University of Sussex
Bradshaw, Martin Thomas.pdf (11.7 MB)

One of the greatest assets to a seaside town: the evolution of publicly funded musical entertainment and the role of the Municipal Orchestra in Hastings, 1895-1940The Evolution of Publicly Funded Musical Entertainment andthe Role of the Municipal Orchestra in Hastings 1895-1940

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posted on 2024-06-10, 10:48 authored by Martin Thomas BradshawMartin Thomas Bradshaw

This diachronic study explores forty-five years between 1895 and 1940 during which publicly-funded musical entertainment in the conjoined towns of Hastings and St Leonards on the south coast of England, made the transition from town band to municipal orchestra. The development of the proudly designated Hastings Municipal Orchestra, with its own purpose-built municipal concert hall, was often precarious, subject to the contingencies of political, social and cultural change, economic challenge and war. As a widely admired and emulated public amenity the orchestra nonetheless often proved divisive, reflecting wider contemporary debates concerning public funding of the arts, the relative value of highbrow and popular culture, or turf wars between Hastings and St Leonards. Nevertheless, the Hastings Municipal Orchestra played a fundamental role in the town’s success as a holiday resort during the inter-war years when the orchestra reached its apogee before another war sealed its fate.

The primary research for this thesis is based on analysis of sources such as newspapers, council minutes and related historical documents, and is presented as a broadly chronological narrative that includes wider historical and theoretical contextualisation of issues including the development of modern concepts of leisure, the professionalisation of musicians from the late nineteenth century onward, and debates around class and cultural value. To this extent the study serves as a case study that deepens our understanding of a phenomenon (coastal resort orchestras) that, with the exception of the extant Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, has been almost entirely forgotten. The thesis aims to make a contribution to our broader understanding of leisure and musical culture in early twentieth-century Britain.


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  • Music Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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Nicholas Till

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