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The Track Record – The Conductors:
Certain conductors seem to fancy certain contests, but all conductors want to be able to say that they have won the British Open Championships.

It’s something to be able to tell your grandchildren and you can show them the physical evidence with banding version of an Oscar – a Mortimer Maestro trophy (except it’s not gold and the sculpture makes the old man look as if he’s had 20,000 volts up his jacksy)

Some conductors have been luckier than others at the Open and some have even won it at their first attempt, but all of them will keep trying until they no longer can get a band to hire their talents.

This year’s field for instance will feature seven men who have won the title, but 14 who haven’t and 4 making their debuts.

So here are the records of each of the 21 men at this year’s Open.

Nicholas Childs (Black Dyke):
Made his debut with Tredegar in 1994 and has come close on three occasions since. He holds the curious record of three second places with three different bands (Tredegar, Fodens and Dyke). This year will be his eighth appearance with four prize winning performances to his name already on the record. Could 2001 be the year for a first win?

Record: 7 attempts
No Wins: 3 Seconds (96, 98, 2000): 1 Fifth (99): 3 Unplaced

Allan Withington (Brighouse and Rastrick):
Made his debut as far back as 1991, but in 10 attempts so far has only got a 3rd a 4th and a 5th to his name. The early years were the struggle for him and Brighouse but in the last three years he has got to grips with the contest and has featured in the prizes. If he wins the Open it will see him complete a personal “Grand Slam” of Major titles.

Record: 10 attempts
No Wins: 1 Third (98): 1 Fourth (99): 1 Sixth (95): 7 Unplaced

Robert Childs (Buy As You View Cory):
The ultimate record so far at the Open. One attempt – one victory. Who can ask for more? It’s the retaining rather than the winning that’s the more difficult task we are told, and 2001 sees his band coming to the Open as one of the short priced favourites. A possible two out of two?

Record: 1 attempt
1 Win (2000)

John Hinckley (Carlton Main Frickley Colliery):
The third attempt for the hardworking MD of Carlton Main, who has brought the band back to the Open after many years away. His 1999 debut saw 14th spot, but last year saw further improvement and 9th place. Could 2001 see a further move up the table?

Record: 2 attempts
2 unplaced

James Gourlay (CWS Glasgow):
2001 sees Gourlay charged with the task of trying to take the title North of the Border for the first time. One of the most impressive records at the Open since his debut in 1995 with Williams Fairey – he has never come out of the top 4, including a fine win in 1998.

Could 2001 see another prize-winning performance from the Scot?

Record: 6 attempts
1 Win (98): 2 Seconds (95, 97): 1 Third (99): 2 Fourths (96, 2000)

David Evans (DUT Yorkshire Imperial Rothwell):
A debut for the talented young conductor, who has won the Open before – as a player with YBS. Has made a big impression with his band since taking over earlier this year and directed them to a well-deserved 6th place at the Masters in May. One to look out for.

Record: Debut this year.

Ray Farr (Ever Ready):
One of the strangest records at the Open for the multi talented Mr Farr. A debut as far back as 1976 with City of Coventry, he didn’t re appear until 1981 – this time with Grimethorpe who he took to 5th place. Another break until 1986 and this time Besses and a year off before a return with Coventry again in 1988 and a sixth place spot. In 25 years he’s made just 6 appearances – it should have been so many more.

Record: 6 attempts
No wins: 1 Fifth (81): 1 Sixth (88): 4 Unplaced

Bramwell Tovey (Fodens):
The man with the longest pedigree in terms of debut – he made his debut with Hanwell back in 1974 on “James Cook” – Mr Tovey has only been back a further five times and has won it once, come third once and fifth once. That’s a pretty good record; with the 1988 win with Rigid Containers on “Contest Music” the undoubted highlight. Many thought he was very unlucky last year to add to that win, so could 2001 see a second victory for him and the first for Fodens since 1964?

