I was in a marching band.
There, I said it, and it felt good. Not because I was ashamed to be (although, as a young boy of eight, being in a band comprised at the time entirely of girls was not something to brag about!), quite the opposite in fact: I am proud to have been.
The Cheadle Paraders were at one time world champions of the marching band scene (not when I was involved, I’d have only hampered their efforts!), and back then, the scene was a big deal. No, I joined later, at the request of my father, who taught the trumpet/bugle alongside founder Ray James, Barry Roberts and John Chandler.
I played the trumpet. Well, when I say played, I meant pretended to play. When tuning up was a challenge (I couldn’t hit that note for love nor money), I deemed it better to play the mime, my fingers pressing the relevant 1-2, 1-3, following along with our handwritten instructions, my lungs focusing on drawing breath and little else.
Later renamed The Royal British Legion Youth Marching Band (boasting a host of my school chums and my younger sister as members), we’d tour the local area, playing a host of summer carnivals and other slightly more obscure festivities (Well-Dressing anyone?), marching mostly in time, sweltering in our uniforms. I can’t recall just how many miles I marched during those long, hot summers, but it was a lot.
I was only a member of the band for a relatively brief spell, and I’m afraid I didn’t make the most of my time. I was a shy and awkward sort, and I hated anybody knowing what I got up to on a summer’s weekend; a shame really, as looking back now, I hold many fond memories (some of them include such classic hits as “It’s a long Way to Tipperary”).
I was but a bit part in the band’s illustrious history; there were many marches before I put on white plimsolls for the first time, and there were more to come after I hung them up. The band became a community, a hub for the townspeople, of which many men, women and children became a part of; sometimes fleetingly, other times not.
Sadly, several former members of the band have passed, as has the festival scene, but the memory of The Cheadle Paraders lives on, and photographs of their exploits often crop up via archived footage and social media.
Alas, the band no longer exists, but I wonder if a reunion march is in order, considering as Cheadle Festival and, the parade that the band led for many years, is due to make a comeback? I know I’d be tempted to dig out my plimsolls for one last hurrah.
Photographs appear courtesy of The Cheadle Paraders Marching Band Facebook page.