MP reveals her childhood passion and how she won a medal at the Jazz Band World Championships

Sharon, far left, in her jazz band days.
Sharon, far left, in her jazz band days.
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A Wearside MP has revealed the childhood passion that shaped her into a modern-day politician.

Sharon Hodgson was a jazz band regular for ten years and loved every minute of it.

Sharon Hodgson MP.

Sharon Hodgson MP.

From the drums to baton twirling, and even pushing the old bus when it broke down, Sharon did it all.

By the time she was 16, she was a World Championship bronze medallist and had more than 300 medals to her name.

As she reflected on the good old days, the Shadow Minister for Public Health and MP for Washington and Sunderland West said: “I have thought about what made me want to get on in my life.

“When I look back, it was jazz bands. I had so many positive role models. There was a focus.

The Starliners  troupe around 1981. Sharon is in the middle row, four in from the left.

The Starliners troupe around 1981. Sharon is in the middle row, four in from the left.

“It’s like the Scouts and the Girl Guides. It is that organised activity and I do think that was key. I think it really made a difference in young people’s eyes.”

She started out as a starry-eyed five-year-old mascot with the Saltwell and Shipcote Starliners in 1972.

But Sharon was determined to go far and it wasn’t long before her mascot days where behind her as she stormed through the ranks.

“I had my eye on band major and drum major and I was band major by the time I was 12.”

Sharon, bottom, right, pictured in her time as a jazz band child mascot.

Sharon, bottom, right, pictured in her time as a jazz band child mascot.

She travelled the UK from Cleethorpes to Southampton, and Devon to Wales. Nearly every weekend, there was a thrilling journey away from home to enjoy.

But many memories were of a different kind of entertainment - of “sitting by the side of a road when the bus broke down, which was quite often.”

She recalled days when the band would have to “push the bus to jumpstart it”.

The Starliners were formed by her auntie and uncle, Ella and Norman Minto. At its height, there would be more than 100 children marching and blasting out a tune on the kazoo.

Band practice was every Tuesday and Thursday night after running home from school and having her tea.

“It was a community. We all knew each other. We had that cameraderie.

“There was usually a carnival every weekend and if it was a Bank Holiday weekend, you would be out on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday and then go back to school on the Monday never having had a minute.”

Band membership cost the princely sum of ten pence a week and all the mums chipped in to save money by making costumes. Some nights, they would be up until 2 or 3am with the needle and thread.

A major highlight for her was the year when the Jazz Band World Championships came to South Shields. She can’t remember which year it was but Sharon recalled: “I got a bronze! I was band major and I came third.”

She got to compete against the best that the mining communities had to offer and against the might of the Welsh outfits who were always worth watching (something to do with great singing voices which made for great kazoo players, said Sharon).

Yet just as quickly as it started, Sharon’s jazz band days were over at 16 when she had to retire.

There were no more competitions against the Dunston Rebels, Forest Hall Royals, or the Prudhoe Hussars.”

But she has never forgotten the good old days and said: “I ended up with more than 300 medals and I have still got them on a sash.”

And even to this day, Sharon keeps a place for jazz bands in her heart.

“Whenever I am out and I hear that sound of a jazz band, I get butterflies and I want to stop the car and watch.”