Fanfare for Mike and the musicians

PUBLISHED: 06:30 30 June 2014

South Norfolk Youth Symphonic Band

South Norfolk Youth Symphonic Band


A youth band which has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity and is still led by the man who set it up, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

Thousands of young musicians have played with the South Norfolk Youth Symphonic Band – and more are now needed.

The band was formed by Diss musician, marketing manager, businessman, baker, and bandsman Mike Booty, who is still its chairman, conductor and musical director. And among the thousands of youngsters who enjoyed playing with the band were all four of Mike’s children, plus three, to date, of his grandchildren.

It started out as a marching band, linked to the Air Training Corps, after Mike, a former member of the Royal Marines band, was asked to train a group of children to accompany the cadets’ drummers. “They turned up with these battered, old, brass instruments and we all laugh about it now but I thought it couldn’t be done,” says Mike, who played the clarinet with the Royal Marines Band, the viola in its concert band and saxophone in its dance band. However, he managed to create a marching band which was soon good enough to give concerts.

Since then youngsters aged from eight to 23 have performed up to 30 times a year, toured Europe and the Far East, played in the Royal Albert Hall, been presented to the Princess Royal and the King of Malaysia, received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, and even commissioned their own music.

Back in 2001 the band premiered Four Norfolk Dances, written especially for them by Philip Sparke. The Pulham Prelude, Diss Dance, Lopham Lament and Garboldisham Jig have since been played by musicians across the world.

The South Norfolk Youth Symphonic Band is based in Diss but attracts youngsters from across Norfolk and Suffolk. They rehearse weekly and also get together for band trips and residential weekends.

“It’s seeing the kids develop as musicians and getting so much fun out of music that I love most,” says Mike. He has maintained the early links with the Forces with regular workshops and concerts alongside military musicians. He also has strong links with Malaysia, after working there in the 1970s, and through Rotary contacts in the country, the band was invited to tour the country two years ago. There, at a single concert in a 5,000-seat stadium, it raised an incredible £1/4 million for a Malaysian hospice.

In its heyday the band had 100 musicians at a time, but Mike says more members are needed now, if another planned Malaysian tour is to go ahead in 2015. Instruments can be provided, there are no auditions and the emphasis is on the children and young people enjoying the music they play.

A 40th birthday celebration is planned for September, including a play-in of favourite music over the decades for past and present members of the band.

Strike up the band

New members are needed. Young musicians, aged eight and over, simply need to enjoy making music in a friendly atmosphere and to be able to read basic music.

For more details, visit or call Mike Booty on 01379 854600, or go along to a 7pm Tuesday evening rehearsal at Diss Youth Centre, Shelfanger Road, Diss.

Latest from the EDP Norfolk Magazine