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The Competitors:
Here’s the bit you’ve all been waiting for. 4BarsRest gives you the run down on all 21 bands competing at the year’s 149th British Open and how we think they may do.

There will be contenders, pretenders and hopefuls for us, but every band is here on its merits and every band will be in with a chance of wining the big gold shield, the Belle Vue Challenge Cup and the £3000. All will fancy their chance in some way, with a genuine handful travelling with realistic intentions of relieving Buy As You View Cory of their title. Who will it be?

Black Dyke
Conductor: Nicholas Childs
Appearances: 97 times. Debut 1856
Open Record:
27 Wins: (1862, 1863, 1871, 1879, 1880, 1881, 1891, 1895, 1896, 1899, 1902, 1904, 1908, 1914, 1935, 1957, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1992, 1995)
20 Seconds: (1877, 1887, 1888, 1900, 1903, 1905, 1907, 1909, 1917, 1922, 1934, 1938, 1971, 1978, 1984, 1988, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2000)
9 Thirds: (1868, 1873, 1884, 1894, 1916, 1937, 1953, 1958, 1963)
8 Fourths: (1890, 1912, 1919, 1921, 1936, 1970, 1979, 1989)
5 Fifths: (1864, 1920, 1936, 1952, 1966)
2 Sixths: (1947, 1962)
25 Unplaced:
1 Disqualification (1865)
Last 5 Years: (starting 1996): (14th, dnc, 8th, 2nd, 2nd)

Who would have thought that when Black Dyke won the 1995 National Championships under James Watson, they would still be waiting six years later to add to their “Majors” total.

However, the unfortunate messy end to the Watson era left Black Dyke with a massive rebuilding job, not only in terms of players but also of confidence. Nicholas Childs was the man earmarked for the task, and in his second year in control, he has laid the foundations of a possible long term Dyke revival.

Starting with second place at the Open last year and a win at the Yorkshire Area this year he has undertaken radical surgery on the playing body of Dyke and has returned the band to something approaching the “classic” Dyke sound – as big and rounded as a Sumo wrestlers belly.

We’ve followed their progress in 2001 and have been mighty impressed, and with a set of players as good as any around, the 149th Open may just be Dyke's 28th victory at the contest.

Brighouse and Rastrick
Conductor: Allan Withington
Appearances: 60 times. Debut 1890
Open Record:
6 Wins: (1929, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1978)
3 Seconds: (1965, 1977, 1983)
5 Thirds: (1939, 1940, 1973, 1976, 1998)
6 Fourths: (1942, 1943, 1961, 1964, 1984, 1999)
3 Fifths: (1960, 1971, 1987)
5 Sixths: (1938,1944, 1959, 1986, 1995)
32 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (20th, 10th, 3rd, 4th)

Morecambe and Wise, fish and chips even Posh and Becks. Some things go together well and some things don’t. Since their last win at the Open in 1978, Brighouse and the Open have gone together as well as Kate Winslett and her husband or Liverpool football clubs two centre backs– not too great.

This is very strange though, as in Allan Withington they have one of the best conductors around, and in terms of personnel they are as strong as any band in the country. Put them in the Albert Hall, Cambridge or anywhere in Europe and they produce awesome title winning performances, but at the Open they don’t seem to get a look in.

Their form this year has ranged from the not bad at the Yorkshire Area to the stunning at the Masters. A repeat of that performance may just get them a long awaited title; otherwise it could be another year awaiting success.

Buy As You View Cory
Conductor: Robert Childs
Appearances: 38 Times. Debut 1922
Open Record:
1 Win: (2000)
1 Second: (1950)
1 Third: (1972)
3 Fourths: (1951, 1975, 1976)
1 Fifth: (1974)
1 Sixth: (1999)
30 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (19th, 7th, 13th, 6th, 1st )

Someone once said that the true test of being a great champion is not just winning a title, but retaining it; BAYV Cory are about to find out the truth of that statement. Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson did it, but Lennox Lewis fell like two-ton sack of spuds when push came to punch.

