UniBrass was founded at Lancaster University in 2010, with the first contest taking place in February 2011. 12 bands from across the country performed at the inaugural event, with Brass United, a collaboration between the Royal Northern College of Music and the University of Manchester, taking home first place. The event soon became a firm fixture in the brass band calendar, with the second year seeing the arrival of the UniBrass education workshops, which have remained a fixture of the contest to this day.
After three years at Lancaster University, UniBrass moved to the University of Warwick for the 2014 contest. Taking place in the Warwick Arts Centre’s 1600 seater Butterworth Hall, the contest expanded rapidly during its time there, where the number of competing bands jumped from 14 in 2014 to 19 in 2016. In addition, the now-annual UniBrass Gala Concert was first staged in 2015 with the Jaguar Land Rover Brass Band, and then again in 2016 with the Black Dyke Band. Finally, a new UniBrass Trophy was commissioned for the 2016 contest, with Manchester being the first recipients.
In 2017 the contest was hosted by the University of York Brass Band, and for the first time ever took place not on a university campus, but in the impressive surroundings of the Harrogate International Centre. The expansion of the contest continued, with the bands being split into two sections, the UniBrass Trophy and the UniBrass Shield. The Royal Northern College of Music entered the competition for the first time as a standalone band, taking away a debut win in the UniBrass Trophy, with Durham triumphant in the inaugural UniBrass Shield. In 2018 the contest moved to the historic city of York for the largest UniBrass ever, featuring 21 bands and taking place in York Barbican.
After two years in Yorkshire, UniBrass will move to Wales for the 2019 contest, hosted by Bangor University.