Northamptonshire charity Boobs and Brass aiming to go out on a high note

Boobs and Brass.
Boobs and Brass.

When Margaret Betts and Jane Nichols put on a brass concert in 2006, little did they know they’d be where they are today.

They hoped their 25-strong all-female band, named Boobs and Brass, would raise £500 for charity – but they raised 10 times that.

Raunds Boobs & Brass rehearsal: 'Sunday, 21 September 2008

Raunds Boobs & Brass rehearsal: 'Sunday, 21 September 2008

Now, 12 years and £229,000 in fundraising later, they are calling it a day.

Cornet player Margaret, 63, said: “We’ve got 700 girls involved but there’s only four of us who run the band and that’s been a decision that we made at the beginning.

“It is a lot of hard work and we’re all getting older and we wanted to go out on a high.

“We didn’t want it to run until it became something like a little tinpot band.

Rothwell, Boobs and Brass, county's first all female brass band to do charity concert for breast care charities. 'In front founder members l-r Jane Nichols and Margaret Betts with the band.  'Friday, 07 July 2006

Rothwell, Boobs and Brass, county's first all female brass band to do charity concert for breast care charities. 'In front founder members l-r Jane Nichols and Margaret Betts with the band. 'Friday, 07 July 2006

“We’re very sad that it’s ending but we’re trying to focus on the positives, on what we’ve achieved and what we’ve done and how much money we’ve raised.”

Since starting out the charity has grown into three bands – one in the Midlands, one in the south east and one in Chesterfield.

Between them, they’ve performed at nearly 100 concerts.

Margaret looked back fondly at one of her happiest memories, the first time they took Boobs and Brass to the Whit Friday Marches in Saddleworth.

Charity Tea: Grafton Underwood: Charity tea for Boobs & Brass at Sage & Brooke cafe. 'Margaret Betts (co-founder Boobs & Brass) with Robbie Stinson (organiser)'Tuesday February 6th 2018 NNL-180602-203056009

Charity Tea: Grafton Underwood: Charity tea for Boobs & Brass at Sage & Brooke cafe. 'Margaret Betts (co-founder Boobs & Brass) with Robbie Stinson (organiser)'Tuesday February 6th 2018 NNL-180602-203056009

It was a historic occasion as they were the first women’s band to perform there in 140 years, and they were made to feel like film stars.

But as much fun as they have had, there has always been a serious element to the work they do.

Most of the money the band has raised has gone to charity Breast Cancer Now, funding 10 specific research projects in the process.

Margaret said: “We know exactly where the money is going and we know that every penny we’ve raised has gone to that project.

Charity Tea: Grafton Underwood: Charity tea for Boobs & Brass at Sage & Brooke cafe. ''Tuesday February 6th 2018 NNL-180602-202432009

Charity Tea: Grafton Underwood: Charity tea for Boobs & Brass at Sage & Brooke cafe. ''Tuesday February 6th 2018 NNL-180602-202432009

“We’ve funded projects at Leicester University, Dundee, Nottingham, throughout the country.

“Even if at the end of that project it isn’t beneficial to breast cancer it’s fed into an information bank and scientists and doctors can access that.

“By 2050 breast cancer will be a manageable disease like diabetes and it’s so important that people continue to support them in raising money to research this horrible disease.”

Margaret said she had been touched by the support the charity had received in the past 12 years.

She added: “Fortunately, I haven’t experienced breast cancer but we’ve come across so many people who have.

“We’ve had about 25 girls who play in the band who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Even when they’re suffering they’ve come to Boobs and Brass wearing headscarves in the middle of their treatment and they say it’s helped them to have something to focus on.

“People come and talk to us about their experiences and it makes you realise how many people do actually get breast cancer.

“We feel that, while we’re doing something we really enjoy, we’ve been able to play a small part in giving the researchers some money to find a cure.”

The charity may be disbanding, but they’re not going out without a bang.

Their big aim is to hit the £250,000 mark before the end of the year and they’re holding several events and concerts to reach the target.

On March 24 they’ll be performing at Huddersfield Town Hall with the world-famous Brighouse and Rastrick Band.

They’ll then be performing at Lincoln Cathedral on October 13.

And next year they’ll round off their work with a final performance at Butlins in Skegness as a goodbye from the brass band world.

They may not be the best band in the world but as long as they’ve put a smile on people’s faces, Margaret is happy.

She said: “It’s not about being the best, it’s about being part of the concept.

“Some of the girls aren’t good players, but they’ve been able to be part of something fantastic.

“It gives them the opportunity to be part of it and play what they can.

“We’ve always aimed to entertain.”

To find out more about the charity or to donate, click here.