Bader’s Big Band Concert

Bader’s Big Band Concert at the Bradford on Avon Live Music Centre on January 13th was a “resounding” success and a joyful boost for those who needed it, or those who thought they didn’t, to move forward into 2024!

Bader’s Big Band, the brainchild of Charley Bickers, has been one of the DBF’s most ambitious and successful initiatives. The first Big Band to be formed almost entirely of musicians with disabilities has developed from a tentative first rehearsal to become a widely acclaimed Big Band in its own right. The musicians, numbering about 26 including 4 helpers and, of course, Charlie the dog, are now a wonderfully cohesive group, have played at numerous venues and are in demand to perform at military and other events. They recently entertained the crowds at the Summer Air Show at Duxford.

We are incredibly proud of all they’ve achieved and to be associated with such a lovely and talented group of musicians. It has been so inspiring to watch their development into the confident and accomplished band they are today.

We are indebted to RWK Goodman for their support and sponsorship of this event.

There is a video of the start of this performance at the bottom of this post. Neck braces may be required, earplugs certainly won’t!

If anyone else who was there would like to share videos or photographs, we’d be delighted to receive and post them!

David Bickers MBE, CEO of the Douglas Bader Foundation was there on the night and writes:


Appearing at such a prestigious venue definitely brought out the best performance I have seen from our initiative, Bader’s Big Band

An ambitious project initiated by the Douglas Bader Foundation, ‘Bader’s Big Band ‘ is the first ever Big Band consisting almost entirely of musicians from the UK with a physical disability or diagnosed mental health condition.

Led on stage by Charlie, the assisting care dog of our Bass Player Geoff and a permanent fixture in the Band, David Bickers M.B.E, our CEO and Co-Founder, introduced and welcomed our audience, guests and sponsors RWK GOODMAN. The band went straight into Route 66 with vocalist Jo and the whole band hitting the groove and tempo immediately.

Bader's Big Band Concert
Jo kicks off the concert with Route 66

With a play list of 20 selected pieces over 2 halves introduced by our Band Leader Paul, vocals from Sheila including on Almost Like Being in Love / Hey Mambo / Glory of Love and Jo back with For Once in my Life / Embraceable You, the instrumentalists slipping into solos and combined cohesion produced cries for more – dutifully obliged – and wonderful reception from our audience.


Bader's Big Band Concert
Sheila rocking Hey Mambo


Bader's Big Band Concert
The Band in action




(David Bickers MBE)

It was an incredible performance and a thoroughly inspiring event Ben Lees (Guest)

The band were amazing and all of our guests loved the event and were highly impressed Louise Hart (Guest)

Thank you so much for setting up and supporting the Big Band project alongside all the other wonderful initiatives of the Foundation over the 40+ years.  I think you can see in our faces (not to mention WhatsApp posts!) what it means to us.  I also want to express my appreciation of the work of Sam, an incredibly good band manager, and Paul, in pulling the music together, and all the others who keep the show on the road, often behind the scenes Aileen (Band Member)



  1. Route 66 – vocal – dance tune
  2. Tuxedo Junction – instrumental dance tune
  3. C jam blues – instrumental dance tune
  4. Almost like being in love – vocal – dance tune
  5. Jazz police– feature band tune
  6. Jump jive and wail – instrumental dance tune
  7. For once in my life – vocal – dance tune
  8. Doin basie’s thing – instrumental dance tune
  9. Sway – vocal– feature band tune
  10. Little brown jug – instrumental dance tune
  11. Pick up the pieces – feature band tune
  12. Come fly with me – vocal – dance tune
  13. Splanky – instrumental dance tune
  14. On the sunny side of the street – instrumental dance tune
  15. Glory of love – vocal – dance tune
  16. Wood choppers ball – instrumental dance tune
  17. Embraceable you – vocal– feature band tune
  18. In the mood – instrumental dance tune
  19. Hey mambo – vocal – feature band tune
  20. Birdland – feature band tune

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Christmas Concert at St. Clement Danes

The Christmas Concert at St. Clement Danes on Thursday 2nd December was a (literally) resounding success!

