The earliest recorded mention of the Lympstone Band was a performance at a Sunday School feast in the summer of 1889. Records were lost until the 1960s and 70s when the band amalgamated with the Topsham Silver Band and was renamed as Topsham & Lympstone Silver Band.
The band room was then the Methodist Church Hall in Topsham. In the early 1970s, the band broke apart and a core of players returned to Lympstone village and renamed themselves the Lympstone Brass Band, rehearsing in the Lympstone Methodist Church Hall.
The Band’s fortunes fluctuated between the 1970s and the 1990s, and it hovered around the upper part of the Fourth and the Lower part of the Third Sections in the West of England Area.
From 1988 to 1991 Lympstone Village Band was conducted by John Dunn, who was a cornet player and a former Band Sergeant from the Royal Marines Band.
From 1991 to 1995, the Band was conducted by Pete Betley who was also a cornet player and a brass teacher. The Band started contesting again after a gap of about 20 years and their first contest with Pete was at Barnstaple in the Fourth Section.
Brian Kelloway then took over the position of conductor until 1997. During this time the old uniform jackets, grey with black trim and silver braid, were replaced by bright red ones.
In 1997, the Band was fortunate to gain the musical directorship of Charles Fleming (Charlie), who was a Royal Marines musician (trombone) and who had served for the Queen on the Royal Yacht. Charlie had joined the band under Brian’s directorship and offered his services on Brian’s departure. In the same year, Charlie took the band to the Fourth Section National finals in Birmingham. This was a remarkable achievement in such a short space of time.
In 1998, the Band again qualified and played in Harrogate and qualified yet again in 1999, playing in Nottingham the where Band became the Fourth Section National Champions.
All members who played in Nottingham received an individual medal from Tony Rowe OBE, with their name and instrument inscribed together with “Lympstone SW Telecoms Band, UK National Brass Band Champions, Nottingham Sept 1999”.
Some of those who played in the contest are still with the Band and remember it as a very special moment. Celebrations were delayed, however, as the previous year’s winners, Test Valley Brass, were kind enough to warn the band that the cup should be washed before being used to drink from, to avoid the unpleasant effects of silver polish poisoning!
The Band was then promoted to the Third Section and qualified for the finals in 2000 which were held in the Albert Hall, achieving third place and the distinction of being the highest placed English band (as Scottish bands came first and second).
During this time, Charlie’s drive and commitment was instrumental in securing the sponsorship of Tony Rowe OBE and his company, South West Communications Group and the Band moved into the Second Section.
The Band, while still known locally and affectionately as ‘Lympstone Band’, was renamed the South West Telecoms Band’to reflect the sponsorship. The Band was also fortunate to have the deconsecrated Methodist church in Lympstone acquired for them by their sponsor.
The Band has benefitted hugely from having their own rehearsal and storage space, which they are pleased to share with the Training Band. The Band remain most grateful for this facility, which enables them to rehearse at will, especially pre-contest.
Under Charlie’s musical direction, the Band competed twice in the French Open Championship, winning the Bandstand Concert prize in 2010 and becoming the French Open First Division Champions in June 2014. Charlie retired in September 2014 and upon retirement was made the Band’s first ‘Honorary Life Member’ in recognition of his dedication to the Band.
Richard Harvey, a former Captain in the Royal Marines Band Service was appointed and introduced a different style of playing and experimented with different musical genres. However, Rich moved with his young family to Suffolk in August 2015 to take up the position of Bandmaster at the prestigious Royal Hospital School, Holbrook.
David Shead followed soon after, but secured a post in Cornwall as musical director of a Championship Section band.
A further re-branding occurred in 2015 when the Band became the swcomms Band, which is how it is known today.
The Band’s current Musical Director, Chris Spreadbury, is a graduate of Cardiff University and a well-respected musician within the South West. He was welcomed in May 2016.
The Band’s longest running engagement is leading villagers through the village, dancing at the annual Lympstone Furry Dance. The Band has done this since 1933, although the Furry Dance itself dates back some 150 years and it has always taken place on the first Saturday in August.
In the early days, the Band used to organise the event, raising money from jumble sales etc. to pay for the firework display at night, but this responsibility was later handed over to the dancers. Lympstone Furry Dance is also a chance for players from the Training Band to join in and play with the main band.
Other high profile performances include: the biennial Classics Galore! a concert in the Great Hall in aid of Force which is organised by Dick and Rosemary Passmore; a performance at the inaugural Torbay Airshow in June 2016; sharing the stage with operatic singers at Bicton Proms in July 2016 in aid of Hospiscare; appearances at Sandy Park, the home of Exeter Chiefs, for many of their home games. The Band is also pleased to assist with the Radio Devon Christmas Day broadcast which is recorded in Exeter Cathedral.
The Band competed again in the First Section in March 2017 under the leadership of Chris Spreadbury and won their section, earning the right to represent the West of England at the National Championships in Cheltenham in September 2017
This followed other notable recent successes including a near clean sweep of trophies at the 17th Exmouth Brass Band Festival in September 2016. The Band won Best Overall Band, Most Entertaining Band, Best Band in Section and Most Pleasing, Best Soloist, with Brent Heyworth on 1st Baritone.