The Millennium title was deservedly won, but on that particular day the expectations of them winning were not that high. Now they are very much one of the favourites and with a band packed with high class performers and a conductor who is possibly the most meticulous of them all in terms of preparation, the band will travel to Birmingham with very genuine hopes of a repeat victory.

2001 has been a story of missed chances; with the shock of 4th place at the Welsh Area a real motivating factor to stop complacency and the European title missed by the narrowest of whiskers. The Open could signal the start of Cory hegemony.

Carlton Main Frickley Colliery
Conductor: John Hinckley
Appearances: 51 Times. Debut 1924
Open Record:
1 Win: (1958)
5 Seconds: (1941, 1957, 1959, 1969, 1972)
3 Thirds: (1948, 1950, 1956)
3 Fourths: (1928, 1944, 1963)
1 Fifth: (1927)
No Sixths
38 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: ( -, -, -, 14th, 9th)

1999 saw the return of Carlton Main back to the Open and to the stage that for so many years they competed on as genuine contenders for the title. They had won the Grand Shield and Yorkshire Area titles and a solid 14th at the Open made sure that their elevation was not going to be a temporary stay.

Last year saw the band consolidate further and much of that has been due to the hard work of their conductor who continues to impress and they came 9th at the Open. A disappointing performance at the Yorkshire Area this year in coming 10th was soon forgotten in the wake of a super show at the Masters where they came a well-deserved 3rd.

Again, the undoubted hard work of the conductor and the band in playing to their strengths worked well and this year’s Open could well see them continue on the upward curve of success.

CWS (Glasgow)
Conductor: James Gourlay
Appearances: 13 Times. Debut 1956
Open Record:
2 Thirds: (1993, 1997)
11 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (8th, 3rd, 12th, 9th, 11th)

What to make of CWS eh? On their day they are capable of some breathtaking performances that are more than capable of winning any contest, yet on others they seem to perform as well as their national football team.

In what guise they will perform this year is anyone’s guess, but with James Gourlay at the helm and a band of superb players in many of the key positions, they could well be serious contenders. Gourlay has a superb record at the Open and will bring elegance and class to his reading of the score, whilst players such as Angela Whelan, David Childs and Paul Kiernan will ensure plenty of points winning playing in return.

Last year saw a disappointing 12th place when the Japanese experiment didn’t work, so the return to a homegrown Scot should bode well for this years Scottish Area Champions.

Desford Colliery
Conductor: Peter Parkes
Appearances: 30 Times. Debut 1970
Open Record:
1 Second: (1979)
1 Third: (1980)
1 Fourth: (1982)
2 Fifths: (1984, 1986)
2 Sixths: (1983, 1987)
23 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (15th, 15th, 16th, 13th, 20th)

And what to make of Desford? No one you talk to seems really to know how Desford manage to keep going, let alone compete at the major contests each year. They are a bit of mystery band.

Even when they were at their peak during the late 1980’s they never really made a challenge at the Open and the last five years or more has seen them become a mid table journeyman. Last year’s result however will mean that they will have to work hard to stave off relegation to the Grand Shield, and they have taken the sensible step of using Peter Parkes to spearhead their attempt.

They should have had plenty of time to get things right as they weren’t at the Masters and a 3rd place at the Areas this year meant no trip to London, but somehow you never quite know what’s been going on. Interesting to say the least.

DUT Yorkshire Imperial Rothwell
Conductor: David Evans
Appearances: 57 Times. Debut 1938
Open Record:
3 Wins: (1970, 1971, 1980)
1 Second: (1966)
2 Thirds: (1962, 1975)
4 Fourths: (1967, 1973, 1974, 1978)
2 Fifths: (1965, 1994)
3 Sixths: (1943, 1972, 1979)
42 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (22nd, 14th, 19th, 15th, 18th)

Two bands merged into one has meant survival and possible salvation for a once famous name, for a few years ago there was a distinct possibility of “The Imps” becoming just another entry in the banding history books.

