The Dance Orchestra
"If people want to hear music - music with a large capital "M" - let them come to St Dunstan's some day.." The Review, 1917
In 1919 and 1920 there were some 800 men in training in Regent's Park and music was an integral part of the rehabilitation programme at the time. It gave men the opportunity to develop existing musical talent as well as those without experience the chance to start an instrument.
Initially, a banjo band was formed who played in venues in and around London. Soon, upon the discovery of many talented musicians, it was suggested that a proper dance band be put together. A veteran Paul Nuyens took responsibility for the organisation and soon they had a violinist, trumpet, trombone, saxophone and sousaphone players as well as a banjoist and a double bassist. One particularly talented veteran Bill Jack played the drums, clarinet, saxophone and also sang for the band.
Driving around in a Ford car which the band purchased for £5, they played at private parties in London but also places as far apart as Wolverhampton, Bristol and Bournemouth. The band also played for their fellow blind veterans three times a week at St Dunstans Lodge in Regent's Park.The dance band were always up to date musically, with a repitoire of over 100 popular tunes.
Soon after the outbreak of WWII, it became clear that it would be much harder for the dance band to operate due to safety and transport problems. So in 1939, after 17 years the band retired.
The dance band wasn't the only music group of Blind Veterans UK. There was a string band featuring cellos and violins, a brass band, a Ragtime band and a choir. See below for some more images from the musical happenings over the years at Blind Veterans UK!
A tray made by blind veterans during WWII and embellished by Japanese Fighter Pilot Harry O'Hara
For 100 years we have been supported by dedicated volunteers.
Reunions have always been an important part of the support we offer to blind veterans
100k walk medals from 1923 to 2015
Our oldest veteran to have ever lived had a bus named in his honour in Brighton and Hove
Our famous London to Brighton 100k walk has been a Blind Veterans UK tradition since 1923.
Braille printers are revolutionary pieces of technology that allow texts to be translated into Braille.
Screen reading software both magnifies and read texts to allow blind veterans to read on their computer, use the internet, send emails and magnify documents and letters.
Ann Quin was a Sussex novelist who worked for Blind Veterans UK as a short-hand typist
Being able to tell the time without sight is an important step towards independence for the blind.
A signed address by Helen Keller from the World Conference on Work for the Blind. This address was given to Ian Fraser, our chairman at the time who was in attendance at the conference.
Fundraising has always been vital to the work of Blind Veterans UK.
During WWI, we sold postcards to raise money to continue our services for blind veterans.
Our centre in Brighton is more than 75 years old and was the first purpose-built rehabilitation centre for the blind.
The Old Bill Fraternity was a subscription scheme for products made by blind veterans.
The winged victory is a sculpture above the chapel at our centre in Brighton.
Sink the Bismarck is a 1960s black & white war film about the chase and sinking of the German battle ship the Bismarck.