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"The Lowdown" - all you needed to know about the top contenders at the North of England Area. Can Ever Ready and their line up secure another North East win.

Also - a closer look at the reigning champions - Ever Ready

Les Palmer casts his eye over the contenders to his bands crown. - ref art007

17th March 2001
1st Section 12.00 (11 entries)
4th Section 16.00 (15 entries)

18th March 2001
3rd Section 10.00 (10 entries)
2nd Section 13.00 (10 entries)
Championship Section 16.15 (8 entries)

Venue: The Dolphin Centre, Darlington.

The North of England Bands gather at Darlington for the 18th time to decide which Bands will be contesting the National Finals in September and October.

4th Section
An excellent entry of bands in this section should see a keenly fought contest. Last years 2 qualifiers were both promoted so leaving the way clear for some new contenders at the finals. Bearpark & Esh along with Dearham and Stape Silver should be the main contenders although we have an unknown in debutantes Burneside Brass. Sacriston have been making good progress recently and Fiver Rivers Brass (formerley Backworth) will no doubt be keen to impress their new sponsors with some silverware.

3rd Section
Without doubt the Band to beat in this section will be Langbaurgh. Strengthened by signings from British Steel Teesside they recently won Section B of the Durham County Brass Band Association Contest and are probably too good for the other contenders. Newly promoted Ferryhill (DCBBA Section D winners) and Lanchester have been making good progress under their young conductors and Ovington Tynedale are also going well. Houghton Brass will be pulling out all the stops after finishing last in their previous 2 outings.

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2nd Section
Another Band to have been boosted by signings from British Steel Teesside will be among the top contenders in this section. Pride Valley Brass recently won the DCBBA Section C contest and will be hoping to go 1 (or 2) better than last years 3rd place. Newly promoted Westoe (STCHT) and Felling are both on the up and Cockerton will be hoping to be amongst the prizes. They too have had some dissapointing results recently and have had 2 or 3 rehearsals with Richard Evans to assist with this years bid to qualify.

1st Section
This section will probably be the most difficult one to call as the standard of most of the entrants is very similar. Newly promoted Harrogate and GT Group Peterlee will be hoping to add to their sucesses of 2000 whilst the demoted bands Aunt Bessies East Yorkshire Brass and BAE Systems Marine (formerley Vickers Barrow) will be hoping for a return to the top flight. Broughtons Brass have been playing well (under Chris Bentham), as have Boldon and Kirkbymoorside. Nestle Rowntree (who currently top the 1st section grading register) appear for the first time in competition under the baton of Billy Rushworth the ex Black Dyke & YBS horn star whilst Spennymoor Town have opted for Mark Condron, one time Bass Trombonist with the now defunct Kennedys Swinton Concert Brass.

Championship Section
Jazz is without doubt one of the most difficult pieces that has been selected for the Area contest and will give most of the Bands in the Championship section problems. British Steel Teesside and Flookburgh Bands have not entered this year and Skipton have also now withdrawn to leave seven Bands to battle it out on March 18th. EYMS have engaged the services of Alan Morrison this year and will be hoping to better last years 3rd place whilst Fishburn will be looking to better last years 2nd place. Tony Swainson returns to the Area to conduct Newcastle Brown Ale Band, whilst reigning champions Ever Ready appear under the baton of Brian Grant with whom they recently won the DCBBA Section A Contest. Newly promoted Cottingham will be a Band to watch whilst Northumbria Police and Greggs Bakery Bands complete the line-up with 2 well known conductors, Graham O'connor and Roy Curran respectively.

All in all it should be an excellent weekend of Brass Band music making in the friendly North East. If you are looking for something to do on the 17th or 18th March, then look no further than the Dolphin Centre at Darlington.

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A closer look at the reigning champions - Ever Ready

Formed in 1910, the Band progressed rapidly and by 1924 had become North of England Champions for the first time. After the war, the Band began rebuilding in the 2nd section and after several National Finals appearances in Section 2, they were promoted to the Championship Section with effect from January 1st 1959, a status that has been maintained ever since.

In 1963 the Band qualified for its first appearance in the Championship Section Finals and since then has qualified a total of 34 times (in 38 attempts). In 1968 the Band received it's first (of 24) post war Area titles and will be taking part in the North of England Regional Championships as reigning Champions.

The Band will be conducted on the day by Brian Grant, now working as a freelance professional conductor but recently associated with the Williams Fairey Band, and before that with the Ransome Band. Brian has been involved with Ever Ready Band since November 1997 when he conducted the Band to 2nd place at the CISWO finals, and has worked with the Band quite frequently since then, most recently in February this year when together they regained the Durham Association Title.

Over the years the Band was fortunate to be supported firstly by Craghead Colliery (1910-1968) and then Ever Ready (1968-1992) who employed many former workers from Craghead Colliery in their factory in Stanley. Since 1992 however, the Band has been self supporting, obtaining a National Lottery award for instruments in 1996 and more recently purchasing their own Bandroom, a former Salvation Army Band Hall, to give the Band a permanent home.

The members of the Band travel from many parts of the North East to perform together and as you would expect, we have one or two characters.

