It was the Yorkshire ‘superband’ formed for one purpose: to win the UK championships.
And, 30 years after Conquest Alliance stole the show at the Drum Corps UK Championships, at Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Molineaux Stadium, more than 200 former bandsmen and women will gather to relive those fondly remembered glory days.
Formed in the autumn of 1985 by the amalgamation of Brighouse Royal British Legion and the Northern Skyriders (formerly Brighouse St. John Ambulance Corps Band), Conquest Alliance drew its 120-plus members from Brighouse, Huddersfield, Halifax, Elland, Mirfield, Bradford and as far afield as Sheffield, Warrington and Nottingham.
Members enjoyed reunions in 2006 and 2011. This year’s event, at Brighouse Sports & Social Club on Saturday, November 12, from 7pm till 1am, is set to be the biggest and most evocative yet.
Co-organiser of the reunion, Robin Barraclough, 51, says the 30th anniversary of the DCUK win – in September 1986 – has revived some powerful memories.
“Drum Corps was massive in the Eighties,” he says. “To win the DCUK Championships was the ultimate accolade. Traditionally it was dominated by southern bands. In Brighouse there were two rival bands constantly competing against each other. It was suggested that they amalgamate to create a superband. That’s what happened in 1985. And a year later we won the championships.”
The impetus to form a superband came from parent Les Wilkinson, who had daughters in both Brighouse bands and saw past the intense rivalry between them. Says Robin, “He told the directors of both bands, ‘The trouble with you lot is that you’re more bothered about beating them down the road than the rest of the country. If you joined together you’d beat the lot of them.’ And he was right.”
Some of the musicians who played with Conquest Alliance as youngsters are still heavily involved in the banding scene today. Among those expected to attend are two special guests from the United States. Bob Fizette from New York will represent his wife, Doreen Sandor, who wrote the band’s brass music but cannot attend due to illness. And Eric Kitchenman, the band’s visual designer, will travel from his home in Pennsylvania.
“Part of the reason Conquest Alliance became so good is because of people like Doreen and Eric. They were invited to come to the UK and train us. If there was a secret to our success, they were a big part of it,” says Robin.
“Talk to people who were there and many will say it’s the best thing they ever did. It was life-changing for them, and in a totally positive way.”
The reunion in Brighouse will feature a performance by the Elland-based Anchormen Ensemble, which will play new arrangements of classic music heard at the DCUK Championships all those years ago.
In its banding heyday West Yorkshire boasted in excess of 30 marching or drum corps bands. In the Nineties the appeal of banding faded but recently it has begun to reappear via outfits such as Revolution, Kidsgrove Scouts and The Company Performance Ensemble, from Brighouse, who are currently both UK and European champions.
“I would like to think that banding is on the rise again,” says Robin. “A lot of the success of what is happening today is down to the people that came through bands all those years ago.
“It’s still strong. I hope it will become even stronger.”
Tickets for the Conquest Alliance 30-Year Reunion cost £10 and can be bought on the door or via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/193697914345296/