At the Castlemaine State Festival in 2017, the Thompson’s Foundry Band played a concert close to their hearts.
After beginning its life thanks to eight men playing music in a tin shed in 1885, the band returned to its spiritual home at the Vossloh Cogifer Steel factory – the Thompson’s Foundry site.
Like many, band member and cornet play Alison Hanly saw the significance of the performance and combined with filmmaker Leonie van Eyk to document the Thompson’s Foundry Band story and their passionate members.
“I have been a member of the band since 2013,” she said. “It has been running continuously since 1885 and is one of the oldest brass bands in Australia.
“It has this really long and rich history, some people have been volunteering with them for 40 or 50 years and are really dedicated.
“When I heard about those stories and we had the State Festival event, it was too amazing an opportunity to pass up.”
The atmospheric steel factory venue combined with the band’s incredible sound made for a moving performance.
“The most basic idea was to film it,” Hanly said. “I got Leonie involved and she wanted to tell the story.
“She has done a beautiful job putting together interviews, weaving them with performances and getting a sense of why people are in the band, what they get from it and the historical connection.”
Filmmaker Leonie Van Eyk said the excitement of the band members to perform in the foundry was clear.
“They were really pumped and I thought I could further after getting all this rehearsal and performance footage,” she said.
“Having beers with them after the show suggested there was more to tell.
“So I started interviewing people and found they are a great lively bunch who are all from different backgrounds.
“It is one of the elements that is outstanding – the excitement of the members. They really love coming every Thursday night and get a buzz from being part of the band.”
With around 30 members and a new band master, Thompson’s Foundry Band has a good energy according to Hanly.
“Pip Azent has been band master for a couple of years now. As well as the traditional music we play he has introduced a few newer pieces of music,” she said.
“We have seen an influx of some fresh blood like some of the teenagers who have come in and are great musicians.”
Hanly, who plays cornet in the band, joined Thompson’s Foundry Band in 2013.
“(My friend) just said come and listen. The band had such a beautiful sound – it made me melt,” she said. “I learned trumpet in high school in Melbourne and hadn’t played for about 17 years but I was looking for a way to have music in my life.
“Pretty quickly, I joined a group called the ‘women’s committee’ and did a lot of fundraising for the band.
“Some those members have been with the band for 45 years and I thought it would be a good thing to (have more people) start to hear those stories.”
Van Eyk said she was struck by the band’s history.
“When you tell people about a band going for 133 years, people ask how that’s possible,” she said.
“It was nice that the band has had that extension of time and carried on.
“This town is such an interesting town for that stoic history about the goldfields and opening up that vault of time and finding out more about it.”
Since moving to Castlemaine five years ago, Van Eyk has found countless stories to document.
“I do love documenting people's work,” she said. “I love creating pilot videos to promote an artist’s work and helping to get artists funding. I love that storytelling and investigating people’s art.”
Van Eyk said even though the documentary was only 15 minutes long, there was a lot more to learn about the historic band.
“It’s not a feature but it could extend out but I could only really film the current members and what their feelings about the band are,” she said.
“Going into the depth of the band’s history would take a lot of research and there was not enough time or funding for that.”
The documentary is now in post-production and close to completion.
Thompson’s Foundry Band has set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to finish the edit and launch it in style with a premiere at Castlemaine’s popular Goods Shed.
With a final target of $5000, donations range from $10 to $500. A $30 donation gets people into the premiere on October 6, while a $100 donation will see the band perform a song for you or a loved one.
“We have done most of the edit and need to pay for the DVD to get printed, and also get the film out there and promoted,” Hanly said.
“People have put in a lot of hours and haven’t been paid and Leonie has done a great job.
“(The fundraiser) is largely our ticket selling mechanism but Maine Shoes and Accessories in Castlemaine is also selling tickets. If we (go beyond) our target it will allow us to get new instruments and uniforms, which would be great.”
The Thompson’s Foundry Band will unveil its documentary on October 6 at the Goods Shed in Castlemaine.
Visit www.chuffed.org/project/thompsons-foundry-band-castlemaine to support their crowd-funding campaign.