Good work initially by Thomas Wyss pushed the band ahead, but his tenure came to a somewhat messy end and the band turned to a very inexperienced newcomer to try and improve their fortunes further. It has been something of an inspired signing and from the ashes of 7th place at this years Yorkshire Area they recovered to give a top class show at the Masters to come 6th. (Roy Newsome even had them winning it). David Evans is certainly a young man with talent and this has certainly motivated the band in recent months.

Not a great record of late at the Open and a possibility of relegation if the obvious improvements of the last year haven’t been maintained.

Ever Ready
Conductor: Ray Farr
Appearances: 25 Times. Debut 1966
Open Record:
1 Fourth: (1987)
2 Fifths: (1977, 1982)
22 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: First year back

The return of Ever Ready to the Open is well deserved as the North East of England has been sorely underrepresented in recent years.

The Grand Shield Runners Up have been through the mill a bit themselves since losing the sponsorship of the battery company who’s name they still proudly bear and 2001 saw them come a very disappointing 4th at the Area Championships. They kept cool heads however and employed Ray Farr at the Shield who brought out some super playing from the band to get them back to the Open and Brian Grant who built on that success to steer the band to 7th spot at the Masters.

They are certainly a band on the up and with a team of solid soloists and a class conductor in front of them, this year’s Open shouldn’t be a disappointment.

Conductor: Philip Harper
Appearances: 3 Times. Debut 1998
Open Record: 3 Unplaced
Last 5 years: (-, -, 14th, 19th, 19th)

Flowers enter the Open this year in a very confident manner following their performance at the Masters. They need to be, as two 19th places in the last couple of years mean that they will need a good result to safeguard their future at the premier contest.

The confidence however is not misplaced this year, and following qualification for the Nationals at the Area Championships they gave a stormer of a show in Cambridge to gain 5th spot and show the banding world that they are very much a competitive band at the highest level. Philip Harper has been a revelation at the helm and the band has a group of fine soloists that should shine on “Les Preludes”.

There should be enough class from and around the stand to safeguard Flowers future at the Open, so take the time to listen out for them.

Conductor: Bramwell Tovey
Appearances: 61 Times. Debut 1909
Open Record:
9 Wins: (1909, 1910, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1964)
5 Seconds: (1911, 1916, 1952, 1987, 1998)
6 Thirds: (1914, 1925, 1957, 1970, 1981, 1985)
4 Fourths: (1958, 1965, 1986, 1991)
8 Fifths: (1918, 1953, 1968, 1972, 1988, 1996, 1999, 2000)
3 Sixths: (1917, 1984, 1994)
26 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (5th, 9th, 2nd, 5th, 5th)

Amazing to think that it was 1964 that the last Open title found its way back to Sandbach, isn’t it? One of the finest bands of the past ten years or more have had a gutful of bad luck at the Open in recent years – none more so than last year when they came 5th after giving a performance of rare brilliance under Bram Tovey.

2001 sees the team re united after a few blips at the Area and Masters and this could be the recipe for ultimate success. Great players in every position around the stand, their Achilles heel seems to be a habit of collective loss of confidence when things start to go wrong, but with Bram Tovey at the helm this should not be the case this year.

What could possibly stop them gaining a well overdue title? Things seem to be at last pointing in Fodens direction at last – but just about everyone thought they had won last year didn’t they?

Glossop Old
Conductor: Gareth Pritchard
Appearances: 5 Times. Debut 1888
Open Record: 5 Unplaced
Last 5 Years: (-, -, -, -, 14th)

A band that goes about its business in a quiet understated manner deserves to have some success and since coming into the Open in 2000 following their runners up spot at the Grand Shield the band has continued to develop and improve.

