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West of England Regional Championships 2002

4BR trawl many past results to bring you this preview and therefore we occasionally make mistakes. If you do spot one, then please email us the correct information and we'll amend the article as soon as possible.

After all the thrills and spills of the rest of the Regional contests around the UK, it’s now the turn of the bands in the West of England to give us a contesting weekend to remember and to round up the list of qualifiers for both Torquay and London later in the year.

Banding in the West Country is a bit of an odd thing, as geographically it not only comprises bands from the traditional peninsula of Devon and Cornwall, but also includes bands as far west as the Forest of Dean, north to Gloucester, west to Bournemouth and nearly in France, with Jersey!

In the overall picture of things the West of England may not be the strongest of the Areas in playing standards, but it does have 84 bands all keen and competitive, and all wanting to make an impression on the judges and get the trip to the Finals. The last couple of years has seen a little bit of a renaissance though and 2002 may see the top section bands finally make the breakthrough back to the highest levels that was once only the preserve of the famous Sun life Band.

Below the Championship level things are looking rosier too, with fine performances in 2001 from a number of bands. Could this be the year that they too make their mark – especially as they will only have to make the short journey to Torquay for the Finals?

Championship Section:
The Colston Hall, Bristol
Saturday 6th April
Adjudicator: William Relton
Commences: 3.00pm

Competing Bands:
Aldbourne (B. Grant), Bodmin Town (Russell Gray), Bournemouth Concert Brass (Nigel Taken), Camborne Town (F. Renton), Cinderford (L. Baglin), Flowers (P. Harper), Hyde (P. Wise), JAG Mount Charles (B. Hurdley), SWT Woodfalls (G. Cutt), Thornbury (tba), Yeovil Town (P. Bailey).

The Colston Hall in Bristol sees the last group of top section bands tackle “Whitsun Wakes” – and for us this could well be the closest of all the contests to decide who makes the trip to the Royal Albert Hall. Just a glance at the list of past champions in the past five years will show that only Flowers have managed to win the contest more than once and that none of the bands who have won the contest have actually gone on to retain their title. That can mean one of two things. Firstly that none of the bands has been strong enough year on year to beat their fellow rivals on a consistent basis (you have to go back to the tenure of Sun Life for that), or more likely the field contains a whole raft of bands of much the same standard: We opt for the latter. So whom do we think this year will come out on top?

Aldbourne have a pretty consistent record here, but 2001 didn’t really see them set the world on fire on the contest stage, and their performances have tended only to be good enough to claim mid field placings wherever they have gone. 3rd at Weston, 6th at Wychavon, 13th at Yeovil and 7th at Reading tend to confirm that they are a very capable band that needs a bit more quality in the ranks to make a mark. They have opted to go for the experienced Brian Grant this year instead of David Williams so they may get one of those “new manager” boosts (a bit like Everton at the moment) and get into the prize list.

We at 4BR totally underestimated Bodmin through 2001 and we rightly ended up with more egg on our faces than even Edwina Currie could manage. Each time we wrote off their chances, they came back and stuck two fingers up at us and they just missed out on qualification to the Open, when they came 3rd at the Grand Shield and played very well at the Masters to come 12th. Russell Gray leads them this time and with a recent runner up spot at the Yeovil contest at the beginning of the year and a win at Bugle they should feature up and around the podium again.

Bournemouth Concert will be hoping to carry on the good form of the past few months, when under the baton of Major Chris Davies they gained 4th place at Yeovil and beat a number of higher ranked bands into the bargain. 2001 saw them come 6th at Reading as well, and with a good core of solid players around the stand they will be hoping to feature higher up the prize list than they have done here for the past few years at least.

Camborne Town come to the contest as reigning champions, but if the rumours are anything to go by, they will be having great difficulty trying to repeat their success and become the first band since Sun Life in 1995/96 to retain the title. Last year’s win saw them travel to the Albert Hall and come a disappointing 19th, and they have been very quiet on the contest appearances of late. Frank Renton is once again at the helm, but he could find that it won’t be as easy as last year and a repeat of his Scottish win may just be out of his reach.

The legendary Lyndon Baglin, who has already booked his place at the Albert Hall by playing with BAYV Cory during their recent Welsh Regional Championship win, will take Cinderford on stage. Whether or not he can bring something special to help Cinderford in their attempt we will have to wait and see, as this will be the bands first year back in the top section since 2000. Last year they came runner up in the First Section here and went on to claim 11th place at the Lower Section National Finals. The step up in class though is a big one and they may be happy securing their position in midfield this time round.

2001 was a peculiar year for Flowers and Philip Harper, and as we suggested in our “End of Term Report” on the band in December, Flowers were consistently the most inconsistent band on the circuit. When they were good they were very good (5th place at the Masters, 3rd at Yeovil and 9th at London), but all too often it all went a bit peetong and they just couldn’t do a thing right. They dropped out of the Open after coming 21st and were beaten by a couple of lower section bands at a local contest and when they crossed the Severn Bridge to take part in the Welsh Miners contest. They have plenty of class around the stand, but at times they do tend to “go for it” in a big way and come a cropper. Buoyed by the recent result at Yeovil and the win at Wychavon they should be back on track and we can see them just about squeezing into the frame and back on the bus for London.

Hyde came 8th last year, when under the baton of Jeremy Wise they put in a solid performance that saw them take a couple of scalps in their first year in the top flight. 2001 has also seen them come 2nd at the Wessex contest, come 7th at Folkestone and 10th at Wychavon, so they have managed to start building a secure foundation that should see them come through this test. Mr Wise is a canny MD at the best of times, and he will certainly know not to expose the bands limitations in a vain hope to copy the bigger blowing bands on the day. Another solid performance and a few more scalps could be a good result.