The event was shared between the DBF and Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope and featured some rousing music from Bader’s Big Band who played brilliantly throughout; a beautiful and moving rendition of  ‘O Magnum Mysterium‘ (Morten Lauridsen) by the ELoH Choir and some of the nation’s favourite carols to get everyone into the Christmas spirit. These kicked off with a fantastic arrangement of ‘Caroling‘, by Ian Whybrow of ELoH sung to the tune of ‘I saw Three Ships‘, and involving a lot of onomatopoeic insertions, which were thoroughly enjoyed by all! Ian explained that many people don’t realise that the word caroling can mean to “sing or say (something) happily” and  Caroling was certainly something sung happily, with the volume of the various sounds rising exponentially with the audience’s increasing confidence and enthusiasm!

As well as accompanying the choir – and the audience where appropriate! – for the carols, Bader’s Big Band played 2 sets of 6 and 5 songs respectively including both vocal and instrumental renditions – often their own arrangements – of such classics as Foggy Day, Harlem Nocturne, Luck be a Lady, Route 66, Orange Coloured Sky and Green Sleeves. Christmas songs such as Winter Wonderland, Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, Sleigh Ride, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Here Comes Santa Claus had everyone’s feet tapping and brought a wonderful feeling of Festive spirit into the beautiful interior of St. Clement Danes. The final carol, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful‘, with both Bader’s Big Band and the ELoH Choir was a perfect finale to the musical part of the evening, building to a rousing crescendo with descant from the choir, which made the hairs on the back of my neck (along with many others, I’m sure) stand on end!

Part of the enjoyment of watching the band comes from their clear enjoyment of playing together and the rapport between them all. Paul Taverner is a sympathetic and enthusiastic band leader, clearly respected by the musicians, who adds to the pleasure of the performances by giving information about each piece the band plays. This deepens the audience’s understanding and appreciation of the music and its history as it becomes a part of the Band’s own history also, with the arrangement often being given an original twist for the occasion. All the Band’s valued members played their proverbial socks off on Thursday with several excellent solos and the two singers, Sheila and Joe, providing wonderful vocals. Uplifting and joyful Big Band music as it should be and at its best!

I remember first seeing Bader’s Big Band at their original auditions up in London almost 4 years ago now and have seen them perform live only once since at Bentley Priory. To watch them on Thursday was an absolute joy and a revelation. The first Big Band to be formed almost entirely of ‘musicians with a disability’ is, quite simply just an excellent Big Band! All of us there from the DBF felt immensely proud of what they’ve achieved and become and so delighted to have been a part of their journey. They received exuberant feedback for their performance on Thursday and interest in further bookings and I feel that there’s no doubt they are now recognised as a great band in its own right with a positive and exciting future.

As well as the music, there were moving and informative speeches from David Bickers, CEO of the Douglas Bader Foundation, and Victoria Panton Bacon, Trustee and Co-Founder of Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope, who was proud to announce 4 new young Ambassadors for the charity. A selection of original festive merchandise from Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope, allowing a few things to be ticked off the Christmas present list, completed this fabulous Christmas Concert at St. Clement Danes.

Of course, Clement Danes Church itself deserves a mention. What a stunning, unique building to find in the centre of London and, bedecked with a beautiful and fittingly tasteful Christmas Tree, it couldn’t have provided a more perfect venue…The fact that Sir Douglas’s ashes are interred there made it a deeply poignant occasion and I’ve no doubt that Sir Douglas would have been very proud of both the band itself and of his step-grandson, Charley Bickers, who has been managing Bader’s Big Band and worked so hard to organise and oversee the evening.

