Is there anyone who can play in our Lowestoft band?

FOR 40 years it has entertained crowds across Waveney and beyond, delighting thousands of people with its toe-tapping military marches and rousing versions of popular classics.

But sadly it could be the end of an era for the Lowestoft Scout and Guide Band.

This week, after a dramatic fall in the number of talented young musicians applying to join its ranks, the band held what may prove to be its final practice session unless new members can be found.

Set up in 1971 by keen local musician Eric Baldwin, the band once boasted 30 members who were all recruited from the Scout and Guide movement in the Lowestoft area.

As these pictures show, it regularly played in the town and at Beccles, performing at fetes, carnivals and events such as Remembrance Day and St George's Day as far afield as London and Clacton.

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The band even crossed the Channel to play in Paris in 1991.

But on Wednesday night at its regular rehearsal at the Sea Scouts building off Victoria Road, the band was mothballed as it now has only six young musicians – Abi McCaghrey, her brother Thomas, 14, their 11-year-old sister Hannah, 13-year-olds Rhianna Wren and Sam Page and Elizabeth Marsden, who is at university.

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Band organisers hope it can be re-started if new members step forward to take up instruments. But if no Guides or Scouts step forward, then it appears the once-thriving band will be silenced.

Should that happen, it will mean its last-ever performance was in Lowestoft last spring at the traditional St George's Day parade where it played Men of Harlech and the William Tell Overture.

Assistant band leader Malcolm Cooke, who has been with the band for 20 years, put the fall in numbers down to the fact that many of today's youngsters now had other hobbies and interests.

At the same time, he said, older members of the band had left to pursue further education.

He said he was sad to see that the band had been forced to stop playing for now, as music lovers would miss out on hearing its performances and Lowestoft would lose out musically too as the band had taught hundreds of local youngsters, aged nine and above, to play instruments – many from scratch.

'Despite the hard work and efforts of the band leaders, the band has struggled over the last few years to attract new members and numbers have fallen dramatically,' Mr Cooke told The Journal.

'It may be possible to restart the band in the future if enough new members can be found.'

Thomas, who plays the trombone and has been in the band for five years, said he was 'very sad' the band had been suspended as he had made friends among fellow members and it had helped build up his confidence.

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