The WFEL Fairey Band is one of the most successful contesting brass bands in the world. Founded in 1937 by a group of employees at the Fairey Aviation Works in Stockport, the band achieved many musical successes under the brilliant direction of Harry Mortimer, their Musical Director for over thirty years. Since those early days, the band has won every elite band event on the contest calendar, including the National Championships of Great Britain on nine occasions and the British Open an incredible 16 times.
Fairey Aviation Band in 1965
In the early-mid 1990s, the band enjoyed the most successful period in its history, winning both the British Open and National titles in 1993, before going on to become the first band ever to complete the ‘treble’ when they were crowned European Champions in 1994. The band is also extremely proud of its successes at the annual Whit Friday marches – whilst the band took the coveted Saddleworth title most recently in 2015, its most notable performance was in 1987 when they achieved ten first prizes, two second prizes and a third prize of the 13 contests that they attended!
Williams Fairey Engineering winning the Nationals in 1993
Although contest results have been an important factor in Fairey’s reputation as one of the world’s leading brass bands, the band is also renowned for its unique ‘Fairey sound’, a feature that has become synonymous with the famous name. The band is highly regarded for bringing a ‘touch of class’ to its concert performances and is therefore in constant demand for concerts, both at home and abroad. Overseas tours have included performances in Canada, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Since its formation, the band has worked with an illustrious line-up of conductors including Harry Mortimer, Leonard Lamb, Kenneth Dennison, Richard Evans, Walter Hargreaves, Geoffrey Brand, Major Peter Parkes, Roy Newsome, James Gourlay, Howard Snell, Allan Withington and Russell Gray. Most recently, the band has appointed Adam Cooke as their musical director in their continued drive for musical excellence on both the concert and contest stage.
The band has always welcomed innovation and in recent years has enjoyed further recognition outside the confines of the Brass Band movement, with its involvement in the ‘Acid Brass’ project. Under this banner, the band has been able to display its versatility in adapting to a very different musical concept and consequently, has performed in rock/pop festivals in the UK and overseas, bringing brass bands to a new audience.
The band has always maintained its association with the ‘Fairey’ company, now known simply as WFEL, which provided sponsorship until 2002. After a spell of other sponsors, the band is delighted to once again have the support of its founder company. The band still rehearses at the factory in Heaton Chapel. Having survived various name changes, as the company changed hands over the years – Williams Fairey and Williams Holdings among others – these days the band is proud to take on the name of the WFEL company to now be known as the WFEL Fairey Band and, as is more commonly used in banding circles, Fairey’s.
Fairey’s at Tate Modern Gallery, 2000
British Open Champions
1941, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1956, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1979, 1987, 1993, 1998
National Champions of Great Britain
1945, 1952, 1954, 1956, 1965, 1986, 1993, 2002, 2003
North West Area Champions
1947, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1959, 1963, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1986, 1992, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2014, 2015
BBC Television Champion Brass
1976, 1977, 1979
BBC Best Of Brass
Granada Television Band Of The Year
BBC Radio Band Of The Year
English National Champions
All England Masters Champions
Brass In Concert Champions
Fairey’s winning the North West Area in 2014