A big thank you to St Clement Danes for simply being the most perfect venue for a Christmas Concert and to the custodians there who were so friendly and helpful to all! To Victoria and all at Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope for sharing the event and for all the hard work they put into the organisation and realisation of the concert, also for all they do for amputees in so many countries across the world. Lastly a very grateful thank you to all who braved the potential threat of the new Covid variant to be there and support both the DBF and ELoH. There were sadly but predictably several cancellations but it was a just the right sized audience to apparently “absorb some of the reverb” resulting from the high ceilings (would be understood by musicians!), join in the carols with gusto and create a cheerful and festive atmosphere. We were deeply grateful for your support and participation.

Some photographs and videos taken before and during the concert for those who couldn’t be there to see it on the night.

Christmas Concert at St Clement Danes
Interior of Clement Danes Church, The Strand, London. Christmas Concert venue


Christmas Concert at St Clement Danes
Bader’s Big Band musicians, Geoff (left) and Alvin (right) with honorary musician, Charlie (centre) arriving for rehearsal.
Christmas Concert at St Clement Danes
Bader’s Big Band set up ready for their performance at the Christmas Concert





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Bader’s Big Band Follow in Glenn Miller’s Footsteps

Bader’s Big Band put on a concert on Saturday 17th August at the beautiful Bentley Priory Museum and it was a resounding success.

The concert marked the 75th anniversary of Glenn Miller’s renowned performance at RAF Bentley Priory in 1944 and we have no doubt that the reputedly hard-to-please Glenn Miller himself would have been impressed. Certainly those fortunate enough to be there were treated to an hour of uplifting music, well-known and not so well-known pieces some featuring the beautiful voice of Bader’s Big Band vocalist, Emma. The Band was rewarded by a standing ovation!

This was foot-tapping music at its best and it was hard for many to stay in their chairs at all! The band performed 11 songs, some written and/or performed by Glen Miller himself, followed by an encore by very popular demand to a full house; every ticket having been snapped up almost as soon as the event was publicised.


Not having heard them perform live since their very first rehearsal almost 3 years ago I was bowled over by the Band’s development. From a random group of talented musicians, they are now a cohesive, confident unit producing a tight sound and the musical trust between them is palpable.

Paul, who led them yesterday, introduced each piece of music with interesting and often humorous facts (who knew that Skyfall, the powerful introductory song to the James Bond film of the same name, was released at 7 minutes past midnight….? Get it?!)

If the date was auspicious, so was the venue; as Headquarters Fighter Command, Bentley Priory played a pivotal role during the Battle of Britain in 1940 and the Museum tells its fascinating story. The Band played in the  Ballroom, which as well as its amazing sky-painted ceiling (could have been made for Skyfall!) and views over the Italian Gardens had the added bonus of wonderful acoustics. 

Watching these talented musicians play together was heart-warming. And a very emotional experience – as was evidenced when David Bickers, visibly moved, got up to congratulate the Band at the end of their performance. 

We are very grateful to all at Bentley Priory for their support; for providing the Big Band with such a perfect venue and for looking after us all so well.

Bader's Big Band at Bentley Priory Programme Cover
Bader’s Big Band at Bentley Priory Programme Cover
Bader's Big Band at Bentley Priory Concert Programme
Bader’s Big Band at Bentley Park Concert Programme

About the Band

Bader’s Big Band are proud to be the first British Big Band consisting predominantly of musicians with a physical or mental disability. All the musicians have had to overcome a broad range of personal challenges and represent the indomitable spirit of Sir Douglas Bader himself. The initiative was created by the Douglas Bader Foundation to showcase ability, to continue to challenge people’s perception of disability and to highlight the tremendous benefits that music can bring. Together we aim to encourage others to take up music to help to support their rehabilitation and enhance their lives.

Join Bader’s Big Band

Especially now that they are playing concerts, Bader’s Big Band is looking for new members both to perform regularly and to act as back up in the event of absence. It would be ideal to try to achieve strength in depth across as many different instruments as possible.

