ONE of the country’s oldest brass bands is fighting for survival as membership dwindles.

Linthwaite Brass Band has been making music for 158 years.

But the falling number of musicians means that its future is uncertain.

Now the band has made an impassioned plea for new players.

Steve Bonner, flugelhorn player and personnel officer, said: “If we don’t sign up new members it’s a slippery slope and it will go into decline. Once that starts, you never come back.

“We want to make people aware that there’s a local band that’s been around for so long that’s really struggling to survive.”

The band, which plays at Hoylehouse Fold, has 19 members aged 30 to 76.

But it needs 26 to play in competitions and is struggling to replace older members.

Mr Bonner said that joining a brass band tended not to appeal to younger people.

“Things move on, people have other hobbies, games and things like that, but music always survives,” he said.

“When I was younger, some of my friends weren’t so understanding, but now they say they wish they could play an instrument.

“Brass bands have a stigma of being old fashioned, but they have a fantastic tradition, especially in this area.”

The band practices twice a week and takes part in performances and competitions. Membership is free.

Mr Bonner said: “You are part of a big family. Everybody plays a different part and it all comes together as one. When you get it right, there’s nothing else quite like it.

“It’s a good way to escape the rat race of life.”

Peggy Tomlinson, president of the Yorkshire and Humberside Brass Band Association, said declining membership was a nationwide problem.

“Youngsters aren’t coming through like they used to,” she said.

“These days there are so many things competing for their attention and playing in a brass band isn’t seen as cool. They are very much influenced by peer pressure.

“Bands are really struggling and slowly the number of bands is diminishing, even in Yorkshire, with its great heritage.

“I can’t see things returning to the way they were, but I wouldn’t like to think that the movement will die.”

Anyone interested in joining the Linthwaite band can attend practice sessions at the Old British Legion building at 8pm on Mondays and Fridays or contact Mr Bonner on 07736648402.