2001 has seen a disappointing Area result when they came 10th in the Midlands, but an influx of new players and the appointment of Gareth Pritchard to take them could see them maintain their position at the contest. Many may see them as a band that could struggle this year as they are up against a very strong field, but their chances of success are not as grim as many suggest.

Last year they certainly did not disgrace themselves in coming 14th playing last band on, and with Gareth Pritchard always capable of providing interesting readings of the score, a decent result could not be out of the question.

Grimethorpe Colliery UK Coal
Conductor: Garry Cutt
Appearances: 56 Times. Debut 1935
Open Record:
4 Wins: (1967, 1969, 1984, 1991)
3 Seconds: (1945, 1963, 1973)
10 Thirds: (1960, 1961, 1968, 1971, 1979, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994, 2000)
2 Fourths: (1972, 1998)
6 Fifths: (1976, 1981, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1997)
3 Sixths: (1946, 1980, 1985)
28 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (7th, 5th, 4th, 18th, 3rd)

Everyone's favourite image of what a traditional brass band should be like. Miners up from the pit after a hard shift on the coal face, ready and willing to produce music to bring tears to the eyes of even the most cruel Coal Master.

This of course is complete and utter bull. Grimey are as far removed from the image of the “Brassed Off” film than anyone could imagine. Forget the hype and concentrate on the playing, for Grimethorpe are real challengers on the contest stage this year and could bring home the title for the first time sine 1991.

Great players around the stand and a pocket genius in the middle could see them improve on last years 3rd place. 4th at the Yorkshire Areas means that they will not be disturbed by the thought of going to London and so every effort will be made to win the Open and give credence to their celluloid image. Watch out.

Conductor: Allan Ramsey
Appearances: Debut this year.

The Grand Shield winners of 2001 travel in expectation rather than hope of a good result on their debut at the contest.

We completely underestimated their chances at the Grand Shield and we were given a well-merited kick in the nether regions as Allan Ramsey directed a superb show from the band to secure their win and promotion. No Nationals to complicate the run up as they came 5th at the Areas, but the release of a very well received CD has highlighted the talent in the band, whilst a poor result at the Troon Contest a few weeks ago shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Excellent players around the stand and a fine conductor should ensure a confident performance from the band. We certainly haven’t underestimated them, so it’s up to Kirky to show the world what they can do.

Conductor: Brian Grant
Appearances: 32 Times. Debut 1948
Open Record:
1 Win: (1994)
3 Seconds: (1981, 1990, 1992)
3 Thirds: (1989, 1991, 1996)
2 Fourths: (1985, 1988)
1 Fifth: (1993)
2 Sixths: (1982, 1998)
20 Unplaced.
Last 5 years: (3rd, 8th, 6th, 8th, 10th)

It says a lot about the character of a band when the money dries up. Sponsorship is a great thing, but its also a two edged sword. It can be used to attract the best players in the country as long as there are deep pockets, but when the dosh is gone, certain players piss off quicker than Jaap Stam to Lazio.

Leyland should therefore be given great credit for not only surviving, but also flourishing of late and they enter this years contest with high hopes of a repeat of their 1994 triumph. A great show at the Areas where they qualified for London and were unlucky to come 3rd was offset by an early draw and 13th place at the Masters, but they have a team of top quality soloists and a very solid and secure man in the middle.

One of the most consistent bands at the Open should continue their record without too many problems, and could pressure for even higher honours.

Conductor: Duncan Beckley
Appearances: 11 Times. Debut 1990
Open Record:
1 Win: (1996)
3 Fourths: (1992, 1993, 1994)
1 Fifth: (1998)
6 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (1st, 11th, 5th, 12th, 22nd)

Just six months ago they were ready to read the last rites over the moribund corpse of the Marple band, but a recovery that would have put Lazarus to shame sees the 1996 Champions enter the Open with a very strong line up indeed.

