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Midlands Regional Championships 2002

The Championships Section:

Sunday 3rd March, Town Hall.
Adjudicator: TBA
Commences: After 3rd Section

The competing bands: Desford Colliery (P. Parkes): Glossop Old (J. Cant): Newstead Welfare (D. Beckley): Nottingham City Transport (Martin Heartfield): Ratby Cooperative (K. Steward): Rolls Royce (Coventry) (D. Lea): The Ransome Band (R. Gray): Thoresby RJB (S. Lippeatt): Thorntons Brass (S. Shimwell): Travelsphere Holidays (B. Grant): Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass (S. Bastable).

In the last palindromic year it was a Midlands based band that ruled the roost and was the undisputed Champion Band of Great Britain. 1991 was the year of the big purple monster called Desford Colliery and they were National Champions for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year. Not only that, but other bands in the Area were strong contenders at just about every contest under the sun, including GUS and William Davis and so the Midlands (at the time there were actually two areas - North and South) was a real powerhouse area of UK banding. How times have changed.

2002 sees the Midlands Regional Championships contain 85 bands in all the sections and 11 in the top section, but for the most part the bands in the elite group have struggled of late on the National scene, and so will be hoping that this year will see the start of a major renaissance. The talent is undoubtedly there - whether it can be harnessed to gain success at the top level is another matter.

Last year saw victory go to the newly named Travelsphere Holidays Band (forever known as GUS for most of us) under the inspired baton of Frank Renton. It was a tremendous start to what seemed to be a band on the cusp of gaining success at National level once more, but the remainder of the year was a major let down, with a combination of early draws and some playing below expected form leaving them unfulfilled and ultimately parting company. What form they are in now in is a bit of a guess, but by engaging Brian Grant they have got a solid and dependable stickman who should bring the best out of a talented band.

Last year's runners up were Thorseby RJB under the direction of the ebullient Stan Lippeatt, who performed above expectation (they were in their first year back in the top section) and deservedly gained a place at the National Finals. 17th place there was just one behind Travelsphere, but they showed enough style and talent to suggest that this year they could well be challenging for one of the two qualifying pots on offer again.

The Ransome Band had a bit of an up and down year in 2001, with super performances at the European Championships and the Masters and some below par shows at the Nationals and unquestionably the Regionals, where they were placed fourth. They are another band that has parted company with their MD, but thankfully for them, Russell Gray is able to direct the band here before he also heads the challenge of Fodens in the North West. Together they have been able to produce some excellent performances and so will be keen to repeat their triumph of 1999.

And what you say of Desford? Well to tell the truth, nobody bloody well knows what Desford will take the stage at the Town Hall on Sunday. At times they are still more than capable of producing top class performances, but there has been a steady decline in fortunes since they ruled the world in 1991 and 2001 saw them drop out of the British Open for the first time in years. Their proud record here may well be under threat, but in Peter Parkes they have the canniest of all conductors, so don't write off their chances just yet.

Glossop Old came 10th here last year, which was a major disappointment for a band that had sown real signs of challenging for honours the year before when they were runners up at the Grand Shield. They have consolidated their position in the top section but have had a bit of a struggle in making a real mark and 18th at Pontins and 20th at the Open didn't lie.

The return of Jim Cant however, could well see them challenging for a podium place and perhaps a repeat of the 3rd place of 1999. Rolls Royce (Coventry) are another band that has struggled a bit of late in the Championship on a national stage but have been very consistent performers here year in year out. 7th last year was a decent show but they did have disappointments at the Grand Shield and the Masters. A recent outing at Wychavon may show signs of a better return to form, but it could well be a repeat of last year is the best they can hope for.

Thorntons Brass are another band that has performed with consistency here over the past three years after being promoted to the Championship Section after their First Section win in 1999. Stephen Shimwell gives the band solid direction and even though they failed to impress at the Grand Shield where they came 17th they recently gained 3rd place at Preston and so could well be pressing for a higher position than the 8th spot last year.

Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass have engaged Steve Bastable to try and give the band that little extra to push them into the prizes after coming 5th here for the last two years. Nationally they have struggled a little when up against stronger fields and came 10th at the Senior Cup and 20th at Pontins, but they have a group of talented players and Steve Bastable comes to them off the back of directing Stavanger to 3rd spot at the Norwegian Championships. Could do well.

