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Blowing for gold...the North-East brass band playing for national glory

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IT’S the final countdown and Mike Johnson is blowing his heart out – just as he has for the past 65 years.

After managing to stay in tune throughout the challenges of lockdown, the members of Spennymoor Town Band are ready for the big day they’ve been patiently waiting for.

On Sunday, in Cheltenham, they’ll represent the North of England at the National Brass Band Finals of Great Britain and, as the band’s longest-serving member, Mike’s hoping it’s sixth time lucky.

Mike first joined as an eight-year-old boy in 1956 and has played cornet in all five finals the band has reached – in 1966, 1970, 1989, 1991 and 2018.

“We haven’t won yet but I hope we’ve got a good chance this time,” says the grandad-of-four. “If we come off stage feeling a buzz about our performance, we’ll have done ourselves justice.”

The band’s history can be traced back to the early 19th century when it was known as Whitworth Band. During the Boer War, it became a volunteer band, adopting military dress, although members didn’t go into battle.

For many years, it retained close connections with the mining industry, until the closure of Whitworth Colliery in 1974, but the band has continued to be the cultural heartbeat of the community.

Spennymoor born and bred, Mike yearned to be part it from being a small boy, but wasn’t allowed to join the junior band until his eighth birthday. Once he had his foot in the door, he quickly impressed, playing his first competition with the senior band within two years.

Mike and his cornet have been part of the furniture ever since, apart from a break in 1978 when it was announced that the........

© The Northern Echo

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