Their wonderful secretary, Eileen Murphy has worked miracles to keep the band on the road, especially as they were forced not to compete at the Area Championships this year, but with the enthusiastic and talented Duncan Beckley at the helm and a team of very talented young players around the stand, 2001 should not see a repeat of last years 22nd place.

Never underestimate the powers of Marple at the Open. They need a good result to avoid relegation and with this line up they should be able to do it.

Todmorden Old
Conductor: Dennis Hadfield
Appearances: 12 Times. Debut 1857
Open Record:
3 Thirds: (1857, 1886, 1888)
1 Fifth (1889)
1 Sixth: (1887)
7 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (-, -, -, -, 15th)

The rise and rise of Todmorden Old seems to have no end in sight. 2000 was the year that they had the Midas touch as they won the Grand Shield and came 6th at the Masters and 2001 has seen a consolidation that is just as worthy an achievement.

A good quality 6th place at the Yorkshire Areas was followed by a slightly disappointing 16th at the Masters where they failed to perform up to their usual standards, but Dennis Hadfield continues to work his socks off and his band reaps the rewards. 15th at the Open last year was a secure start and the arrival of Russell Gray on the end chair will boost the confidence factor no end.

The continued hard work of the conductor allied to some very talented players should see Todmorden continue their ascent up the banding tree – although it could be a little slower than years gone by.

Travelsphere Holidays
Conductor: Frank Renton
Appearances: 34 Times. Debut 1934
Open Record:
2 Wins: (1954, 1988)
1 Second: (1980)
5 Thirds: (1946, 1952, 1974, 1982, 1986)
2 Fourths: (1983, 1995)
3 Fifths: (1948, 1949, 1964)
3 Sixths: (1950, 1953, 1969)
18 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (16th, 17th, 21st, 10th, 7th)

Remember what we said about sponsorship? This was a band that was literally within hours of death before the people who give you Saga holidays for elderly amongst us stepped in and saved a famous band. The name means nothing now, but the heritage of GUS and Munn and Feltons lives on in these real contenders.

Frank Renton has given them a new lease of life and the Area win this year was based on a thrilling performance from players and MD alike that showed that the band was more than capable of performing at the highest level. A major blip at the Masters however, where the band was drawn number 1 and performed like a keep fit class on a Saga holiday – both stiff and slow.

The Open however should see them back to form and their record of late suggests a real attempt at the title is not out of the question. One to watch.

Conductor: Steve Bastable
Appearances: 10 Times. Debut 1976
Open Record:
1 Second: (1996)
1 Sixth: (1997)
8 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (2nd, 6th, 7th, 7th, 8th)

One of the most consistent bands around in the past few years, Tredegar have suffered more knocks than a chimp at Chipperfields circus to keep coming back to produce prize winning performances at just about every major contest they compete in.

Hard work, committed players and a very talented young conductor keep them producing high quality performances that even though may not be enough to secure the ultimate prize, usually puts them very much in the prize winning frame. A fine 2001 saw them win the Welsh Area title ahead of their traditional rivals BAYV Cory and this built on 5th place at last year’s Nationals and 8th at the Open, where they played very well to a half empty hall.

A band that works harder than a Japanese Prisoner of War should be able to maintain their record of achievement at the Open this year. Come and listen.

Conductor: Philip McCann
Appearances: 9 Times. Debut 1971
Open Record:
9 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (17th, 13th, 20th, 11th, 17th)

When a Scotsman has got the whiff of being shat on from a great height then beware! Whitburn have certainly got that feeling at the moment after the travails of the recent Troon Contest, so they will be travelling south to Birmingham with the smell of retribution firmly in their nostrils.

Whitburn have been a band that has made solid and steady progress under Philip McCann and have given any number of fine performances at National and European level over the past couple of years. The 2000 European in particular showed how well they can perform on the day and even though they came 17th last year at the contest, they are well capable of coming very much higher, given the talent around the stand. More than a little unlucky not to win the Scottish Area this year, they are a band that seems to be due a bit of good fortune.

