Southwold and Reydon Corps of Drums will fall silent without more help, chairman warns

Southwold and Reydon Corps of Drums appeal.

Southwold and Reydon Corps of Drums appeal. - Credit: Archant

The drums of a popular marching band will fall silent from the end of next year unless more people in the Southwold area come forward to help run it, its chairman warned this week.

Southwold and Reydon Corps of Drums is a regular fixture at community events in the region, including Southwold's Remembrance Day and civic Sunday parades and the annual Christmas lights switch-on.

But even though the military-style band is financially well supported, it has struggled to attract new members and desperately needs more musicians and adult volunteers to support its activities.

Now three key members have announced plans to retire at the end of 2014 after several years' service, including the band's chairman and bass drum player Matt Wade, his wife Jenny, who is the musical director and bell lyre player, and its drum major Steven Wright.

This week, Mr Wade issued an urgent plea for more volunteers to come forward to keep the drum corps alive and warned the band would fold at the end of 2014 without the extra help.

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He said: 'We have only 14 members, of which seven are adults. Despite extensive efforts to recruit from local schools, we have been unable to attract new members.

'The drum corps is currently run by five adults, none of whom actually live in the Southwold area, the closest being just over three miles away in Frostenden, and the furthest travelling nearly 15 miles from north Lowestoft to practice.

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'Of the five people who run the band, one has been a member since 1988, one since 1990 and one since 1997, and these three specifically have decided that they wish to move on, away from the drum corps and onto pastures new. This means we will have no drum major, no musical director and no bass drum player.

'The remaining adults are happy to continue with their administrative, supportive and performing roles, but cannot take on any more than they already do.'

Mr Wright is leaving after 25 years because of work commitments. Mr Wade is also leaving because of work commitments while his wife Jenny is giving up her role as the musical director because she suffers from multiple sclerosis and can no longer manage the role.

They have given 18 months' notice to allow time for replacements to come forward and be trained.

Mr Wade said the drum corps appeared to be highly valued locally and had been well supported by local people, businesses and tourists since it formed in November 1981 as a youth club.

In August 2011, the band purchased new instruments and equipment after receiving more than £12,000 in donations following an appeal for help. A further £6,000 appeal to take band members to the Edinburgh Tattoo in August has also been successful.

But Mr Wade said the band could not survive on money alone.

'Financially I can't fault the people and businesses of Southwold and Reydon,' he said. 'We have even had people come up to us and ask if they can buy us anything. The generosity has been second to none. But we have got all these lovely instruments and no one to play them.'

The mayor of Southwold Simon Tobin has announced the Southwold and Reydon Corps of Drums and Southwold Sailors' Reading Room will be the two organisations he will be supporting during his year in office.

He said the corps of drums was 'part of Southwold's fabric' and 'integral to the feel and vibrancy' of the town.

'The corps of drums plays at various events during the year for Southwold,' Mr Tobin said. 'It is what makes Southwold special and gives a real sense of occasion to events,

'It gives me great pleasure when I see them playing and I look around and see tourists from abroad and throughout the UK enjoying the spectacle that they give. It would be a major loss to the town if the band were to fold.'

The band meets at the Stella Peskett Millennium Hall from 10am to 11.30am on Sundays and 6.30pm to 7.30pm on Wednesdays.

Volunteers aged seven or over are being sought to give up between one and two and a half hours a week.

Band members are needed to play an instrument, fix uniforms, help out at practices or assist with administration and transport. Help is also needed to support the band at events.

People of all abilities are welcome and training can be given to anyone who is unable to play.

?Anyone interested can contact Mr Wade on 07780 975885 or attend the drum corp's AGM on Wednesday, June 19 in Stella Peskett Millennium Hall at 6.30pm.

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