Kirklees has a rich and diverse music heritage that spans a multitude of musical styles and genres

Many of the societies, bands, orchestras and venues that continue to thrive today, date back more than a century. And the way that music is shaped by the place where it’s created can be felt right across the district; from the preservation of music cultures and traditions to the creation of new ones, you’ll find music that’s rooted in our communities, our towns and villages and their landmarks and landscapes.

Our two amateur orchestras, Huddersfield Philharmonic (founded around 1862) and Slaithwaite Philharmonic (dating from about 1891), both remain active. Formed in 1836, the internationally renowned Huddersfield Choral Society, is one of the UK’s longest standing choirs. The Holme Valley Brass Band Contest is over 90 years old and many of the district’s brass bands compete at the highest level in the UK, including Marsden Silver Prize Band, Lindley Band, Hepworth Band, Meltham and Meltham Mills Band and Hade Edge Band – to name just a few!

The Mrs Sunderland Music Festival remains a key fixture in the music education calendar, with the first competition held in 1889. Moving forward in time, Huddersfield has also been home to the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf//) since 1978, drawing artists and audiences from around the world.

Altogether, the district hosts 17 festivals, which includes Marsden Jazz Festival’s nationally recognised jazz programme in the Colne Valley since 1992, whilst the strong tradition of folk music is celebrated through Cleckheaton Folk Festival, Holmfirth Festival of Folk and the relative newcomer, Shepley Spring Festival.

The tradition of classical music performed in the town halls is upheld by the Kirklees Concert Season, delivered through a 17 year partnership with Opera North, a professional orchestra featuring world class musicians, performers and conductors.

From the late 1960s to latter part of the 70s, the Batley Variety Club was the place to go; in its heyday it hosted the likes of Louis Armstrong, Shirley Bassey, Roy Orbison and Eartha Kitt and boasted over 300,000 members.

From 1960s – 1989, Huddersfield was a leading light in the Sound System Culture and this is kept alive through Sound Systems today and venues such as BASSment. Huddersfield also played a significant part in the development of Bhangra dance and music, with one of the oldest Sikh cultural and Bhangra groups in the country, which burst onto the scene in 1968, based here and the town playing host to World Bhangra Day.

TownSounds

A new website captures a whole world of TownSounds through Huddersfield’s musical history

Huddersfield’s amazingly rich music heritage is gathered together on a new website, townsounds.co.uk that charts an array of ‘TownSounds’, from the Victorian glory days through to today’s vibrant and diverse musical map.

For the first time, the histories, the stories and the sounds that make up the town’s musical DNA have been brought together in one place, celebrating the diversity of music styles and movements, as well as the communities that created them or grew up around them.

There are currently 17 different music styles and genres to dip into and discover. Find out about the people and the places that made the music; take a listen to some sounds; travel back in time and visit the town’s landmarks through sound.

Discover brass bands and Bhangra, the blues and Boliyan; tune in to choirs, jazz, festivals and folk. Chart the history of orchestras, pop, rock and even hand bell ringing, then look back at the steel bands and reggae sound system culture. Drop in to Huddersfield Town Hall and listen to the atmospheric sounds of the Open Market, the train station and the Parish Church.

There’s a whole world of TownSounds waiting to be heard!

The TownSounds website has been created by Mandeep Samra and Dr Stephen Etheridge, with illustrations by Peter O’Toole. TOWNSOUNDS is a partnership between Kirklees Council and the University of Huddersfield. The project has been funded by Kirklees Council’s successful bid to the Leeds Local Enterprise Partnership’s Business Rates Pool fund, part of an ambitious project to make the most of Kirklees’ rich and diverse musical heritage.

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