Just up from the canal, at the heart of the University of Huddersfield campus, is Heritage Quay: a state-of-the-art archive centre and the new home of brass band history.

From Saturday March 4 over 8,000 items will be available for researchers, students and the public to explore in the Brass Band Archive.

The collection includes scores, recordings, photographs, trophies, programmes and more. All this belongs to Brass Bands England, the national body which supports the movement, who have worked closely with specialist staff at the university to prepare the materials for the move to Heritage Quay.

It is only the latest collection to be added to the vast array of historical items the university looks after, which also includes memorabilia from the Rugby League, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and Hollywood actor Sir Patrick Stewart.

The collection’s arrival in Huddersfield has been years in the making. The archive was started in a flat in Wigan, by two band players keen to preserve the banding movement’s history.

It was acquired by Brass Bands England (BBE) in 2018 and moved to their store in Barnsley while they decided what to do with it.

Fortunately for Huddersfield, they thought that Heritage Quay might be interested in taking it in and making it available.

A cap from Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band. Image courtesy: University of Huddersfield

BBE recruited staff and volunteers who spent many painstaking hours sorting, listing and re-boxing the materials before they made the short journey to West Yorkshire.

As one of banding’s heartlands, it is fitting that the collection is coming to live in Huddersfield as a brilliant new resource for the musical life of the town.

The catalogue, which lists all the items in the collection, is online at www.heritagequay.org/archives/bba.

To celebrate the arrival of this extraordinary collection in the town, a new exhibition ‘Brass Bands: History and Culture’ is on display from March 4 to April 22 2023.

A rare wax cylinder recording. Image courtesy: University of Huddersfield

Alongside stories of star conductors and gigantic contests are those of local organisations and self-taught music.

The exhibition explores how banding became a hugely popular movement, attracting audiences of tens of thousands. It also looks at distinctive aspects of banding culture, through uniforms, trophies, photographs and letters.

The exhibition is free, and open to the public from Monday to Saturday. There will be lunchtime tours of the exhibition on March 15 and April 19 at 1pm.