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The 2001 Regionals preview - ref art001

North West
North of England
West of England

test pieces for all sections

Within weeks of Buy As You Cory winning the National title at the Albert Hall in November 2000, people’s thoughts were already turning towards the New Year and the challenge of the Regional Championships.

Even before the engraver had put the Welsh bands name on the trophy, every other band had come to terms with the fact that for the first time ever in the history of contesting, Wales was the home of the undoubted best band in the country. They also had to come to terms with the fact that if they were going to wrestle the trophy back out of their grasp, then everyone would have to raise their game to a new level. The Regional Championships will be the first testing ground to see what bands have taken on the task, and what bands will have fallen by the wayside.

Phillip Wilby’s “Jazz” will prove to be one of the most difficult tests of recent years for the bands in the Championship Section, but the decision to have the piece as the test piece has been universally welcomed by many of the top bands. Such a difficult piece should in theory make the job of ensuring that only the very best get to qualify for the Finals much easier for the adjudicators to decide. Whether or not it will we can only wait and see, but if you want a quick run down on the runners and riders in each of the Areas, 4BarsRest has tried to give a prediction of who will be facing the challenge of toppling Cory come November 2001.



St George’s Hall, Bradford

Sat March 3rd:

2nd, 1st

Sun March 4th:

4th, 3rd, championship

Three into two doesn’t go, so St Georges Hall Bradford is in for one hell of a contest this year, that’s for sure. Nominally the bands in the top three places will get the invite to London, but as Brighouse and Rastrick have already pre-qualified due to their rather fortuitous 4th place at last year’s Finals, three top bands will be playing for two places. As those bands are likely to be Black Dyke, YBS and Grimethorpe there is going to be one very disappointed band in Yorkshire that night.

Form suggests it could be a repeat of 2000 and that it could be Dyke, as they haven’t got the greatest of records in the Nationals of late, but YBS have been going through a little bit of player restructuring including yet another Principal Cornet, so they could prove vulnerable. Grimethorpe seem to be fine fettle by all accounts, but as everyone knows, they can be brilliant one minute and awful the next.

The outsiders may also be in with a good chance as well with Todmordon, Sellers and Rothwell all on good form during 2000, but with so much at stake it will surely be a fight between the big three to see who will be on the bus to London with Brighouse to take on the might of Wales.

Prediction: 1. YBS 2. Black Dyke 3. Grimethorpe
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North West:


Winter Gardens, Blackpool

Sun March 11th:

all sections

On the face of it things appear much the same in Lancashire, but appearances can be a little deceptive. Fodens find themselves in the happy position of not having to qualify due to their 3rd place in the Finals last year, but such is their record at the Area (winners for the last three years) and with an attitude hardened by the disappointments of not winning both the Open and Nationals after giving brilliant performances at both, they will surely be going all out to make it a quartet of success this year.

That leaves two places up for grabs and on current form there seems to be only two bands capable of giving performances to secure their place in the Finals. Fairey’s have had a bit of a strange year of late, what with changes in both personnel and Musical Director, but they are still a very classy band indeed and with Howard Snell at the helm they will surely be up for the fight. Leyland are another band that has seen too many lows and not enough highs in recent years, even though they come back to the contesting scene with a second place at Spennymoor to give them heart. However, the entertainment scene is a different kettle of fish and they won’t have Richard Evans to give them the edge over rivals. It could be hard for Leyland especially if any other band from the pack behind them can pull out a top class performance.

Who that could be however is a very hard question. Last year BT band came a very good 4th with Wingates 5th and Marple 6th. BT if rumours are correct are not in the best of shape to possibly better last year’s result and Marple, a brilliant band on occasions, but one that has seen it’s fair share of problems of late will have to play out of their skins to get a top three place. That leaves Wingates, a band with a track record of success on “Jazz” and who appear to be on the up following a fairly fallow period and Ashton -under -Lyne who could possibly just pull off a shock. Don’t bet on it though - it looks like a repeat dose of 2000 for us.

