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.

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, but later re-named to South London Community Music, with the band itself retaining the SCB name.

Expansion and move to Camberwell

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 undoubtedly fostered by the unusual but effective 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 SLCM 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 its current home of 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 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!.

Present day

SLCM’s ensembles now have a collective membership of about 180+ 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.

In September we moved our rehearsal and storage space from Camberwell to Mostyn Road Methodist Church in Stockwell SW9. We are immensely grateful to the Minister and the Church for welcoming us, and allowing us to create a purpose-built storage area and library for our sheet music. We are greatly enjoying our new surroundings!