Burgess Hill Marching Youth – ‘one of our town’s best kept secrets’

Burgess Hill Marching Youth
Burgess Hill Marching Youth

Burgess Hill Marching Youth has been entertaining us since 1986 and has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Arena – and across Europe.

But there are still not enough people who know about the band, its bandmaster has said.

“I don’t think enough people know about us – it is one of Burgess Hill’s best kept secrets,” said Claire Stacey, who has been bandmaster since 2007.

“It is on our doorstep, we are completely independent. Children pay £2.50 a week and they get an instrument, up to four hours tuition a week, uniform, and all music and equipment.

“We keep it inclusive, I wouldn’t put the price up, it is open to all, so all families can afford it.

“We have more than 50 members in the main band at the moment and approximately 12 cadets. I like that it is all different age groups, it is like a family.”

I don’t think enough people know about us – it is one of Burgess Hill’s best kept secrets.

Claire Stacey

The band takes part in a variety of performances, such as contests, fetes, bonfire processions, massed band events and annual residential trips.

Claire, 37, joined the band in 1988 when she was seven years old.

“I had no idea what I was getting involved in, but I absolutely loved it,” she said.

“I did 11 years and left in 1999 to do my teaching degree.

“I went back in 2003 because I heard the original bandmaster was leaving and I wanted to help out.

“Also, by that time I was in a full-time teaching job and I had evenings and weekends to play with.

“I spent an hour playing again and I was completely hooked all over again and I still remembered everything.

“I phoned the bandmaster straight away and asked if I could join again.”

Claire’s husband Paul is also a bandmaster. He joined in 1986. The couple have four children. Their daughter Sophie, aged nine, is in the band and their daughter Leanna, aged 19.

Claire was made assistant bandmaster in 2006, before becoming bandmaster a year later.

She said: “We had 18 members at that point, including myself and Paul, it has grown so much in the past 12 years.

“When Paul and I became bandmasters it didn’t feel like it had that family support network and that is something we wanted to bring back, like we had when we were younger, and I feel that is something we have both really achieved.”

As bandmasters, Claire and Paul teach music, find and organise events for the band to go to and perform, run practice sessions, as well as order the uniforms and instruments.

Claire said the band gives her somewhere where she can ‘excel’. “When I joined the band I was very shy,” she said.

“It gave the opportunity to do something I loved, without being in the limelight.

“I had this massive group of people with me and I felt comfortable. It is a team effort and I like the discipline side of it too, and trying to do it to my best ability.”

Burgess Hill Youth is supported by Burgess Hill District Lions Club. Claire said the Lions have supported them ‘all the way along’.

She added: “We are supported by the Lions but we are not funded by them, we fund ourselves.

“When we go out and perform we earn money and that goes back into the band. We also apply for grants. We always need help with funding.”

Claire said the band is a ‘safe place’ for youngsters. She added: “With things that have happened in Burgess Hill recently, the kids have got a safe place here.

“We have lots of kids from different backgrounds, and it is not just about the music. I have had parents come in with issues and we are there for them.”

Burgess Hill Marching Youth is a Light Infantry style Bugle and Brass band renowned for its distinctive green and white Gurkha inspired uniform.

For more information, please visit www.bhmy.org.

If people would like to join the band, please email bandmaster@bhmy.org.