Band Members

Resident Conductor Stephen Malcolm
Joined the Band in January 1984, after 12 years as a member of the Bass Section Steve left the Band to take up conducting, 18 months later he returned to the Band as resident Conductor.

Principal Cornet Bryan Tait
Joined the Band in October 1977 and became Principal Cornet in August 1980, a position he holds to this day probably making him one of the longest serving Principal Cornets in the country.

Solo Cornet Andy Holmes
Andy joined the Band in September 2000 after completing a course at Huddersfield. A man with more skeletons in his cupboard than a your average graveyard.

Solo Cornet Gordon McGeorge
Joined the Band in January 1983, Gordon is renowned for his sense of humour and also his talent on the Kareoke machine.

Solo Cornet James Chisholm
James joined the Band in April 1999 and is best known for a bizarre incident at Pontins which we won't go into now.

Soprano Cornet Les Palmer
Les joined the Band in March 1990, and then demonstrated another streak of lunacy by becoming Band Manager in November 1993.

Repiano Cornet Alan Catherall
A member of the Band since February 1985, Alan's arranging talents need no explanation here.

2nd Cornet Steve Tallentire
Since joining the Band in April 1994, Steve has been responsible for our links with the Krohnengen Band from Norway.

2nd Cornet Steve King
Joined the Band in January 1998, rooms with Dave McKay when we are away.

2nd Cornet Stuart Jackson
Stuart is one of our latest signings joining in January 2001 after moving to the North East from his native Liverpool (via Warwick University).

3rd Cornet Corinne Ellis
Since joining the Band in April 1995, Corinne has certainly improved the appearance of the back row. She also likes holding the trophies.

3rd Cornet Bob Temple
Bob joined the Band in September 1996, and has now risen to the dizzy heights of Band Chairman.

Flugel Horn
Nicola Williamson Nicola joined the Band in June 1989 on Cornet and moved to Flugel in 1996.

Solo Horn Andrew Hall
Joined the Band in November 1988. Andrew is best known for his much better looking Fiancée, Ann.

1st Horn Linda Cook
One of the first ladies to play in top bands, Linda played Cornet & Flugel before retiring to start a family. She returned to the Band in December 1988. Oldest son Joseph, plays Eb Bass with Black Dyke.

2nd Horn Michael Burr
Michael joined the Band in January 2000. Brian Grant seems to think he looks like Ned Flanders.

1st Baritone Jim Thompson
Originally joined the Band in November 1964, Jim retired in June 1993. After his son started playing Cornet and joined Ferryhill Town Band, Jim found the urge hard to resist, and returned to the Band in January 1999. Jim has played in 23 of the Bands 24 Area winning performances.

2nd Baritone Colin Dye
Another long serving member, Colin joined the Band in September 1973. He took over as secretary in the summer of 1990 but somehow managed to relinquish the post.

Solo Euphonium Paul Robinson
One of the Bands latest recruits, joining in January 2001. Paul joins the Band after giving many years service to British Steel Teesside Band.

2nd Euphonium Steve Clinton
Now in his 3rd spell with the Band. Steve is one of the best technicians in the Band.

Solo Trombone Chris Bentham
Joined in Aug 1987, in his first contest the Band came 4th at the British Open. Chris has developed his conducting talents over the last 3 years but prefers in the main to play.

2nd Trombone Garry Reed
Garry came to the Band in April 1998. In October that year he (and Dave McKay) had their hair peroxided for the Nationals.

Solo Eb Bass Dave McKay
Joined the Band in March 1991. He is without doubt one of the characters of the Band and has a penchant for extremely hot (of the Phall variety) curries.

2nd Eb Bass Ian Gibson
Returned to the Band in September 2000, always seems to have a girl on his arm.

Solo BBb Bass Lawrence Eccleston
Lawrence joined the Band in November 1999 after moving to the North East. A former Nationals winner with Desford, he has been known to dress in womens clothing in the name of entertainment.

2nd BBb Bass Keith Gilfillan
Joined the Band in October 1996, Keith is a bit paranoid (to say the least) and is also the Band Sergeant (would you argue with him?).

Percussion Anne Armstrong
The bands youngest player, Anne joined in April 1999 and has certainly enhanced the percussion section with her Xylophone playing (as well as lowering the average age).
Percussion Bob Stephenson
Bob (or Burb as he is known to most) joined the Band in August 1991 and is another who has been known to cross dress (mainly in Pantomimes). He is also responsible for teaching Brian Grant to speak several words of broad Northumbrian.

Timpani Colin Johnson
Colin arrived at Ever Ready in April 1998 and is another member who has been seen in womens clothing (this is disturbing). Has been known to overdose on the falling down water (that's G' n T) on rare occassions.

Back room staff Dave Carr
Dave has been a member of the Band since 1969, playing Horn and then Eb Bass with great distinction. He remains committed to the Band attending most practices and engagements.

There you have it, the Ever Ready Band in a nutshell. We are quite a friendly bunch of people so if you happen to be at Darlington on Sunday 18th March, seek us out and say hello.

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