Fulcher and myself moved the library to these outbuildings with a bag truck that Nick brought.

The next move would be to the cricket pavilion, (I know you think I'm pulling your legs by this time but I'm not). It was a great asset having Dave Brunsdon with me, as well as being a good friend he was always there full time and a good thinker, all in all it was good fun and we had much laughter.

After a short time there we had to leave as these outbuildings were to be demolished, you'll never believe this, we then moved to the office at the end of refectory which is now toilets, we could only keep the music we were currently using, this we kept it in cardboard boxes that Nick bought and we kept it in alphabetical order. We had nowhere to keep the few thousand pieces that we were not using but did have to dig the odd old piece out now and again.

So where? Cliff French arranged this, if you go down the Haslington bypass towards Crewe there is a right turn, about 50 yards on the right there is a farm, we took the old library and kept it in the back of a trailer. Now and again Dave and myself had to go and dig something out which meant climbing a ladder into the back of the trailer, I don't know which is  worst cow or pig poo, to be honest I don't think there is much in it. At last a bit of good news, we already kept the timps and percussion in the corridor of the Maxwell Davis centre, there are some cupboards with folding doors ideal for music, we were allowed to use these. This is where Dave and myself started a new system and its still in place today.

Some of you may remember Dave was killed on the 04/09/ 91, he was 25, this was the most devastating episode that ever happened to the Band in my time, so I was back on my own again and not feeling good. Rob Fulcher gave me some help. We mostly rehearsed in the Refectory which meant moving the tables, setting up and moving Band gear back and to from the Maxwell Davis centre (50yards) every rehearsal. O yes, every engagement apart from the couple a year in the sports hall, (you are just going to love this). it's 220 paces (yards) from the Maxwell Davis centre to the car park, so all the Band equipment had to be man handled to the Bus on the car park and worse back again after the job, this went on for 9 years. Steve Cooke and myself roughly worked it out, we would make at least four journeys back and to each engagement, that  is approximately 880 yards each job and with the odd times we rehearsed out of the school, approximately 40 times a year, that's 880x40=35200 yards which is 20 miles X 9=180 miles, ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY MILES PUSHING TIMPS AND HAULING BAND EQUIPMENT, incredible and these estimates are conservative. Iloved every minute of it and if I could would do it all again, also there were times when there were not many on the bus on its return to the school and of course the weather could hit you the back of the neck. Simone once said to me when there was just the two of us moving percussion gear from her van to the refectory in heavy deep snow, "Jimmie, we must have moved these timps 50 million billion trillion times", that's a big number, I never forgot that.

The places we rehearsed at the school were the Main hall, the sixth form, the Maxwell Davis centre and a room to the left between the Maxwell Davis centre and the refectory but mostly in the refectory. Even though it wasn't easy I have fond memories of the School and could tell many stories of some of the strange and sometimes saucy things that went on there, especially late at night and in the early hours of the morning!

At first I never got on well with the headmaster and it was not for want of trying, I got on really well with Barney who was at that time the Bursar. Going back to the headmaster I just couldn't please him and he would pick me up on any nothing thing, also he had a short fuse. One Sunday morning after rehearsal he pulled me in, I did the usual thing, apologised for what ever it was, I only held back for the sake of the Band. This particular Sunday morning he was wearing his dog collar, whilst reading the riot act to me, I remember having blissful thoughts of either breaking him on the wheel, burning him at the stake or mercifully putting him to the sword, well the only thing I ever did was kick his door. Just when we were getting on better and getting to know each other he left under a cloud, I did have a pint in the Cricketers with him before he left.

The school was then run by a bursar who had retired from the army, l only met him once and that was enough. The incidents at the school were numerous and in a way it was sad to leave, even now when I go back there it brings back many cheerful and sad recollections. 

A few months before we left the school Cliff French had located a building on a site owned by Eddie Timmins, it had previously been Sykes pumps. I met Eddie (who I had known for many years) there, the room was just a shell but sound, it looked ideal to me but needed a lot of work and money spending on it. When everything was signed and sealed work began, this was the spring of 1995. I must give Cliff French who was at that time Chairman of the Band full credit for organising and planning this project, I helped Peter French with the wiring of the building and all in all it was a new beginning and exciting, the false ceiling went and the sound acoustic board on the walls. Britannia gave us wooden and metal cabinets so this was an easy move, we then transferred the music from the school, Eddie and myself fetched the old library from the farm and stored it in the room next to the Band Room. Eventually I managed to get the music in the loft with the help from the big boys, at that time it was just a ladder going into the loft. Louise and myself made a start on the old library but didn't do much.

At this time Granville (who had played sop with the Band in the 60s and 70s) decided to come home, his heart  was still very much with Fodens Band, Granville and myself go back a long way and have always been good friends. I think in the last twenty years of working in the library together we've only clashed a few times. Stewart Green joined us a couple of years ago taking an interest in the library archives and history of the Band. I must give Granville full credit for the old library, I know he put hours and hours into sorting music which in some cases was all over the place, he also made a set of wooden music stands and did many other repairs, the wooden music stands are at the moment down the bottom of my garden, fire damaged but not beyond repair.

One year ago when Helen Williams left, Helen had been part of the library team for about ten years, taking care of the music when the Band is away on engagements, this role is very important. One year ago Samantha Raisbeck , a young lady joined the team and took to the job like a fish to water, over the last difficult month Sam has done a tremendous job and I must thank her for this,  you have to Salute to youth, ( thought I'd get that in for Gilbert).

Some 10 years ago we were to have an exhibition at the School, Carole Hirst would get funding for this, sadly it all fell through, one of the exhibits would be old manuscripts by Mr Rimmer, Mr Halliwell and others, we drew all these manuscripts from the library and placed them in a metal box upstairs. I think they have survived albeit a bit singed around the edges, inside is a copy of a list Louise sent to Carole and Mark Wilkinson, if anyone wants a copy of this list I will send it. Also the Jennison Trophy and the bust of Billy Foden have survived.

The library we have restarted in a very small way in a cabinet in my spare bedroom, after 35 years with the library I could never have envisaged this, it's not the end of the world.

On the 17th of April 2016 the Foden Band room was destroyed by fire and most of the library archives and other priceless items lost. I don't think in reality it has really sunk in yet. Fodens are a great Band with mostly very young people who are full of life and that makes all the difference.

I look forward to this challenge with all the team and with the same enthusiasm, vigour and energy, I had when I stepped off the train and made my way to the Band room, on a bitter cold day for my audition in the winter of 1960.

Jimmie Charles

(Above article appeared in the Foden's Fanfare Patrons Magazine in January '17)

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