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Shirley Band Stalwart Celebrates 70 years

Shirley Band stalwart Robin Mills has just celebrated 70 years as a loyal member of the Solihull brass band.

Robin Mills, 78, currently the band’s second cornet player and librarian, met his wife, Chris in the band, daughter of one of band’s former Bb bass (tuba) players.

During his long tenure, he has had one sister, a father-in-law, two brother-in-laws, an uncle, a niece and three cousins all play alongside him too.

The long-serving bandsman has for many years proudly played The Last Post on at the Cenotaph for the Armistice service at James’ Church n Shirley.

He is now looking forward to the band’s promotion to championship section, the brass world’s equivalent to the premiership section, in January 2023.

Highlights of his time with Shirley Band, include visits to Bitburg and Hamm in Germany, reciprocal visits to the UK with the Posaunenchor band, and performing flugel horn in a production of Brassed Off at The Dovehouse Theatre in Olton, a theatre the band regularly performs at each year.

The dedicated musician, who for many years was the band’s flugel-horn player, said: “I joined the now defunct Shirley Junior Band in 1952, aged 8, and received my first cornet in an old leather case. I was very lucky to have the late Don Hodesdon, the band’s former President, as my first brass teacher as he was extremely dedicated. I attended many Junior Band contests over the years, winning several trophies.

I feel that for me, learning to read music and learning to play an instrument was one of the best things I could have done with my life”, said the musician, who was an active member of the band’s committee for many decades.

Robin upgraded to the senior band, aged 12, where he enjoyed playing in concerts in the parks all over the West Midlands, including Alton Towers and the annual Donkey Derby in Shirley Park.

As a self-financed band, the members worked hard to raise money for instruments, uniforms and music, and walked the streets of Shirley, carol playing, every December. Our families even formed a supporters club at one point organising social events throughout the community and were able to provide a whole new set of instruments.

“I began playing the flugel horn when I was around 18 and continued with it for over 50 years, apart from short breaks due to work commitments and bells palsy. A couple of years ago, I moved back onto cornet, just before the Covid break.

Shirley Band has been a huge part of my life and I feel privileged to have been part of it for so long.”

September 2022