top of page
Early History

Blackpool Symphony Orchestra, originally called Blackpool Amateur Symphony Orchestra 1, was founded by Percy Dayman in 1921 and by 1922 had 50 members, led by Mrs J H Shorrocks.

Percy Dayman from Gazette and Herald 22
Percy Dayman, Founder


Percy Dayman grew up in a Cornish village and was educated at Shebbear College, Devonshire where he was a violinist in the orchestra. 

He was an insurance manager with a passion for music and he founded the orchestra soon after moving to Lancashire.  


Percy was the orchestra's conductor until his death in 1943.

The Blackpool Music Festival 1922-1930


The oldest source in the orchestra's archive is a 1922 Blackpool Musical Festival programme1. This shows that the orchestra participated in the Blackpool Musical Festival in the String Orchestra section.

An article in The Musical Times about the Blackpool Musical Festival (Nov 1922) reports 


"Orchestral playing at these big northern festivals has languished in comparison with choral work.  Committees  have tried again and again to stimulate this branch, and the solution appears to be in the direction of prescribing works for strings and single wind with timpani .............Honours went to a local band making an initial appearance under the direction of Mr Percy Dayman" .4 

1922 festival programme inside.jpg
1922 festival programme.jpg

Entry in 1922 programme of the Blackpool Musical Festival.

October 1922

From this beginning the orchestra successfully participated in festivals and competitions and performed concerts around the region.

  • In 1923 Blackpool Amateur Symphony Orchestra won the Daily News Challenge Trophy for Orchestras of 40 with 89 marks at the Blackpool Musical Festival. 5

  • In 1924 Percy Dayman won six first prizes at The Blackpool Music Festival including the Daily News Challenge Shield for full orchestras (fifty players) for the third year in succession and the first prize for string orchestra. 6

  • In May 1928 Blackpool Amateur Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Percy Dayman, was the only orchestral appearance at the Morecambe Competitions Festival.  The orchestra also participated in a performance on the Friday evening of 'Elijah' with a choir of 350 voices from Morecambe and Lancaster districts. This performance was conducted by My Julius Harrison and the choir trained by Mr N S Wallbank. 7

  • The following year in 1929 it joined with local choirs to perform 'The Messiah' under My Julius Harrison. 8

  • In October 1930 it won first prize in The Blackpool Musical Festival category for full orchestra. 9

Collaboration with other Societies


In addition to founding and conducting Blackpool Symphony Orchestra Percy also founded the Blackpool Philharmonic Society and the orchestra became the instrumental section of the society. He also conducted the Blackpool Lyric Choir, the Lytham St Anne's Orchestral Society, the Blackpool Choral and Orchestral Society, a church choir and was also a church organist. 6

Collaborating with other societies started early in the orchestra's history.  In the United Methodist (2 July 1925) a concert held at North Pier Pavilion in aid of the Restoration Fund of the church and school is reported. This concert, by Blackpool Amateur Symphony Orchestra and Blackpool Lyric Choir, conducted by Percy Dayman, was attended by nearly 700 people and raised a £44 for the Restoration Fund.

Methodist Times July 2 1925 concert for


In August 1941 Blackpool Symphony Orchestra performed German's 'Merrie England' at the Tower Circus with a chorus of 275 drawn from local and district choirs. Percy Dayman conducted. 10

A 1942 concert at the Tower Circus, conducted by Percy Dayman, was reported as having the  "biggest audience of its career - nearly two thousand" .  The programme included the 'Enigma' Variations and Tchaikovsky's B flat minor Piano Concerto with Edith Hothersall as soloist.  It also included the first performance on an Overture by Robert Atherton. 11

Coming-of-Age Concert

On the 1 May 1943 the orchestra advertised its 'Coming-of-Age Orchestral Concert' (1921-1942) at the Tower Circus in the Blackpool Gazette and Herald. However, sadly, just a week prior to this celebratory concert, Percy died.  


The concert went ahead as planned on Sunday 23 May 1943 at the request of his family and was conducted by the deputy conductor, Mr Dunlop.

Gazette and Herald 15 May 1943 coming of


Robert Atherton took over the role of conductor after Percy Dayman's death in 1943; initially sharing the role with William Rees until 1947.

Blackpool Symphony Orchestra took part in a performance of The Messiah in the Tower circus on 6 December 1945 with the Philharmonic Society, conducted by Frank Rawes and also continued "independent concerts in the Jubilee Theatre conducted by
William Rees". This included a concert in the Regal Pavilion South Pier as part of International Music Week conducted by William Reese and Nina Milkina solo pianoforte.

A concert on 14 November 1948 was conducted by Lionel Johns and featured Dorothy Smith on piano. The leader was Eva Martin.

Robert Atheron was conductor for a concert at the Regal Pavilion on 20 January 1949, also led by Eva Martin and with solo pianoforte Dorothy Smith.

Robert Atherton, (1910-2000) Conductor 1943-1996

In 1942 Robert Atherton was guest conductor at the performance of his own composition, the Overture "Sine Nomine" 13  which he composed at the suggestion of Percy Dayman. 11


Robert took over the role of conductor after Percy Dayman's death in 1943. He celebrated his 50th season with BSO in 1995-96.


Robert Atherton was born in 1910 the Music Master at St Joseph's College, Blackpool.  He died in 2000 and his Sine Nomine was performed at a concert on 25 February 2001; conducted by Keith Brooks. 14


Robert Atherton's son, David Atherton, and daughter, Joan Atherton, were both associated with the orchestra; David as guest conductor and Joan as a soloist for violin repertoire.

robert atherton.jpg
bottom of page