Record: 6 attempts
1Win (88): 1 Third (86): 1 Fifth (2000): 3 Unplaced

Gareth Pritchard (Glossop Old):
Made his debut in 1999 with a solid performance with Besses that only got 21st place. He has won the contest as a player but may have to wait a bit longer as a conductor. No band last year, but a welcome return for a talented MD with Glossop. His performances especially at the Grand Shield showed a man with a very musical insight into even the most boring of scores.

Record: 1 attempt
1 Unplaced

Gary Cutt (Grimethorpe Colliery UK Coal):
What a fine record for one of the most effective Musical Directors on the circuit. A debut as far back as 1988 with Point of Ayr Band from North Wales heralded a win at only his second attempt with Kennedy Swinton in 1989 to become the youngest winning conductor of the Open. His partnership with the Marple band was a model of consistently good quality performances that led to his second win in 1996 at the Bridgewater Hall. In between he also took Grimey to 3rd spot in 1994 as well as coming 3rd last year. A real class act.

Record: 12 attempts
2 Wins (89, 96): 2 Thirds (94, 2000): 2 Fourths (92, 93) 1 Fifth (98): 5 Unplaced

Allan Ramsey (Kirkintilloch):
Another conductor making his debut this year. Allan Ramsey should take great credit for the way in which he has brought Kirkintilloch to the Open and brought contest success to the band. The win at this year’s Grand Shield was very much down to a very detailed and musical reading from him as MD and the release of a well received CD has shown further proof of his talents.

Record: Debut attempt

Brian Grant (Leyland):
A fourth attempt for the conductor, who previously took the Ransome band on three occasions at the Open. He claimed a well-deserved 4th place in 1997, but the following years saw a dip in form and the band were relegated to the Grand Shield contest after 1999. An experienced conductor who has also worked with Faireys as Resident up until last year, he has been given chance with the improving Leyland Band to see if he can bring both them and himself back in the prize winning frame.

Record: 3 attempts:
No Wins: 1 Fourth (97): 2 Unplaced

Duncan Beckley (Marple):
One of the most hard working and committed conductors plying his trade. Duncan Beckley makes his debut with Marple after serving what seems an extraordinarily long apprenticeship in the lower sections, where he has a record of success second to none. He has won National titles at just about every level and has been responsible for the development of an almost endless supply of talented players. A much deserved chance to prove himself at the highest level.

Record: Debut attempt

Phillip McCann (Whitburn):
The man who as a player won numerous Open titles is still searching for that first victory as a conductor since making his debut with Sellers College Brass as far back as 1989. Two prize winning performances have come his way – first with Sellers and in 1996 with Fodens, but for the most part it has been a quest without reward. His direction of Whitburn at the European Championships in taking them to 4th place showed what he could achieve – could this be a year of success or another of brave failure?

Record: 11 attempts:
No Wins: 2 Fifths (91, 96): 9 Unplaced

David King (Yorkshire Building Society):
The young flamboyant David King made his debut at the Open in 1987 with Kennedy Swinton off a number 1 draw that announced to the banding world that here was the “Real Thing”. The early years however were not as successful in terms of prize-winning performances as he hoped, and only a 4th place in 1989 with Black Dyke was his reward. He took a break from the contest in 92 and 93 and returned with CWS (Glasgow) in 1994 without success. However, his partnership with YBS since 1995 has now in some way given the more mature David King recompense. Only once out of the prizes since and two wins (including a 199 points victory in 1997), his appetite for success remains unsated. Could 2001 see a hat trick?

Record: 12 attempts:
2 Wins (97, 99): 1 Third (95): 1 Fourth (89): 2 Sixths (96, 2000): 6 Unplaced

For the following musical directors:

Howard Snell (Williams Fairey)
Peter Parkes (Desford Colliery)
Dennis Hadfield (Todmorden Old)
Frank Renton (Travelsphere Holidays)
Steve Bastable (Tredegar)
Philip Harper (Flowers)

See our article on The Old Masters versus The Young Guns

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