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.
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.
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.