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Honours list joy for Hornchurch band leader

Ian Yeoman Ian Yeoman

Sunday, January 12, 2014
12:00 PM

After being awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for services to music and youth development, Ian Yeoman told Sam Gelder about his 35-year involvment with the Royal British Legion Band & Corps of Drums Romford.

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The band outside Winter Palace in St Petersburg.The band outside Winter Palace in St Petersburg.

It’s not every day you receive a letter saying the Prime Minister is putting your name forward to the Queen for inclusion in her New Year’s Honours list.

So when Ian Yeoman, director of the Royal British Legion Band & Corps of Drums Romford, opened his mail on November 18, he was understandably shocked.

The 44-year-old, of Vicarage Road, Hornchurch, will receive a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to music and youth development, having led the band to gold medals in the World Music Contest on two occasions.

“To say I am proud and ecstatic would be an understatement!” he confessed,

Ian (far right), as sergeant, in a photograph from the 1980s.Ian (far right), as sergeant, in a photograph from the 1980s.

“As a royalist, this is a very proud moment for me.

“Being recognized nationally and by The Queen for the 35 years of work I have put into this great organization is amazing.”

Ian joined the band as an enthusiastic nine-year-old in 1978 after watching the Havering Tattoo held in Romford Market.

Initially he played the bugle in the ‘B Band’, but took up the cornet privately and before long was part of the main band.

In 1984, at the age of 14, he became the youngest ever sergeant and by 1994 he was made bandmaster to Leslie McWilliam.

And Ian, who was made director in 2002, reserved special praise for the men who helped him on his way.

“I would like to thank Bert Waite who taught me to march and play my first 5 notes on a bugle.

“But most of all I would like to thank former band directors, the late Peter Richardson BEM and the late Leslie McWilliam, as without their teaching and guidance I would not be where I am today.”

Ian’s work with the band has resulted in major successes.

Since 1993, the band has won double gold medals at three World Music Contests, held every four years in Kerkrade, Holland – most recently in 2009.

Marching bands from all over the world compete in the event, which the band qualifies for by winning the national competition.

Ian said: “We spend 6 months training for the world championships and every time we go we bring home gold medals for marching.

“We have earned the reputation of being one of the most successful UK traditional marching bands today.”

As well as competing, the 70-strong band also travels and performs around the world, and have played in Spain, France, Germany and Canada.

But Ian says his proudest moment came when the Russian Embassy flew the band out to St. Petersburg for the Royal Regatta in 2011.

“That was a proud moment – it must have cost the Russian embassy about £70,000 to fly us out.

“Performing in New York in the Marine Tattoo in 2004 was also a really proud moment.”

The youngest band member is nine, and with an average of 17, Ian say it is rewarding to see the children grow up to be “great” adults.

“It gives me a lot of satisfaction. Being in the band helps prepares the kids for the big wide world.

“I am very proud of the band and it is a pleasure working with them week in and week out. They are a credit to the borough, the country and the Royal British Legion.”

Most recently, the band performed on ITV’s Text Santa show with Robbie Williams in December.

Other performances include Surprise Surprise, Let’s Dance for Sport Relief and the British Comedy Awards.

The band is currently looking for new members aged 10 and above. If you play or are learning a musical instrument and are interested, call 01708 734954 after 7pm on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

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