In 1995 an American conductor and tutor, Bob Bridges, having recently arrived in London, was invited to conduct a small wind band evening class that had decided to continue independently after the dissolution of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA).
Bob introduced the concept of a 5-Year Plan and within that time-frame the group achieved their ambitions to recruit many more musicians, purchase instruments (with an Arts Council grant) and music. A permanent rehearsal base was established in Herne Hill SE24, and the group became a registered charity, initially called Southwark Concert Band (SCB), but later re-named South London Community Music, with the band itself retaining the SCB name.
Expansion and moves to Camberwell then Stockwell
In 1999, together with SCB member Paul Millington, Bob co-founded SCB’s sister band the South London Jazz Orchestra, both bands being affiliated to SLCM. The ensembles grew steadily over the following years with Bob as Conductor of both, and Music Director of SLCM. This expansion was achieved without compromising on the high standards, or the fundamental ethos of having no auditions or limit to numbers.
The bands are intended for adults, so, to expand their community activities, in addition to their own performances, and supported by an Arts Council grant, a few years ago the bands visited South London schools, enabling student musicians to sit amongst and perform with our band members. The SLJO also ran a well attended series of jazz improvisation workshops, open to all, not just SLCM members.
In 2010, having outgrown its rehearsal venue in Herne Hill, SLCM moved to St Matthew’s Church, Camberwell SE5. This enabled a large storage area to be created within the church so all the instruments, equipment and music could be stored under one roof – a major improvement, after some of it had been housed in people’s homes for many years.
In 2011 SLCM became an incorporated charitable company, with a Board of Trustee/Directors, further consolidating its charitable status and objectives.
In 2012 Bob and SLCM Trustee Lesley Khatabi co-founded London Sings, a community choir, again embracing a mix of abilities, and with an eclectic repertoire.
In 2014 SCB was re-named South London Symphonic Winds.
Throughout all this time Bob Bridges has been Music Director of SLCM, Conductor of SCB/SLSW and SLJO, and, more recently, London Sings.
With continued expansion yet larger rehearsal and storage space became necessary. In October 2016 SLCM moved to Mostyn Road Methodist Church, Stockwell SW9 6PH. We are immensely grateful to the Minister and Church for allowing us to create a purpose-built storage area and music library within their premises.
SLCM’s Ensembles now have a collective membership of about 160+ and growing. The charity is still organised entirely by volunteers from within the membership, the only fees being paid to Conductors and Tutors. The role of Music Director remains an honorary one.
During 2017 SLJO introduced improvisation workshops for band members, and created opportunities for band members to have some conducting experience, mentored by Bob Bridges, and these initiatives will continue in 2018.
SLCM is planning to organise classes in general musicianship and conducting, led by Bob Bridges, which will be open to members of all three Ensembles.