Newstead Welfare has made steady and permanent progress under the baton of Duncan Beckley since being promoted to the top section following their promotion last year. 11th place here last time out was a fair reflection of how far they have come, but it could be a push for them to extend that upward progress further. It won't be for the want of trying though for either band or the effervescent Mr Beckley.

The two promoted bands from the First Section will be hoping to consolidate rather than push hard for the prize list this year, with Ratby Cooperative perhaps the stronger of the two at the moment and capable of taking a few scalps into the bargain. They were 10th at the National First Section Finals and 15th at the Senior Cup and 2nd place at Wychavon showed a lot of promise. Could well surprise a few people.

Nottingham City Transport and Martin Heartfield have been together for a long time and have progressed in steps rather than big leaps. Their progress in the First Section saw them promoted after coming 6th in the section last year and so they may find the step up more than a little taxing, but within their capabilities.

The Bands:

Desford Colliery
4BR Ranking: 25
Last Year: 3rd
Last 5 years: 3rd in 1997, 1st 1998, 2nd 1999, 1st 2000, 3rd 2001.

What Desford will be taking the stage on Sunday then? The fine band that put in the winning performance here in 2000 or the one that turned up and were fairly awful at the Open last year. They remain a bit of an enigma.

Peter Parkes has been giving the task of getting them back to wining ways, and he still has the burning desire for victory at the highest level so they should be there or thereabouts. Whether or not it will be as good as 1991 when they ruled "Planet Brass Band" is another matter though.

Glossop Old
4BR Ranking: 33
Last Year: 10th
Last 5 years: 2nd in 2nd Section in 1997, 4th 1998, 3rd 1999, 4th 2000, 10th 2001.

Glossop have gone through a bit of a turbulent time in recent months and have parted company with one MD and brought back Jim Cant who was central to much of their previous success as well as gaining a few new faces around the stand.

10th last year was a disappointment, especially as they have been playing and performing well in Open. A solid and unpretentious band that works hard and deserves its successes, Jim Cant and his charges could be in with a shout on Sunday.

Newstead Welfare
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 11th
Last 5 years: 1st in 2nd Section in 1997, 10th in 1st Section in 1998, 4th in 1st Section in 1999, 5th in 1st Section in 2000, 11th 2001.

Their first year in the top section saw the band directed by Duncan Beckley come 11th, which was about par for the course but emphasised that they certainly were not out of their depth against this type of opposition.

Duncan Beckley always prepares his bands well and Newstead have enough good players around the stand to ensure that they should improve on last years outing and take a few more scalps into the bargain this time around.

Nottingham City Transport
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 6th in 1st Section
Last 5 years: 7th in 1st Section in 1997, 13th in 1st Section in 1998, 3rd in 1st Section in 1999, 6th in 1st Section in 2000, 6th in 1st Section in 2001.

A big step for the band that last year was coming home in 6th place in the First Section. There is a definite difference in standards between the top section and the First and we think it may prove a bit much for the band at the moment. They have performed in the top section before and qualified for the National Finals so it's not as if they cannot do the business.

Martin Heartfield conducts with a lot of common sense and the band have quality players in their ranks. It is going to be hard for them, but if they survive and possibly take a scalp or two it will be a good days work.

Ratby Cooperative
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 2nd in First Section
Last 5 years: 1st in 1st Section in 1997, 11th 1998, 10th 1999, 1st in 1st Section in 2000, 2nd in 1st Section.

Ratby have been on a very steady upward curve of success over the last few years and they were promoted to the Championship Section after coming runners up to Kibworth here last year.

They went on to come 10th at the First Section Nationals and 15th in the Senior Cup, but in the last few months they came 2nd at Wychavon so they can certainly hold their own. Should do well and a very secure mid table finish is certainly not beyond them.

Rolls Royce (Coventry)
4BR Ranking: 54
Last Year: 7th
Last 5 years: 4th 1997, 8th 1998, 4th 1999, 6th 2000, 7th 2001.

One of the most consistent performers at the Regional Championships over the year, Rolls Royce have had their ups and downs on the National scene but continue to perform well here.

