In a sterling group effort the committee and the members of the band have raised support and money to build a new band room which can fit in the burgeoning numbers of people who want to come and join the fun.
‘When we first started, we saw a building on the market and we thought ‘oh we can buy that!’ But we didn’t have any money so we were a bit naive…’ laughs Fish. ‘We were outbid but then we found a piece of land in Old Amersham and applied for planning permission. It took a long time, we had to get lots of local support.’
Was that support difficult to get?
‘We’ve been amazed actually how much local support there’s been.The band is well loved in the town and 240 people wrote letters to the council to support our planning application – some whom we didn’t even know!’
And it’s all hands on deck, with not just the committee but all the members of all three bands helping raise funds. From endless funding applications to busking carols at the tube stations and quiz nights, their energy is apparently endless for this wonderful goal.
What will the new hall meant to the band members?
‘I can’t wait’ says one little boy. ‘It is very squashed in here and so loud when we all play. With the new hall we can fit everyone who wants to come in. My friends will be able to come and play as well!’
With the project 50% funded already, they’ve started on the ground work of preparing the site. ‘We’ve got the land and we’ve started doing things there like taking ivy off trees and gateposts and we’re making sure we’re conserving everything which needs to be conserved on the plot’ Fish tells me showing me a picture of himself and his daughters looking very muddy and proud as they clear ivy from the fence and a new sign is erected announcing the new home for the band.
‘The next thing is building our entry into the land then the building can go up.’
What will be in the building itself?
‘It’s going to be incredible’ beams Fish. ‘It’s a big hall with practice and teaching rooms, an office, library, recording facilities and there’s room for all the percussion which can be wheeled away into cupboards and then the place will be clear for people who want to use it for community music activities. It’s going to be the music hub for in and around Amersham.’
Indeed Buckinghamshire is rich in talented professional musicians who travel into London to work but lack a common place to collaborate and work together locally to help nurture the next generation of musicians. Professional musicians are already queueing up to work with Fish on this project, refreshed by his enthusiasm and sense of humour.
So who’s going to benefit from this centre? Is it, as is so often the case, just the children of those who can afford instruments?
‘We are lucky enough to have a bursary fund from a local housing association to help people from low income families be able to afford subs for the band or buy an instrument’ Caroline tells me. ‘We aim to be inclusive and get everyone involved whatever their social status. Money is thankfully now not a barrier to joining.’
I end up being squeezed out of the door as the rehearsal beings with not even standing room at the back. As I leave, Fish brings out a new piece for the Brass Roots beginners to try. The colour drains from their faces as they see the difficult rhythm he’s put in front of them.
‘Don’t panic’ grins Fish. ‘This rhythm is all about fish and chips. They look blankly at him before he sings ‘I like fish and chips with mushy peeeeeeeas and sauce on’. The band erupts into laughter and immediately joins in playing the new rhythm.
If you want to help create this exciting new music hub, please donate to their Just Giving page here