A Brief History

The band was formed in 1910 as the Craghead Colliery Band in the mining village of Craghead near Stanley in County Durham. The colliery formed a band to provide recreational activity and social outlet for the miners and to lead funeral processions following fatalities at the pit.  After reforming following World War I the band decided to enter the contest arena, becoming North of England Champions by 1924. The onset of World War II saw many band members leave County Durham to serve their country, many of whom did not return, however in 1950 a former principal cornet player with the band called Eric Cunningham did return to the North East and took up the baton.

During an outstanding partnership lasting over 40 years Eric guided the band through great musical development, from 2nd section National Finals in the early 1950’s to Championship Section status in 1959, a position retained to this day. The band qualified to compete in the National Finals in the Royal Albert Hall for the first time in 1963 and have continued to qualify almost every year since, 36 times as Regional Champions.

The Ever Ready Years

Following closure of the colliery in 1968 the band gained sponsorship from the Ever Ready battery company, which saw the band change name and move its headquarters from a room above the Punch Bowl Inn at Craghead to the company’s offices in their new manufacturing plant at Tanfield Lea. In a partnership lasting for over 25 years negotiated by Ray Hutchinson, who was Band Secretary during that difficult time, the band was transformed from being a small colliery band into an internationally recognised works band, performing in concerts the length and breadth of the country and regularly appearing on national BBC radio and television. The band also went on to cement a formidable reputation in competitions, featuring in the prizes at the National and British Open Championships under the management of Ray and musical direction of Eric and Professional Musical Director Major Peter Parkes.

Following the closure of the Tanfield Lea factory in 1992 the band became self-supporting for some 12 years, retaining the Ever Ready name and continuing to maintain its reputation for first class concerts and prize winning status under the direction of Resident Conductor and former player Stephen Malcolm and Professional Musical Director Nicholas Childs.

The Reg Vardy Years

In 2004 the North’s leading motor retailer, Reg Vardy plc, agreed to sponsor the band and Ray Far was appointed as Musical Director. The band become Durham University’s Brass Band in Residence, and Ray introduced the band to a range of innovative concerts, some departing from conventional brass band programmes by featuring a mixture of brass band classics, big band and swing style music as well as collaborations with concert pianists and singers.

Following Ray’s retirement from Durham University, the band secured the services of Russell Gray as Professional Musical Director in 2013, with renowned brass band conductor John Roberts as Resident Conductor. This collaboration saw a new consistency in the band’s competitive status including eighth place finishes at the 2013, 2014 & 2015 National Finals.

2014 saw the formation of a new partnerships with Geneva Instruments, Wallace Mutes and Hercules stands, with band members assisting with the development of new instruments. Jacob Vilhelm Larsen also become the band’s Composer in Residence, with several new pieces being commissioned for the 2015 Brass in Concert Championships,  as well as a major new work for choir and band and a film about County Durham with brass band accompaniment.

The Next Chapter

The Reg Vardy Band has become one of the most successful brass bands in history, having won their respective Area Championships more times than any other brass band in the country, and are the only North East band to have competed in every major UK competition as well as the World Championships in Kerkrade. Their winnings include the Dr Martin’s Trust ‘Wainstones Cup’ (5 times), the French Open Elite Division in 2017 and they consistently feature in the World Brass Band Rankings top 20.

The Band is seeking new sponsorship in 2019 and beyond, and would welcome meetings with interested parties. This is a rare and exciting opportunity to be part of a North East tradition and ensure high level brass playing the area for years to come.