If you’d be interested in joining, please contact Charley Bickers in the first instance by emailing: for a chat. This is a wonderfully friendly, supportive group of people and as well as the satisfaction of making good music with a lovely group of musicians, we hope you’ll have a lot of fun doing it!

Video Link:


  • Glenn Miller (for more information about Glenn Miller and his Band)

Huge thanks to all the musicians of Bader’s Big Band. We couldn’t be more proud of you all and what you’ve achieved. Thank you for your faith in this project and the work and time you put into it. Your dedication and commitment means that, exactly as we intended, Bader’s Big Band is not simply the first Big Band formed almost entirely of musicians with disabilities, but is a great Band in its own right. That is truly inspiring! 


First Follow up to the Debut Performances by Bader’s Bus Company and Bader’s Big Band

Following the debut performance of Bader’s Bus Company on the 5th September you can now see a film made by Charley Bickers of the team’s first display flight. This short film has been set to the music created by Guy Farley especially for the project so it will give you a taster of what’s to come.

Hot on the heels of Bader’s Bus Company’s debut, Bader’s Big Band had their first ever public performance at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Under the guidance of Paul Clark, Band Leader, the musicians played their collective socks off and brought the house down!

Here is a short compilation video of their first performance. At one point they are being conducted by Al Murray the Pub Landlord TV personality!

It is hoped that in future these 2 ambitious projects can be linked, with Bader’s Big Band playing at airshows following performances by Bader’s Bus Company.

We are extremely proud of the pilots and musicians who comprise Bader’s Bus Company and Bader’s Big Band and delighted by the success of both these debut performances. The future of both projects couldn’t look more positive and we look forward to exciting developments.

2 DBF Debuts go With a Bang!


Both our major projects recently held their debut performances and we’re delighted to report that both went brilliantly.

Bader’s Bus Company took off on their first public team flight on Wednesday 5th September, the anniversary of the death of Sir Douglas, at Blackbushe Airport. They pilots did themselves proud with a wonderfully tight performance and their enthusiasm for the project in subsequent interviews promises more to come. Media coverage will be published on the website shortly.

Bader’s Big Band followed with their inaugural public performance at the OHMI Gala Concert, part of the OHMI 2018 Conference and Awards, 2 days later in the prestigious Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. They performed brilliantly and to great audience acclaim. Again, a full report will follow.

In the meantime, our huge thanks and to all concerned for making these 2 big DBF dreams a reality and for their part in showing that it truly is not what you can’t do but what you can do that counts. As Steve Case has said:

You shouldn’t focus on why you can’t do something, which is what most people do. You should focus on why perhaps you can, and be one of the exceptions.

Congratulations to all the Bader’s Bus Company pilots and all the Bader’s Big Band musicians; you have proved that right in spades. We are so proud of all you have achieved. 

Bader’s Big Band – First Performance Imminent

The amazing ‘Bader’s big Band‘ have their first performance at 7.oopm on Friday 7th September at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire where OHMI will be holding their 2018 Conference & Awards.

This promises to be a musical treat of an evening where guests will be able to hear The Petry Sisters playing Vivalid’s Double Cello Concerto and virtuoso French Horn Player, Felix Klieser, making his UK debut with Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4 as well as Bader’s Big Band in their first ever public performance.

The 2018 OHMI Conference will bring together its annual OHMI awards with a major conference for academics and practitioners in which the barriers to music-making faced by those with physical disabilities will be explored. It will bring together current and planned research with the experiences of disabled musicians, teachers, and the work of charities and government agencies. The two-day conference will also feature concerts and demonstrations using recently developed technology and instrument designs. The challenge to enable full and undifferentiated participation in music for people with physical disabilities is a subject only recently receiving attention. It is hoped that sharing knowledge through this conference will stimulate further and more rapid developments in the coming years.

Tickets, £18 full price and £9 concessions, are now available and can be obtained through You can buy them for the whole first day of the conference or just for the evening concert. You won’t be disappointed!