Prediction: 1. Fodens 2. Fairey 3. Leyland.
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Brangwyn Hall, Swansea

Sat March 31st:

1st, 2nd, 3rd

Sun April 1st

4th, championship

If ever there seems to be a dead cert for a win at a contest, then Wales should surely provide it. Cory are riding the crest of the highest wave of success at the moment and are without doubt the best band in the country. With both the National and Open titles under their belt, and with the European their next possible conquest, the Area should not prove to be too much of a problem. Tredegar are the only band that can compete on the same level playing field as them at present, but even if they are on top form, its surely second place they will be playing for.

As there are two additional places up for grabs again in Wales and with the two top spots fairly safely in the bag for Tredegar and Cory, the fight will be on for the third place and last qualifying position.

Last year saw Point of Ayr take it but were unable to compete in the Finals due to severe financial problems. By all accounts these have not been sorted out and they come to the Areas hoping more to survive than to qualify, so they may not be in the best shape to get to London. BTM are a young band who have continued to improve since being relegated to Section 1 two years ago. Always capable of producing good performances, they could just do enough to snatch the last qualifying place. North Wales’s other band, Northop should travel with better hopes than of late as Ian Porthouse has continued his good work that has seen the band improve beyond measure in 2000. A bit of luck may see them join Cory and Tredegar in London come November.

Prediction: 1. Cory 2. Tredegar 3. Northop
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Falkirk Town Hall

Sat March 10th:

1st, 2nd, 4th

Sun March 11th

3rd, championship

Things north of the border have been fairly low key in terms of success since CWS Glasgow took the top prize at London in 1996. The golfing resort of Troon will again see a keenly fought contest between the top section bands, but there is still an air of predictability about who is destined to make the long trip south in November.

CWS with possibly Nick Childs or Howard Snell at the helm will again be pre tournament favourites, even though they have lost Roger Webster back to Black Dyke and David Childs may or may not be available for selection. However, they are still a class above the rest at the moment, even though they have been performing well below expectations in the majors in the last few years. 6th place in London in 2000 was the beginning possibly of a return to form and with the Europeans to come, the Areas should see them claim one of the two places on offer without too many problems.

Second place is surely a toss up between Whitburn, Kirkintilloch and Unison Kinneil, with the latter keen to repeat their second place of last year. However, Whitburn are a band that have really shown signs of form, especially under Phillip McCann in the Europeans in 2000 and have enough class about them to surely pip their rivals to a qualifying place, whilst Kirkintilloch and Frank Renton could possibly improve on last year’s 4th spot. Whatever happens, it should be a good contest between five bands with very little between them. It’s class that tells however, so we have to go with the flow and plump for CWS with Whitburn hard on their heels.

Prediction: 1. CWS Glasgow 2. Whitburn 3.
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Arts and Leisure Centre, Stevenage

Sat March 17th:

2nd, 3rd

Sun March 18th

1st, 4th, championship

People are always a little derisive of bands from the capital, but recent years have seen real progress in National contests for at least two bands from the London area. Even though the Open is still awaiting a return of bands from the South East, the National Finals have seen both Aveley and Newham and First City Brass secure impressive results.

2000 saw Aveley take 7th spot, whilst First City came a very creditable 9th. The truth is still that they are both some way short of challenging for the very top honours, but these are encouraging signs. With two qualifying places available, both Aveley and Newham and First City should be favourites to repeat the Area result of 2000 and see themselves making the short trip to Kensington.

Aveley are a band full of very good players and are ably led by Nigel Taken, whilst Jeremy Wise at First City is a crafty and talented conductor who should be able to prepare his charges well enough to make qualification a matter of course. No one else seems to be able to make a creditable challenge (although Redbridge could sneak in if things start to go a bit wonky), so it should be a straight fight between the two of them. Whether they are good enough to scare the big boys come November is a different matter though.

Prediction: 1. Aveley and Newham 2. First City Brass 3. Redbridge Brass
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North of England:


Dolphin Centre, Darlington

Sat March 17th:

1st, 4th

Sun March 18th

2nd, 3rd, championship

It seems to be a question of who will join Ever Ready - the ever present qualifiers from the North - rather than whether any one else will take the Northern Area title in 2001.

