Skelmersdale Prize Band

Registered charity number 508535


Ben Coulson

Influenced by his parents, who have both played in various brass bands in the local area, Ben first started to learn the cornet at Skelmersdale Prize Band. After a successful four years of contesting and performing in events in the local area with the band, Ben left the principal cornet seat to play for the acclaimed Blackburn and Darwen Band. Here, he settled on the flugel seat, before moving to Huddersfield to study for his degree in Music. where At University, Ben studied under the legendary cornet player and conductor Dr Phillip McCann. Upon his move to Huddersfield, Ben was invited to join the Hammonds Band (formerly the YBS Band). Here, Ben enjoyed qualifying out of the Grand Shield on two occasions, along with taking part in many competitions including the British Open, the National Finals and Brass in Concert. Ben lives in his hometown of wigan, while teaching music at a secondary school / 6th form in Warrington
Away from brass bands, Ben still plays cornet, trumpet and piano in various different ensembles. He also conducts many other ensembles including children's choirs. 
Since Ben has taken over as Musical Director, the band have had one of their most successful periods. Since Ben started in August 2018, the band have recruited some excellent players, taken part in new events and been promoted to the 3rd section. 
In 2020, Ben is looking forward to preparing an exciting concert programme and working hard with the aim of continuing the contesting success. 

Upon being appointed as musical director, Ben said “With the Hammonds Band, I have been very fortunate to enjoy years of playing at the best contests in some amazing venues, and also some brilliant concerts around the country. The best part for me though was the amazing team spirit within the band. I think it’s too rare now to find a band where every player has total commitment, whilst also enjoying a great social time as a group of 25 good friends. This attitude is something that I would now like to bring home. I am looking forward to taking Skelmersdale through this next chapter in the band’s amazing history; it’s great to conduct William Rimmer’s former band.” – Ben Coulson 2018


PRINCIPAL CORNET  - James Ball - James is a 'local lad' here at Skelmersdale, and grew up playing for the St Helens Youth Brass Band under the direction of Lynda Nicholson. As with many of our other players, as James become too old for youth bands, he joined Skelmersdale. James has won many awards at contests and we're sure that he'll win plenty more. You can enjoy a solo feature from James at most of our concerts. 

ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL - Sara Miller Sara learned to play cornet in 2002 at Up Holland High School Band. She joined Skem in 2010 from St. Helen's Youth Brass Band.  The highlight of her banding life so far has been playing in Italy with SHYBB.  Sara graduated from Liverpool John Moores University achieving a degree in Biomedical Science.  Sara also enjoys running, swimming and rock climbing.

SOLO CORNET - Andy Watkinson - Andy started playing trumpet at high school in 1990. Since then he has played jazz with the Sefton Youth Jazz Orchestra whilst at college in Southport and big band music with the Lancaster University Big Band during his time away at University. After University, Andy joined Marshside Brass Band where he learned the ropes of brass banding. In 2007 he joined Skelmersdale Prize Band after hearing the band play and being impressed with the standard of playing and the range of music. Andy played in his first brass band contest in March 2008 at the North West Regionals and thoroughly enjoyed the experience and is now looking forward to improving his brass band playing with the Skelmersdale Prize Band.

SOLO CORNET - JAMES BEECHAM - James has been an associate of the band since Ben took over as MD. James studied under Phillip McCann at the University of Huddersfield, and was a member of Black Dyke before joining us at Skem, where he has played everything from Soprano cornet to 2nd Baritone. As a fine conductor himself, James often lends a critical ear to help Ben in preparing for major performances. 


SOPRANO CORNET - Eddie Hill - Eddie is well known in the banding circle, having played for many fine bands across the North West and Yorkshire. Eddie is a true 'bandsman' and is always amongst the first to be at rehearsals and warmed up. His experience has been a great asset to the cornet section as well as the band as a whole. 

REPIANO CORNET -   Jenny Littlehales - Jenny has recently returned to her home town of Wigan after studying music at the University of Hull. Having previously been a flugel horn player she has brought a lovely warm tone to the repiano cornet seat. 

2nd CORNET - Chris Thorpe - Chris began playing cornet at high school in 1970, becoming principal of the Formby High School Band in 1974. He is also a founder member of Formby Band which started in 1974, playing with them for 13 years on cornet and solo horn. In 1987 he joined Skem and enjoyed 12 years playing third man. Family and job commitments forced a retirement from banding but he has now rejoined and loves giving the front row a run for their money.

2nd CORNET - Melissa Taylor - After helping out at and enjoying some of the band's great concerts last Christmas, Melissa has decided to stick around for the foreseeable. As a physiotherapist and general fitness fanatic, Mel is far from fitting the brass band stereotype. 

3rd CORNET - Steven Gee - Steven joined the band when in his 3rd year of BA(Hons) Music at Edge Hill University. Ste is a local lad and has been involved in many different types of ensemble in the area, and has previously tutored at Camp America. Steven does an amazing job as the band librarian and has done some excellent work producing our latest CDs. 

3rd CORNET - Liz Callaghan - Liz






1ST HORN - Wendy Thorpe - Now that Wendy is enjoying the later years of her professional life, she has been able to come back to the band after several years off playing. Wendy also sings in local choirs. 

2ND HORN - Nicola Hill - Nicola joined the band with her husband Eddie in 2019. Having played with some well respected bands in her time, we were glad to welcome her to the band. 

