Foden's Females lead the Way

Posted by Mark Wilkinson on 11 June 2018

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As Band Manager at Foden’s Band, from 1975 – 1990, it was never my role to interfere with players hired or fired by the respective Director of Music, even if it contributed to another headache.

So it was that in the autumn of 1981, MD Howard Snell, quite rightly without reference to me, abruptly reduced the front row cornet ranks from five to four.

Ordinarily that wouldn’t matter to me, but had he told me, I could have told him that it would have consequences; the deposed  player’s best and long time friend would inevitably walk out in sympathy, and he did. Now again that would normally be the way of the world, except that we were coming up very close to the deadline for signing the players for the British Open. We were now short of a tenor horn player.

I asked a friend who played euphonium in a local band if he would sign for us and play in the British Open. The temptation was great but he felt he could not do justice to the role of tenor horn playing.

Why the challenge of finding a player fell to me, I am not able to recall, but it did.  Then, for once in a while, I had a bright idea; or did I?

Playing in the local Roberts Bakery Band was a very fine tenor horn player, but there was a snag; a big and possibly insurmountable snag. The player in question was a lady.

Even Rita Cook, daughter of the Band’s great soprano player, Charlie Cook, who was good enough for the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, never made it into the all male ranks of Foden’s Band.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I asked my friend in the local band.   My choice had fallen on Rachel Goddard, wife of Assistant Principal Cornet Tony Goddard, and sister to Foden’s Band and later Black Dyke player John French.

Thankfully she said ‘Yes’. I had got my horn player and beaten the signing on deadline.

In the event we had an intervening engagement at Lyme Park, so Rachel actually made her Foden debut there in August 1981. Then she followed that up with her British Open debut at the last ever Belle Vue on Saturday, 5th September. The test piece was Gilbert Vinter’s Variations on a 9th, and Howard lead Foden’s to third place.

I don’t think any of the top bands had included a lady in their British Open ranks before then.

Being drawn to play last, cornet player Martyn Booth had a sense of history and held back so as to be the last to leave the stage on the last ever British Open.  For me their was another significance; our fourteen years old son Phillip was making his debut, like Rachel, next to Jimmie Charles on second cornet.

As often happens, the floodgates had been opened, and not too long after Rachel’s introduction, , Howard Snell restructured the ranks by introducing Lynda Nicholson as Deputy Principal Cornet, and twin sisters Gillian (Withington) Hinckley and Christine Withington into the cornet ranks.  Also Kirsten Thomas on cornet and later on Flugel Horn.

Foden’s Band’s own Suffrage Movement had been effected – and how.

Ever since Foden’s first introduced ladies into the band, others have followed, and now it seems quite normal.

The only reason for mentioning it now is because 2018 is the Centenary of the Representation of the People Act which was the start of Women’s Suffrage in Britain. It gave women of property over the age of 30 the right to vote.  It was a major start to all women having the right to vote.

Honour to the Foden Ladies.

Allan Littlemore
Foden’s Band Manager
1975 – 1990.

For any conductor and every audience, Foden’s Band is a musical Magic Carpet. It continually takes the listener to places that few other ensembles rarely even approach Howard Snell