16th at the Grand Shield and 21st at the Masters were fairly disappointing results, but their recent 7th place at Wychavon didn't do them justice. A couple of years ago they were at the Open, but they have fallen back a little since and they will be hoping that 2002 sees them able to move back to those heights. A repeat of the 4th places of 1997 and 1999 could be the target.

The Ransome Band
4BR Ranking: 11
Last Year: 4th
Last 5 years: 1st 1997, 6th 1998, 1st 1999, 2nd 2000, 4th 2001.

On their day, Ransome are a very fine band indeed, but they do have the propensity to blow hot and cold and 2001 was a year of the extremes for the band.

Great shows at the European and Masters were offset by the disappointments of the Nationals and especially the Regionals where they were very much off the pace and could only manage 4th spot. Russell Gray has done a lot of good work with the band that has led him to the MD position at Fodens. You can see why at times, as Ransome usually put in very clean and musically well thought out shows. They will want a repeat of 1999 and not 2001 that's for sure with only two qualifying spots up for grabs.

Thoresby RJB
4BR Ranking: 44
Last Year: 2nd
Last 5 years: 7th 1997, 10th 1998, 11th 1999, 2nd in 1st Section in 2000, 2nd 2001.

Stan Lippeatt and the band gave one of the performances of their lives here last year when they came runners up, but they also showed that it was no fluke and although they fell away to come a very disappointing 14th at the Senior Cup and 17th at the Nationals, they have since come 3rd at the Mineworkers and 5th at Wychavon.

They are a big sounding band and have plenty of good quality players in the important positions, whilst Stan Lippeatt will certainly be very well prepared (as he showed at the Nationals when he dragged the band through a very dodgy moment) and will have given the score a thorough going over. Could well repeat their achievement of last year.

Thorntons Brass
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 8th
Last 5 years: 3rd in 1st Section in 1997, 1st in 1st Section in 1998, 6th 1999, 7th 2000, 8th 2001.

A band of quiet progress and achievement, Thorntons remain a consistent outfit that has maintained their position in the Championship Section here with some comfort since being promoted after winning the First Section in 1998.

6th, 7th and 8th in the last three years has not been anything spectacular, but has shown that they have been well prepared by Steven Shimwell each time. 17th place at the Grand Shield was disappointing last year, but they should have more confidence following their recent 3rd place at the Preston contest. Could be another midfield year - but that's not a bad achievement.

Travelsphere Holidays
4BR Ranking: 13
Last Year: 1st
Last 5 years: 8th 1997, 5th 1998, 5th 1999, 3rd 2000, 1st 2001

Travelsphere Holidays won here last year with a spanking good show and many (us included) thought they could well go on and be one of the form horses of 2001. That wasn't the case though and 2001 ended in somewhat downbeat circumstances after a year of major disappointments with the band parting company with Frank Renton.

How they shape up in 2002 will be very interesting, but they have gone for the very steady hand and baton of Brian Grant who you can guarantee will be putting the band through hard work to produce a well shaped and musical performance. Whether it will be good enough depends very much on the talented, but at times fragile confidence of the personnel around the stand. Play to form and they could win with some comfort - If they don't they could get their bums slapped.

Woolley Pritchard Sovereign
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 5th
Last 5 years: 5th 1997, 7th 1998, 7th 1999, 5th 2000, 5th 2001.

Another band that has performed with admirable consistency here over the years without ever really doing enough to suggest they could challenge strongly for a qualification spot. A group of 5th and 7th finishes suggest a band that can play the music but needs a touch of inspiration to possibly squeeze into the frame, and so they have plumbed for Tredegar's Steve Bastable to add the missing ingredient.

10th at the Grand Shield showed they needed a little more something and a very disappointing 20th at Pontins wasn't the best start to what could be a very promising partnership. Plenty of good players around the stand should ensure a solid foundation, but could this new pairing sparkle enough to gain a higher place?

2001 Result:

1. Travelsphere Holidays
2. Thorseby RJB
3. Desford Colliery
4. The Ransome Band
5. Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass
6. The Staffordshire Band

4BarsRest Prediction:

1. Travelsphere Holidays
2. The Ransome Band
3. Desford Colliery
4. Thoresby RJB
5. Glossop Old
6. Ratby Cooperative

Dark Horse: Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass

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