Seed that bloomed into tribute to Todmorden music star Geoff Love

Todmorden Community Brass Band play the Sunday show at the Hippodrome Theatre
Todmorden Community Brass Band play the Sunday show at the Hippodrome Theatre

The seed of what culminated in a memorable weekend of celebrations celebrating Geoff Love’s life and work was planted more than 20 years ago.

Bill Birch, author of A Love Affair With Music, the new biography of the world famous Todmorden-born musician, bandleader and arranger, from which all proceeds go to Todmorden Information Centre, was asked at the time of Todmorden’s own borough centenary in 1996 by editor Sheila Tordoff to write about the town’s illustrious musical history for the Todmorden News. The Todmorden’s Musical Pride series resulted, running fortnightly for almost two years and including several pieces about Geoff.

Busy at the book signing - Bill Birch's biography of Todmorden born musican Geoff, A Love Affair With Music, launched at Todmorden Town Hall as a key part of the Geoff Love Centenary Weekend

Busy at the book signing - Bill Birch's biography of Todmorden born musican Geoff, A Love Affair With Music, launched at Todmorden Town Hall as a key part of the Geoff Love Centenary Weekend

Bill was encouraged to continue researching Love’s fascinating life and background by no less than Geoff’s sister Connie. Save for a five year break while he produced his acclaimed book about the Manchester jazz scene, Keeper Of The Flame, Bill researched hard and spoke to many of the stars who worked with Geoff, and those close to him such as his devoted secretary Dorothea “Doff” Hillier and his producer Norman Newell.

A committee of Bill, Cynthia Murray, Pam Warhurst, John Greenwood and Andrew Rawlinson began planning the weekend and, come September, sponsors helped with publication costs and events were manned by local people and groups including Bill’s family, committee family, Todmorden Town Hall Volunteers, Todmorden Information Centre volunteers, Hippodrome Theatre volunteers, Todmorden U3A, Todmorden WI, Todmorden Rotary Club, Nick Littlewood, Calderdale Council staff and Oddie’s bakery. Todmorden Market played Geoff’s music while shoppers shopped, and guests included Mayor and Mayoress of Todmorden, Coun Christine Potter and Lynne Houlden, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Kate Moreton-Deakin and Calderdale Council’s chief executive Robin Tuddenham.

That Geoff’s appeal was worldwide was shown, for example, by fan Neil Zechman’s contributions from Canada. Jazz specialists like Ron Simpson, Chris Lee and top photographer William Ellis were among those travelling to Todmorden from within the UK.

Love was equally happy discussing musical arrangements with world stars like Shirley Bassey or chewing the fat with Edwin Shawforth, his old foreman at Chew’s garage in Todmorden. The event straddled both worlds, and the organisers like to think Geoff would have been pleased.

'It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing' - whirling around the dancefloor. Picture courtesy of William Ellis

'It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing' - whirling around the dancefloor. Picture courtesy of William Ellis

l Copies of A Love Affair With Music by Bill Birch can be obtained from Todmorden Information Centre (www.visittodmorden.co.uk) at £20. While stocks of vinyl last, get a free Geoff LP from Bill’s research with each copy.

Members of the Love family with author Bill Birch at the big band show at Todmorden Town Hall

Members of the Love family with author Bill Birch at the big band show at Todmorden Town Hall

Author Bill Birch speaks about the book and introduced Calderdale Big band. Picture courtesy of William Ellis

Author Bill Birch speaks about the book and introduced Calderdale Big band. Picture courtesy of William Ellis

From the left, author Bill Birch, compere Andrew Rawlinson, Mayor of Todmorden Coun Christine Potter, Mayoress  Lynne Houlden and Cynthia Murray of the Geoff Love Centenary Committee and vice-chairman of Todmorden Information Centre

From the left, author Bill Birch, compere Andrew Rawlinson, Mayor of Todmorden Coun Christine Potter, Mayoress Lynne Houlden and Cynthia Murray of the Geoff Love Centenary Committee and vice-chairman of Todmorden Information Centre

Part of the audience  at the Saturday night big band concert. Picture courtesy of William Ellis

Part of the audience at the Saturday night big band concert. Picture courtesy of William Ellis

Nancy Storah (5) representing St Joseph's School, Todmorden,  receiving a copy of Bill Birch's biography of Geoff Love, A Love Affair With Music, with staff member Rowena Green. All schools will receive a free copy courtesy of Todmorden Information Centre

Nancy Storah (5) representing St Joseph's School, Todmorden, receiving a copy of Bill Birch's biography of Geoff Love, A Love Affair With Music, with staff member Rowena Green. All schools will receive a free copy courtesy of Todmorden Information Centre

Calderdale Big Band blow at the Saturday night concert at Todmorden Town hall as part of the Geoff Love Centenary weekend

Calderdale Big Band blow at the Saturday night concert at Todmorden Town hall as part of the Geoff Love Centenary weekend

Todmorden WI volunteers provided tea, coffee and refreshments for the book launch

Todmorden WI volunteers provided tea, coffee and refreshments for the book launch

A celebration cake baked by Oddie's bakers for the Geoff Love Centenary Weekend

A celebration cake baked by Oddie's bakers for the Geoff Love Centenary Weekend