Arts aficionado Dorian Kelly says being part of an audience again has been an emotional experience

NOW I’m not a huge brass band fan.

After all, I reasoned, there’s only so much oompah a sensitive soul like me can take on a Sunday afternoon.

Nevertheless, when I turned up to support my friend Victoria (Steinitz) on the Castle Park bandstand leading the Boxted Methodist Silver Band in an eclectic selection of tunes ranging from Queen to Elgar, I found myself inexplicably close to tears.

It wasn’t the music, precise and skilled as it was.

It was the simple act of its existence.

It was the audience - a real live audience - who were loving it.

It was the miracle of its survival and the triumphant return against many social, logistical and financial odds to be on that bandstand again, and for me to be able to be in the audience once more.

I think it was the cumulative effect that had affected me so unexpectedly.

Gazette: Excited - Dorian Kelly, who is taking part

Gazette columnist Dorian Kelly

The previous day, on that same bandstand, I had heard the Hoolies, a great shanty band, followed by the Colne Valley Youth Orchestra, with some of the players, astonishingly, as young as eight making some very creditable music ranging from Hayden to pop.

The weekend before I had taken a very small part in John Ball Day, with a whole bandstand afternoon of protest songs, readings and music.

The previous Wednesday I had been to Dedham to see Eastern Angles Theatre Company in a near-perfect (and well-ventilated!) production of Red Skies, dealing with a fictional meeting of Arthur Ransom and George Orwell.

I was also privileged to travel to London (in case you are wondering if trams still ran down the Strand, I’m afraid they don’t) for the first time in goodness knows how long to see their unusual but wonderful Under Milk Wood at the National Theatre. And we have had the triumphant launch party for my wife’s amazing new book Searching For Bessie, the story of her hidden grandmother, which is the culmination of a couple of years of blood, sweat and tears, told in prose poetry and recipes which is apparently selling like hot cakes at Red Lion Books (shameless plug).

This kind of thing is that which makes us human.

The theatre, music, poetry, the books, the song.

The being together, experiencing as one.


It is life on the human scale.

It is the thing that both grounds us and uplifts us.

It is what shows us the world as it is - not the world which we are shown by those with an agenda.

It’s something that we do that isn’t for profit, or influence, or for competition.

It’s the way we are and it happens in spite of Covid, lockdowns, mask-wearing, distancing and all. They can’t take it away from us.

It’s culture. Everything else is just housekeeping.