Many of the most famous brass bands up and down the country - the Black Dyke Band, Grimethorpe Colliery Band, and Foden's Band, among others - grew out of industrial backgrounds, and the City of Exeter Railway Band is no exception. The band was founded on 15th October 1944 by a group of railway workers, and was originally formed as a sub-section of the Southern Railway Recreation Club, who lent them £100 to purchase a set of instruments. The first official rehearsal held on 12th January 1945, and from that date, rehearsals have been held nearly every Tuesday evening. The founding name of the band was 'Exeter & District Southern Railway Band', but when the railways were nationalised in 1948, the band changed its name to the 'British Rail (Western Region) Band'. Subsequently, with changes of regional control, the band settled on the altogether-simpler title of the 'Exeter British Rail Band'. Some of our oldest - and most popular - pieces of music in our archive are still stamped with the old name!
While the band is now open to all, we retain our traditional link with the local railway. Perhaps the clearest indication of this is where we rehearse: namely, a rehearsal room at Exeter Central Station, which has been the band's home for most of its existence (with the exception of a ten-year period in the late 1990s and early 2000s). Storage space for music, spare instruments and jackets is also provided in an adjoining room, and parking at the Station is free for band members on Tuesday nights (with a dedicated permit).
The band's logo has long featured the distinctive branding of the British rail network: two parallel lines, with embedded arrows running between them. This logo, immediately recognisable on road signs and maps denoting railway stations, was the property of British Rail, but the demise of British Rail in the 1997 necessitated both a change in name and a formal request to continue using the logo. The band (swiftly renamed the ‘City of Exeter Railway Band’) enlisted the help of local Member of Parliament, Ben Bradshaw, who wrote to the Secretary of State, Gavi Strang, to obtain the necessary permission, which was was immediately forthcoming by means of a letter from Glenda Jackson, the then Transport Minister. Councillor Chester Long was also most helpful in allowing the band to include a the distinctive castle motif (from the city of Exeter’s crest) in the band’s revised logo.
Since then, the band has gone from strength to strength, and is proud of its reputation as the standard-bearer for brass band music in the Exeter area. We have held regular concerts over the summer and at Christmas for almost 30 years, including our annual Christmas Carol Service in the Exeter Cathedral (featuring the band, the Police Choir and various school choirs).
In recent years, the band has also begun once again to make its presence felt on the contesting scene. Contests - in which multiple bands play the same piece one after the other and are assessed by a blind panel of judges - are among the most iconic elements of the UK's brass band landscape, and in 2019, the band's patience and perseverance was rewarded with a well-deserved promotion to the Third Section. More information on our contesting history is available on our results page.