We’d like to congratulate our supporters Boobs and Brass on their BBC Music Day Brass Band Award, for the band that best embodies the BBC Music Day 2017 theme – celebrating the power of music.
In 2006, two friends decided to form an all-female brass band called Boobs and Brass. Since then, they’ve grown to more than 600 members across the UK and have raised more than £170,000 for Breast Cancer Now.
When brass musicians Jane Nichols and Maggie Betts decided to call on all the female players they knew for a charity concert, they only expected to raise a few hundred pounds. So they were blown away when they ended up taking £5,000.
Mrs Betts, a 63-year-old cornet player from Northamptonshire says:
"We were absolutely dumbfounded. All the girls said, 'That was brilliant, we've got to do it again.' And it's just never stopped since."
Since then, the band has grown from strength to strength. It now has three branches, covering the Midlands, north and south of England. They even have an international offshoot due to launch in New Zealand later this year.
For their first concert, Mrs Nichols and Mrs Betts split the proceeds between two charities. Mrs Nichols gave her half to a campaign for equipment at Kettering Hospital, where she worked. Mrs Betts chose Breast Cancer Now, as a member of her regular band had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Over the last 11 years, the Boobs and Brass band members – who are all unpaid – have continued to give concert takings to charity. So far they have raised an incredible £206,000 – with more than £170,000 going to Breast Cancer Now.
The cause has become particularly personal to the musicians. Mrs Betts says that about 20 members have have had treatment for breast cancer, and three are going through it now. The band isn’t just a hobby for most members, it has also become an important support group.
Mrs Betts says:
"It's a very tight-knit community when you've got members who are going through something so drastic,
"You just want to be there for them. It's scary. It could be any one of us. You just never know whether it's going to be you."
The all-female group has been a refreshing change in the brass band world, which has been traditionally been very male-dominated. But recently, the band members have relaxed their women-only rule.
Mrs Betts says:
“They're representing the men who get breast cancer. As long as they're brave enough to put the pink jacket on, they can be part of it. We don't like to bring too many [men] in. But the odd one here and then is acceptable."
BBC Music Day takes place on Thursday 15 June 2017.