It’s a pity that no one has really been able to put together a sustainable challenge to them over the years. Both EYMS and Fishburn have had their moments, but Ever Ready are a good band in need of better competition if both they and anyone else from the area will be able to successfully compete at the highest level. For too long now Ever Ready have only had to do enough to qualify and this has in many ways held back their development. Being a big fish in a small pond is surely not enough for a very talented group of players.

No - it’s Ever Ready for us with Fishburn to make up the other qualification place. A couple of years ago there was optimism that EYMS could really become a force, but recent years have seen them go backwards rather than forwards. Fishburn did well to qualify last year, but were well out of their depth come the Finals - however they should have learnt a lot from the experiance and will be better prepared should they take second place again this year. Newcastle Brown Ale may come in with a shout, but somehow it seems to bent all over bar the drinking for everyone else this year.

Prediction: 1. Ever Ready 2. Fishburn 3. EYMS.
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Burton on Trent Town Hall and Belvedere Park Club

Sat March 3rd:

1st, 2nd

Sun March 4th:

4th, 3rd, championship

For an Area that has traditionally been the home to some of the strongest bands in the country, the Midlands have had a pretty poor record of producing National Champions in recent years. The memories of Desford winning four titles in a row seem to belong to a bygone age, but 2000 has seen a real return to banding strength for the area.

Ransomes had an amazing 2000, what with them coming last at the Open and losing their place at the premier banding contest, and then seeing them give a performance of real outstanding quality in coming second at the Nationals. With an automatic qualification in the bag and with qualification back to the Open the real target for the year along with a European to look forward to, Ransomes have some of the pressure taken off them, and should therefore be able to relax and enjoy what should be a very close run contest.

Desford are no longer the band to fear as once they were, but with Major Parkes at the helm they are still capable or producing some fine shows, even though they tend to give the impression that they only get together about a week before the contest to do any serious rehearsal. GUS or Travelsphere Holidays to give them their proper name are also a band very much on the up, and have given good accounts of themselves at both majors of 2000. The departure of Melvin White could see them either improve further, or fall back as whatever the reasons for his departure he always made sure the band were well prepared.

So with two places in addition to Ransomes to fight over, it should be a very close run thing. We think however that it will be the bands with the greatest need to keep the sponsors happy that will have enough about them to see success.

Prediction: 1. Travelsphere Holidays 2. Ransomes 3. Desford.
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West of England:


Riviera Centre, Torquay

Sat March 31st:

1st, 2nd

Sun April 1st

3rd, 4th, championship

The traditional one horse race that was the West of England area has thankfully come to an end following the demise of SunLife a few years back. We say thankfully, because what was once a rather predictable days contesting has been brought back to life now that bands such Flowers, Camborne, Bodmin and Woodfalls have something rather more to play for than just second place. It was pity to see SunLife fold, especially as they had a very creditable record come the Finals and it must be said that since their time no band from the areas has really done anything of note come the Finals themselves.

2000 saw Flowers pip Bodmin to avenge their reversal of the previous years result, but the contest was more notable for the number of bands in the area who are now very much in with a realistic chance of qualification.

Flowers remain slight favourites again this year, but Bodmin are one of the most improved bands of recent years, winning the Yeovil Contest for the past two seasons and are a band that has been blessed by having Nicholas Childs overseeing their rise to prominence, although it should be Gareth Pritchard who will spearhead the challenge from the boys of Cornwall this year. However Flowers should be able to call upon Richard Evans, who will surely relish the test piece, and this could be just enough to win the day.

Woodfalls, Mount Charles and Camborne should also put up a good fight to see if they can do just enough to displace one of the top two if things don’t quite go to plan, but it should be a straight fight between the band from Gloucestershire and Cornwall. Come the Finals though it could be back to making up the numbers for them against better opposition.

Prediction: 1. Flowers 2. Bodmin 3. Mount Charles

test pieces for all sections:
Championship: Jazz by Philip Wilby
First section: The Undaunted by Eric Ball
Second section: The Moor of Venice by William Alwyn Third section: Sinfonietta by Joseph Horovitz
Fourth section: Sinfonietta Pastorale by Henry Geehl

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