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Business and Community Heroes

George Shiffner, David Possee, David East, Jean Stock, Ann Rolls and Ken Few all have their names inscribed on a brass plaque arranged by Braintree Chamber of Trade & Commerce which has been placed on a wall in George Yard Shopping Centre. It honours these various notable personalities from the business and voluntary communities in the town.

The late Bandmaster, Ken Few (1923-2015)

Kenneth, Kenny, Ken Few was a wonderful man; he was a family man, a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. Ken was an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable gardener and loved to eat his own home grown veg. He was extremely generous with his time, knowledge and experience, and dedicated much of his life to teach and promote music to people of all ages. In fact, he often said that he was so fortunate to have been taught to play by his own father, that he really wanted to dedicate his time to giving this same enjoyment and love of playing music to others.

Devoted and committed to his band, Ken conducted two nights a week, only ever missing two rehearsals in more than 40 years. Once, when he broke his knee cap, he returned to the band the following week propping himself up on a shooting-stick in order to lead the rehearsal. His keen ear for music enabled him to hear and identify any wrong notes being played and who might be at fault, even when the whole band was playing, and he was quick to correct mistakes. Ken loved playing music for the people and ensuring that the band played music that the people knew and wanted to hear - this is what made the band so successful.

Ken began playing when he was just 8 years old and played his first solo in Chelmsford Cathedral at the age of 11. As a talented player in his father's band, he initially played tenor horn, but when WW2 was declared, then almost overnight the cornet section of The Braintree Town Band was called up to service and Ken was then promoted to principle cornet. Ken went on to form Kenny Few's swing band and also played as a working musician in dance halls and holiday camps.

In the early 1970s, while bandmaster of Long Melford band and deputy bandmaster of Essex Police Band, he began teaching a group of young people to play the cornet. He set up a little informal band in the warehouse of his grocery shop in Bradford Street (now Benson's Bar). Often, this small band of just four or five members would practice in the aisles of the shop, but before long other musicians joined and the band grew. Eventually, the name 'Bocking Concert Brass' was chosen and using his own finances Ken began to buy instruments and music for the band.

Ken was at the heart of the community in Bocking, and for many years he helped organise the annual Bocking Mayday Fayre with band members and local residents, partly as a means for local people to come together and celebrate, and also as a means to raise funds for the local community and for the band. Other fundraising events included regular jumble sales and playing Carols. Eventually these fundraising efforts ended when the band was sponsored by Braintree's Knopp Electronic Services.

Ken taught countless children and adults to play throughout his life, never charging for his tuition. In July 1999 he was proudly escorted by his granddaughter Louise to the Queen's Garden Party at the invitation of the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, in recognition of his tireless unpaid work with the town's amateur musicians. He was voted Braintree Citizen of the Year in October 2003 for his musical services to the community, and in 2006 both Ken and the band as a whole were given the International Award for Community Excellence.

In his youth, Ken was a keen footballer and played for Braintree Town Football Club and enjoyed being involved with the Essex Darts team alongside his wife Flo. He was also the Chairman of Bocking United Services Club for a number of years.

Ken remained as Bandmaster of his band until his death on Friday 23rd January 2015. His last band engagement was at George Yard on 20th December 2014 and it was a fitting testament to his life when he played Christmas Carols for the last time at Bocking United Services Club the next day with many musicians and family members present. He will be sadly missed by the band, his family, and by the whole community.

Mar 2018

Braintree Businesses

A database of Braintree Town Centre businesses is available here.

Useful Links:

Bank of England Monthly Report
Braintee, Halstead & Witham Citizens Advice
Braintree Foodbank
Public Art Directory
British Retail Consortium
George Yard

Business & Community Heroes:

A plaque has been presented by Chamber to George Yard Shopping Centre, to put on public view. The plaque honours the contributions made by George Shiffner, David East, David Possee and Jean Stock to the town community.

The plaque was unveiled by Chair of Braintree District Council Cllr Janet Money on Saturday 15th October 2011.

Jean Stock
George Shiffner
David Possee
David East
Ken Few
Ann Rolls

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