A band on a mission. The talent and commitment is certainly there and they are due a slice of luck. Should do well if the Gods (and the administrators) are not against them.

Williams Fairey
Conductor: Howard Snell
Appearances: 57 Times. Debut 1938
Open Record:
16 Wins: (1941, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1956, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1979, 1987, 1993, 1998)
13 Seconds: (1943, 1946, 1948, 1953, 1960, 1967, 1975, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1995, 1997)
5 Thirds: (1969, 1977, 1984, 1992, 1999)
4 Fourths: (1959, 1971, 1996, 2000)
1 Fifth: (1985)
5 Sixths: (1951, 1957, 1970, 1978, 1990)
13 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (4th, 2nd, 1st, 3rd, 4th)

Could 2001 see Howard Snell finally take the one title that has for so long eluded him? Without doubt, Williams Fairey give him an ideal opportunity, but as the Masters showed in May this year, sometimes things don’t always go to plan.

The North West Area Championships saw Fairey’s give the type of performance that sends shivers up your spine and they romped home from a high class field. However, come Cambridge and they gave a performance that had more holes in it than Germany’s defence against England and they limped home in 9th place. The Open however is home territory and they consistently give fine performances that are always there or thereabouts come the end.

This year shouldn’t be an exception to the rule, and with superb players in every position and a brilliant conductor at the helm, Fairey’s could well be picking up their first Open of the 21st Century and give Mr Snell his long overdue “Grand Slam”.

Yorkshire Building Society
Conductor: David King
Appearances: 25 Times. Debut 1970
Open Record:
2 Wins: (1997, 1999)
1 Second: (1989)
1 Third: (1995)
3 Fourths: (1977, 1981, 1990)
1 Fifth: (1973)
2 Sixths: (1996, 2000)
15 Unplaced.
Last 5 Years: (6th, 1st, 10th, 1st, 6th)

The band to beat? On their day they are well nigh impossible to beat, but even on their day, the Gods don’t always look kindly on YBS. A team of brilliant soloists and David King at the helm make for an incredible partnership, but there have been just as many disappointments as there have been celebrations at the Open in recent years.

Some superb performances have gone without reward and that has meant that they are not as invincible at the Open as they are at the European or even the Masters. In fact, the records suggest a pattern of the odd years bringing success in Birmingham, and the good news for supporters is that if 2001 follows the pattern it will be a repeat of the victories of 1997 and 1999. If not, YBS could end up as far back as 10th place as they did in 1998.

2nd place at the Yorkshire Areas and another 2nd place at the Masters were disappointments in the same year as a record equalling 5th win in six years at the European. Could 2001 see David King making it a hat trick of wins to go with all his other achievements?

So, who do we think come Saturday at about 5.00pm will be declared the 2001 British Open Champions?

Well, the usual suspects are there and bands such as BAYV Cory, Black Dyke, Williams Fairey, YBS, Grimethorpe and Brighouse and Rastrick should be pushing for the top prize. However, we’ve got a sneaky suspicion that it’s about time Fodens won the shield and with a superb team of solo players and a conductor who really is a bit special, they are capable of a performance that not even the bands we’ve just mentioned could beat.

Below them it’s a toss up between all the aforementioned contenders, with the likes of Travelsphere, Tredegar, Leyland and CWS (Glasgow) more than capable of coming in the frame.

Even any of the rest could no doubt do something on the day. It’s going to be a close one that’s for sure.

4BarsRest Prediction:

Yorkshire Building Society
Black Dyke
Williams Fairey
Grimethorpe Colliery

Dark Horses: Travelsphere Holidays

2000 Result:

Black Dyke
Grimethorpe Colliery
Williams Fairey
Fodens Courtois
Yorkshire Building Society

With thanks for the statistical information to Allan Littlemore

© 4BarsRest

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