An early photo of Boots Orchestra

There were orchestras, bands and choirs supported or employed by the Boots company since well before the Second World War. However, the Boots Orchestra in its current form began in the early 1950’s. It was formed by ARTHUR BOWN, who was the first conductor, who remained in the position for 43 years.

Arthur Bown conducting his last concert

In the early days the orchestra numbered 13 or so players, and Arthur specially arranged many popular pieces by hand to suit the instruments available. Now, the orchestra has over 35 members and a library of hundreds of pieces of music built up over the years.

The orchestra was formed for the personal enjoyment of the members and also for giving concerts to raise money for charitable causes – it once gave a concert for the Hungarian Refugee Relief Fund at only a few day’s notice. The orchestra continues to give regular concerts for charity at venues in the Nottingham area. Membership was originally open only to Boots employees, but we are now a community orchestra which draws its members from a wide local area, attracting present and retired Boots employees, their relatives, friends and other local musicians.

The orchestra performed in a variety of venues, giving lunchtime concerts, carol concerts, and often performed with the Boots Ladies and Mens Choirs. During the 1950’s and 1960’s it was a regular feature at the Boots Dramatic Society’s twice yearly productions at the Co-op Arts Theatre, George Street, entertaining the audience to live music in the intervals. The performance schedule in those days was quite demanding with 6 to 7 events a year, and included tackling works such as Faure’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah, performed with the Castle Gate Choir in April 1970.

Sadly, Arthur Bown had to retire from conducting in 1993; he died the following year.

From 1995 the conductorship passed to GAVIN SPENCER, who was joined later by GARARD CAWTHORN.

The 50th season was celebrated by a special concert in which many of Arthur’s favourites were included, and his daughter CAROLYN PRITCHETT sang with the orchestra. The orchestra’s first Leader NORMAN LEIGHTON, aged 81, travelled from Somerset to play with us on the night. That concert, in May 2000, also featured the first performance of “Nottingham Gold”, a suite composed for the orchestra by NEIL BRAMSON, the father of one of the players.

Our Conductors from 2002 were VLAS JARUNEK and DON WEST until DON WEST took over in May 2004.

Don West
Vlas Jarunek







JOHN SHEPPARD was Conductor from 2006 to November 2022.

John Sheppard

John was born in London but has lived for most of his life in Nottinghamshire. He founded and conducted the Northwood New Music Group in the 1960s, and more recently has conducted Southwell Orchestral Society as well as the Boots Orchestra. Previously he played flute in the Watford Philharmonic and Nottingham Symphony Orchestra and other local groups. Prior to professional retirement John was a Planning Inspector, holding major public inquiries all over England.


More links…   Music at Boots – how it all started     Our founder     Our conductor and leader