Royal Navy accused of delaying talk to save Portsmouth Naval Base band

Bugler Martin Hopkinson from HMS Nelson Volunteer Band
Bugler Martin Hopkinson from HMS Nelson Volunteer Band

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  • Navy denies delaying talks and said it was working on the best way to retain volunteer band
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A POPULAR naval band in Portsmouth under threat of closure has claimed the Royal Navy is doing everything it can to axe the group.

For months, the future of the HMS Nelson Volunteer Band has remained uncertain, members say.

The Royal Navy has set a closure date of “end of February” and appears to be doing its best to delay a decision on the sponsorship in order to complete the closure.

Band member

The group, which has more than 30 members, provides music for official and social navy functions as well as a range of charity and community events and could close by next month.

Now the team says it is on the cusp of agreeing a vital sponsorship deal with defence giant BAE Systems but that the navy is holding up talks – something which naval sources deny.

The band member, who does not wish to be named, said: ‘The Royal Navy has set a closure date of “end of February” and appears to be doing its best to delay a decision on the sponsorship in order to complete the closure.’

The group has been under threat since August, when the navy revealed it would be making changes to how the band was managed, prompting 
fears the organisation would be disbanded.

In a bid to survive, the musicians approached BAE, urging the firm to step in and sponsor them, ultimately helping to secure its future.

A spokesman from BAE said the band was a valuable asset to the city and that it was keen to help.

The official added: ‘We are exploring ways of supporting the HMS Nelson Volunteer Band as part of our community investment activity and wider support to the naval base.

‘The discussions are at an early stage and ongoing.’

A spokesman from the naval base said confirmed the navy was in negotiation to retain the band.

’HMS Nelson Volunteer Band will lose its full-time Royal Marines Volunteer Band Instructor at the end of February for operational reasons,’ he added.

‘Portsmouth Naval Base is negotiating to find a way forward for the retention of the volunteer band, which is recognised as a valuable asset to the local community.’

The group has been in operation for more than 20 years.

It is made up predominantly of civilian musicians but has a number of ex-navy staff in its ranks too.

It has performed in the Falklands and at the Lord Mayor’s Parade, in London.