FLUGELHORN - Ellen Galbraith - Ellen is a not-so-old friend of the band who originally joined in 2005 when she moved to Edge Hill University from her hometown of Buxton.  Ellen  moved back to the area and following her performance at the National Finals with her previous band (Fairfield (Buxton) Band) she joined us permanently in 2008. Ellen is a busy science teacher and has lots of hobbies including roller skating, sewing, knitting, walking and camping. Ellen enjoys helping the youth band and tutoring beginner players and is the Child Welfare Officer.



2ND EUPHONIUM - Kira Roberts - In September 2019, Kira has moved up north to study at Edge Hill University. Since joining the band she has been able to enjoy competing at her first area contest and is proving to be a fine young player. 

SOLO BARITONE - Gordon Hatton - Gordon started playing when he was 9 years old.  He was given his great-grandfathers cornet as a birthday present!  As a youngster he played with the Lancashire Youth Brass Band and the North West Brass Band Association Youth Band.  He has played with Stretford Borough, Sale Concert, St Johns Ambulance and Skelmersdale Prize Band.  His banding highlights are a trip to Malta, the Royal Tournament and appearing in the finals at the Royal Albert Hall.

2ND BARITONE -  Bill Overmire - 


SOLO TROMBONE - Anthony Bearon - Anthony started learning trombone with Ormskirk Town Band in 1984, and played in the Lancashire Students Concert Band from 1988-1994. At university, Anthony played with various groups and orchestras, most notably Sforzando Brass, a newly formed 10-piece brass ensemble. Over the next few years, Anthony's musical focus was playing piano, trombone and melodeon for folk dancing and, as the family grew, this migrated to playing piano and organ for church services. Anthony join Skelmersdale Prize Band in 2017, and has become involved with St. Helen's Youth Brass Band where three of his children are starting out in the brass banding world.

TROMBONE - Georgie - 

2ND TROMBONE - Neil Walsh - After a couple of years off playing, Neil has enjoyed picking up the trombone again. Neil leads a very busy life and away from banding, he somehow manages to find the time to run a pub in southport. 

BASS TROMBONE VACANCY- Darren Samuel - Darren is another player that has been persuaded to come out of retirement recently. Darren spent several years competing in various top section bands in the North West and in Yorkshire. Darren shows that he's still got it, and regularly gets praise in adjudicators remarks. However, he would like to spend more time watching the rugby, and would happily welcome a replacement. 




EEb BASS - Dave Lyon - Dave is the OAP of Skelmersdale Prize Band! Dave has a long and illustrious career with the band, it has been in his family for generations. The Lyons were the founding members of Skelmersdale Temperence Band, and Dave has been a part of the band all his life. Dave's dedication and loyalty to Skelmersdale Band is greatly admired.

EEb BASS - Andrew Maguire - It was great to see Andy back with us in 2011 after a short break. Andy has been a Skem lad through and through, and is also a keen rugby player. 

EEb BASS - Eleanor - 

BBb BASS - Jon-Paul Coulson - J-P started playing at the tender age of 13 on tenor horn at Skelmersdale Prize Band Youth Band. From there he moved to Orrell B band on euphonium, and he held the solo euphonium seat for ten years. J-P left Orrell as he had the chance to play for the City of Stoke Band on EEb Bass. From there J-P moved back to SPB, remaining on EEb Bass. The bigger J-P's waist line has got, the bigger his instrument has also got, hence him now playing BBb Bass, now his hair is the only thin thing about him. J-P's favourite piece is Elsa's procession to the cathedral. His high point in his banding career was playing at the Royal Albert Hall; his low point, seeing a great band destroyed by an egotistical conductor! In his spare time J-P enjoys 'tinkering' with his classic green mini, more affectionately known as 'Kermit'. He also enjoys walking and completes the grueling 40 mile annual Keswick to Barrow walk for charity. 

BBb BASS - Keith Sharples 


Alan Penk - Penky has played at Skelmersdale Prize Band for many years.  After a 10 year break from banding Alan joined Skem Band two weeks before a contest (just to help out)....he's been with the band ever since! Alan is kept busy by his 2 sons, daughter and 7 grandchildren and is often called on to help with DIY and gardening. He also enjoys watching most sports. Alan is experienced in all percussion sections and he spends a lot of time helping the younger percussionists coming through the ranks.

Phil Staples -Phil started playing in 2001 with St. Helen's Youth Brass Band. The highlights of his banding life so far have been travelling to America, London and Glasgow and playing at Birmingham Symphony Hall with SHYBB. Phil graduated with a degree in Computing at Edge Hill University. Phil enjoys playing tuned percussion and it's great to have some noise behind the band!

Chris Krelle - Chris is one of the more 'dominant' members of the percussion section, not just with his dynamics, but he also usually manages to find his way on to playing the very sought after timpani parts for lots of the pieces. Chris is an very fine player indeed though, and an excellent bandsman, as you will often see him carrying the heavy gear and doing a lot of band admin. 

Richie Maguire - Having only played side drum in a boys brigade band as a youngster, Richie only started playing percussion properly as an adult when he brought his son Andy down to band rehearsals. He was initially asked just to play the bass drum for a march, but then the enthusiasm grew along with his ability to play more than just one drum!


Gemma Rowlands, Gordon Hatton, Chris Hibberd, Mark Melling, Adam Dutch, Helen Melling, Paul Pilkington, Matthew Elliot, Georgina Norman, Harrison Collins, Robert Hayman


President - Arthur Gore

Vice President - Gordon Hatton

Chairman - J-P Coulson

Vice Chairman - Chris Krelle

Secretary - David Coulson

Assistant Secretary - Kira Roberts

Treasurer - Chris Thorpe

Librarians - Stevie Gee

Safeguarding Officer - Ellen Galbraith

Committee - Sara Miller, Alan Penk, Phil Staples