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

TownSounds Website Mock up

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

This new website has been created by Mandeep Samra and Dr Stephen Etheridge, with illustrations by Peter O’Toole and it charts how music-making in the town strengthened not only the town’s civic identity, but also social networks and notions of community.

Capturing the spirit of Huddersfield’s music heritage, 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 casual visitor to Huddersfield would hardly imagine that [they were] amongst some of the greatest music lovers in the country…In an unpretentious way the people of Huddersfield give probably more time to music than do those of any town of a similar size in England’

The Musical Home Journal,1908

‘A stranger no sooner comes among you that [they find] in a hundred ways they are in the land of song.’

J. Sutcliffe Smith, A Musical Pilgrimage in Yorkshire, 1928

Since Victorian times, Huddersfield and its environs has been one of the most intensely musical communities in the country. Brass bands, choirs and orchestras thrived in and around the town, often using Huddersfield Town Hall as a venue to showcase their talents.

Key music festivals were established in the nineteenth century, and, since 1978, Huddersfield has been home to the celebrated Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf//). The first jazz clubs emerged in the 1930s, and through the 1950s and 1960s rock and roll, folk and pop bands performed in the town’s pubs and clubs.

With immigration came new musical styles such as steel bands, bhangra and reggae music, adding their own vibes and beats to the musical landscape.

And so it continues today; traditions are preserved as new ones are being created – and there’s more music being made by more cultures and communities than ever before. As well as shining a light on the people that have made Huddersfield’s TownSounds, we’re left in no doubt about the huge impact of place on the music that calls Huddersfield home.

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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