August 2020

Right up your street

Hypde Park Brass performing on their 'To Your Street' tour 
On tour during a pandemic – catching up with Leeds alumni band Hyde Park Brass as they deliver their ‘To Your Street’ tour across the UK.

For many, British summer means the stifling heat of a badly erected tent, the squelch of mud beneath wellies, the buzz of a crowd, the battle to get near a stage, and dancing into the night at one of the UK’s many music festivals.

This summer however, has seen tents swapped for back gardens, crowds replaced by chats over the garden fence, and in-person performances traded for live streams.

With festival and private bookings cancelled in the wake of Covid-19 restrictions, the pandemic could easily have spelled the end of the popular band Hyde Park Brass’s dreams of a summer on the road. However, thanks to their hard work, perseverance, and a determination to lift the nation’s spirits, this summer has been the brass band’s busiest yet.

Formed in Leeds, the band’s members include four Leeds alumni; Chris Cox (MA Music Management 2019), James Hobbis (Music 2017), Jonny Whitehead (Music 2018) and Ciaran Diston (MEng Aeronautical & Aerospace Engineering 2016). Throughout August, they have been touring the country with their ‘To Your Street’ tour – private performances delivered outside the homes of fans around the UK. This however has been no ordinary tour - with safety a top priority, the band have taken care to ensure their performances are in line with regulations. This has included band members wearing masks, signs warning spectators to keep a distance of three meters, and the necessity of disinfecting the street after each performance.

"It’s great to all be playing together again.”

Chris Cox (MA Music Management 2019)

"The response we’ve had to the tour has been truly fantastic,” says one of the band’s founding members, Chris Cox. “It’s been different to normal - with our big disinfectant tank, we look like something out of Ghostbusters! When we first came up with the idea we didn’t know how well it would go down, but it’s overwhelming to see how many people have got behind it, booked a gig and supported us.”

Hypde Park Brass performing on their 'To Your Street' tour
Even before planning for the tour began to take shape, the band had been keeping busy throughout the pandemic. Although the band members spent lockdown in various parts of the country, they managed to maintain their close bond - practising new arrangements online and creating weekly videos to support the NHS and spread a little joy.

The popularity of these videos inspired the band to take their spirt-lifting efforts to the next level. The idea for ‘To Your Street’ was born, and the band set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money needed to turn it into a reality. The response was incredible. Within a few weeks, the band had exceeded their target funds, and secured over 100 bookings. With slots filled from Cornwall to Scotland, the band’s six-week tour began to take shape.

“We definitely don’t do things by halves,” says Chris. “It’s been a lot of work, with a lot of time spent on the road too. Playing four or five gigs a day is a challenge, but we’re a tough bunch and it’s just great to all be playing together again.”

The performances have certainly been well received, although the band did get a bit of a shock when the police showed up to one of their bookings.

“We thought they’d been called in response to a complaint,” recalls Chris, “but it turns out that they were big fans and just wanted to see the show! It’s been amazing to see how far word about what we’re doing has spread, and people really seem to be enjoying themselves. The gigs are certainly more intimate than we’re used to, but I think actually a small gathering adds to the spontaneity and impact of the whole performance.”

Hypde Park Brass performing on their 'To Your Street' tour
With three weeks left on the tour, there are still many streets around the country waiting to be filled with the sound of trumpets and drums, especially those in Manchester and Lancashire whose performances had to be rescheduled due to local lockdowns. The band are loving every minute, and can’t wait to see what the next leg of the tour has in store.

“Each place we’ve visited has given us a memorable moment,” says Chris. “Whether it’s a storm blowing away our tent in the Peak District, or eating freshly caught fish while looking out over the beautiful views of Falmouth, this tour is one I will never forget.”

You can follow the band’s progress on the rest of their tour on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or read more about their journey, from playing for free in the student’s union to touring with the B-52's.