About this Archive
(1918-2009) musician and communist
Aubrey Bowman was a Londoner who just happened to be born in Bournemouth in May 1918 because his parents wanted to escape the Zeppelin raids. Aubrey’s childhood was spent in different parts of the country where his father operated successful bakery businesses. As well as practical business bent, Aubrey’s father had a love of music and developed another business selling and tuning pianos. The family had some politically radical antecedents to go with their entrepreneurial skills, as Aubrey’s maternal grandfather was an active supporter of Charles Bradlaugh.
Unlike his father, Aubrey’s first love was music and he became a student at The Royal College of Music in 1934 when he was just sixteen. But when his father died after several bedridden years his mother, who was now running the family business, could only afford one year’s tuition fees. Determined on an independent career in music Aubrey applied for the Royal Academy’s Sir Michael Costa Scholarship. A pianist, Aubrey won the scholarship on the strength of an original orchestral composition.
At the Royal Academy Aubrey met and studied under the composer Alan Bush who at that time was in the Independent Labour Party. Aubrey was already moving towards socialism and was instantly attracted by Alan’s combination of music and politics. Through Alan Aubrey became involved with the London Labour Choral Union and from 1936 with the Workers Music Association. Aubrey’s involvement with the WMA, both as the conductor of the choir and a music composer, was life-long and he never ceased to believe in the uplifting value of revolutionary and liberation music.
Called up at the start of the Second World War Aubrey was deemed “unsuitable”, presumably because he was now a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. He was demobbed as early as 1941 when he returned to London and immersed himself in the Communist struggles of the 1940s. He remained a member of the Party throughout all its vicissitudes, supporting the Soviet line on Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. Aubrey was also a member of the Anglo-Soviet Friendship Society. He always stalwartly defended the Soviet Union, as well as lending his support to the German Democratic Republic, the Socialist People’s Republic of Albania, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the People’s Republic of China. Additionally, he supported the Palestinians in their struggle.
In contrast to his political beliefs Aubrey had an orthodox career in music and at various times he was the conducted for The London Festival Ballet, Sadlers Wells Theatre Ballet (later The Royal Ballet) and the National Ballet of Canada (based in Toronto).
Papers of musician and Communist Aubrey Bowman (1918-2009), including:
- Files containing political correspondence, ephemera, and some published material regarding the Communist Party,1978-2006, the Soviet Union and the Stalin Society, 1943–2005, progressive political campaigns,1964–2009
- Papers consisting mainly of printed published material including song books, sheet music, lyrics newspaper clippings, some ephemera, correspondence, and meeting minutes regarding the Worker's Music Association, 1931-2006
- Thirteen music books, 1937–1950
- Personal files containing various published materials including books, magazines, postcards, travel guides and artefacts, 1970-1986
- Miscellaneous mixed media including VHS, cassette tape, CDs, and vinyl records, banners, and tea towels,1949-2002.