tMP Exclusive Interview with Harold Wells
Webmaster - Penicuik Silver Band

By way of an introduction, could you please tell us a little about yourself
Well, where do I begin?

I was born in Edinburgh and have lived there all my life. I am married to Morag (a "retired",thankfully, tenor horn player) and have three children - Adam (8 ), Bethany (5) and Emily (3). I started playing the cornet in the Junior Band at the Edinburgh Gorgie Salvation Army, where I still worship, and progressed to the Senior Band with whom I played until early 2004. I didn't play at all for about 2 years, but then "bumped" into Penicuik Silver Band when they were carolling at Ikea and was invited along for a "blow". January 2006 saw me playing Principal Cornet with them, and loving every minute of it - they're a great, friendly bunch!

Are you actively involved in playing a brass instrument with any band, or do you simply undertake the web design on behalf of a band?
At the moment I'm playing Flugel Horn with Newtongrange Silver Band. There were vacancies at Newtongrange on both cornet and flugel, so after just over a year with Penicuik I decided that I wanted to experience playing at Championship level. I signed with Newtongrange in April of this year, just in time to play with them at the Spring Festival in Blackpool. As way of a "bonus", I find that continuing to be Webmaster with Penicuik helps me to keep in close touch with all my mates there and what they're up to.

How long have you been involved in web design, and how did you first get involved in it?

The Penicuik web site is the first that I have ever been involved in. I started it at the beginning of November last year. At the time I was on the committee at Penicuik, I had been playing around with a few ideas, mentioned these to the committee and hey presto, I was webmaster!

Do you manage/run any other web sites, if so, which ones?
The Penicuik site is the only one that I run at the moment, though I have a couple "up my sleeve" that I'm putting together for freinds' businesses.

What applications did you use to build your site and why did you choose these?

I started very simply, with the web site www.freewebs.com The Freewebs site makes it really easy to get a professional looking site up and running in no time at all, even if you, like me at the time, know nothing about building web sites! I've still got loads to learn, but I now dabble with Frontpage (because it came with my laptop!) and with the "Raw html Paragraph" editing facility in freewebs.

Please can you explain for us how you prepared and planned for the development of the site when asked to implement this for the band?
The only real preparation I undertook was looking at dozens and dozens of web sites (not just band sites), to see what I liked - and didn't like, and what I thought "worked" and what didn't! Part of my work used to involve a lot of design of "front ends" for Oracle and Access databases - most of these front ends I designed with a web look and feel. They had to be very user-friendly so that even those members of staff with very basic computer skills could display the information that they wanted. This experience I suppose helped in constructing what I hope is quite a logical, easy to use site.

What content do you feel should be included on a brass band www site?
I personally like to see a lot of detail about the band and the players themselves - player photographs as well as band photographs and little bits of information about the players. It's good to see articles about what the band's been up to, as well as to see what engagements they have in their diary. Above all, the information needs to be kept up to date - nothing annoys me more on a band web site than to see that their next event is a contest in May 2006!

Do you use innovative ideas on your www site?
I'm afraid I'm not advanced enough to be doing anything innovative yet, but who knows? - watch that site!

Why should people visit Penicuik Silver Band www site?
Visit the Penicuik Silver Band web site to learn about a Scottish 4th Section Band that's really enthusiastic and friendly!

How long did this site actually take you to build?
It took me two/three weeks, just working the odd half hour here and there (it's not easy with 3 small kids in the house) to get the site up and running. Since then I've been constantly "tinkering" with it.

How do you manage the content on your web site and do you have a publishing policy?
There's no publishing policy as such - the Band Committee leave it pretty much up to me what I do with the site - haven't had any problems yet!

What would you recommend as the best way to start to learn about designing and building www sites?
I'm probably not really qualified to answer this one, as I started off with the easy option of the Freewebs templates which, incidentally I can recommend to anyone who wants a "quick start". Apart from that, the only thing I would say is, do a lot of research and plan out your site logically before you start.

Do you have a favourite technical reference book for budding web designers?
I'm afraid I haven't looked at any books yet - perhaps it's time now that I did!

How do you see the influence of the internet assisting the banding movement over the next 5 to 10 years?
I think that, with the difficulties that brass banding is experiencing in some parts of the county, with declining numbers and shortages of players, the internet can be a valuable tool for advertising the movement. We've got to raise awareness with the general public, who in my experience enjoy hearing brass bands - they just need the spark to go and listen to one!

In most visited order, what are your 5 most frequently used www sites?
Not counting the sites that I visit in connection with my work, or of course the Penicuik Silver Band site, Talktalk (for my email) - 4barsrest.com - AutoTrader.co.uk - theMouthPiece - eBay

Incidentally, theMouthpiece only comes so low down the list because, like eBay, it's a "banned site" at my work so I can only view it in the evenings at home!

Could you please name your all time favourite www site, and why so?
This just has to be theMouthpiece, as it's interesting, informative and fun!

What do you do to relax and unwind?
Music - playing, or listening, or watching a good film.

Tell us something about yourself that we don't already know.
As well as playing cornet and flugel (I've also done a couple of stints in the past on soprano cornet), I play the piano and the bagpipes.

What are your other hobbies?
Apart from my family (if you could call that a hobby!), my other interests are banding and cars!

What do you drive?
At the moment, the family Seat Alhambra 1.9TDi - thanks to the stupidity of a "boy racer" in a souped-up Astra, my BMW M3 has just been written off! (my first accident in 26 years, grrrr!) So, I'm car hunting just now - fancy getting another Jaguar, that's the favourite at the moment!