JAG Mount Charles had a fairly spectacular year in 2001, but even though they did win splendidly at Pontins, Torquay, Hall for Cornwall and Yeovil, they also failed to make an impression at the two higher class contests they competed at. 17th at the Masters and 14th at the Grand Shield are a reminder that there is still a lot of work to do for the band to become consistent and feared performers against the bigger and better bands. This therefore is the crux of the matter for them as they approach the Area contest – a competition that has seen them only come as high as 4th in the past five years. They surely come to Bristol as pre match favourites, and rightly so, but they will also come to the contest knowing that if they are to be taken seriously then they must start winning or gaining a qualification spot at the very least – only then we could we measure how good they really are. Interesting.

SWT Woodfalls had a pretty decent 2001, and of the rumours are anything to go by confidence is high in the camp that they could very well get a return trip back to the Albert Hall for the first time since 1998. They have engaged Garry Cutt to spearhead the challenge this time round and that should ensure a quality interpretation at least, but they will have to improve on their form that saw them come 20th at the Maters, 6th at Yeovil and 5th at Pontins if they are to squeeze their rivals out of the way and gain a qualification place.

Thornbury return to the top section for the first time since 1999 and in the past two years they have been triumphant at the contest in the First Section. They have been making steady progress during 2001 and they came 13th at the National Finals in Preston and followed that up with two second places at the Torquay contest. Another band that will hope to secure their long term future in the top section and will be looking to take a few scalps this time around at least.

Philip Bailey will once again lead Yeovil into battle and they will be keen to improve on their 4th place of last year. 2001 saw them come 11th at the Wychavon contest and 11th at Pontins, although they did win the Wessex contest. We saw Philip Bailey at the Welsh Area contest where he steered a poor Burry Port Band through the set work with a sensible and well though out interpretation and if he repeats that again with Yeovil they could well feature in the prizes again.

So who is it going to be then? We at 4BR are not usually the types to chicken out on giving you our dodgy prediction, but this is for us a contest just about too close to call. Anyone of four or even five bands could well win, and win comfortably, but if they all perform to form it could be a very difficult decision for the experienced William Relton. JAG Mount Charles are the favourites and on paper they should have enough about them to win and further emphasise their rise towards the top echelons of the banding tree, but both Flowers and Bodmin have enough class around the stand to push them out of even qualifying if they don’t quite do the business. Camborne may even repeat their triumph of 2001 and we can’t discount Woodfalls or Yeovil, or even Bournemouth.

Still, we’ll stick our neck out and go for Mount Charles to pip (and we mean pip) Flowers and Bodmin this time around. If we get it wrong – then at least we told you so in advance.

The Bands:

4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 7th
Last Five Years: 4th 1st Section 1997; 2nd 1st Section 1998; 6th 1999; 5th 2000; 7th 2001

A consistent record of achievement at the contest in the past few years, yet they just haven’t done enough to secure a qualification spot since they returned to the top flight in 1999.

Brian Grant takes over the helm from David Williams for this year and they will be hoping to gain at least a podium position. Will need to play well though to better the 5th place in 2000.

Bodmin Town
4BR Ranking: 33
Last Year: 6th
Last Five Years: 2nd 1997; 3rd 1998; 1st 1999; 2nd 2000; 6th 2001

Russell Gray takes the band this year and they will be hoping to better the disappointment of 6th place in 2001. They have a fine record here though and won the title in 1999 under Nicholas Childs and qualified for the Finals again in 2000.

Enough quality around the stand should see them at least secure a podium position, but can they squeeze into Finals and push out their rivals? We’ll have to wait and see.

Bournemouth Concert Brass
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 10th
Last Five Years: 3rd 1997; 6th 1998; 4th 1999; 7th 2000; 10th 2001

In 1997 the band just missed out to a trip the National Finals by a couple of points, but since then they have fallen away somewhat at the contest and came a lowly 10th last year.

Buoyed on by a good showing at Yeovil though, they will be looking to see if they can once again come in the prizes and even sneak into the winning enclosure. It may be hard though and it could well be an improvement on last year that may be their reward. The experienced Nigel Taken who recently qualified with Aveley & Newham directs.

Camborne Town
4BR Ranking: 50
Last Year: 1st
Last Five Years: 4th 1997; 2nd 1998; 3rd 1999; 6th 2000; 1st 2001

The reigning champions had to wait 11 long years to stop the title winning drought that started after they last won here in 1990, but they have always been there or thereabouts and Frank Renton leads for the second year to try and gain another London trip.

They have quality players around the stand, but they have had to replace many players who have left since last year. The rumours say that they a little off the pace this year, but they also said that last year as well. We’ll see.

4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 2nd 1st Section
Last Five Years: 2nd 1st Section 1997; 3rd 1st Section 1998; 9th 1999; 8th 2000; 2nd 1st Section 2001

Back in the top flight after losing their status following relegation in 2000, Cinderford have improved immeasurably under the baton and direction of Lyndon Baglin.

Whether that could be enough we’ll have to wait and see, but they will be keen not to fall into the cycle of promotion/relegation once more. Two promotions and one relegation on the last five years shows how hard it is to secure a place in the top flight.

4BR Ranking: 17
Last Year: 2nd
Last Five Years: 1st 1997; 4th 1998; 2nd 1999; 1st 2000; 2nd 2001

The champions here in 1991, 1994, 1997 and 2000 would seem to be in a three year cycle of winning performances – and so it won’t be until 2003 on paper until they triumph again.

They will be keen however to crack the curse and as they have only failed the once in the past five years to qualify for London, they should have enough about them in terms of class and experience to make it again this year. Philip Harper has his first crack at qualifying with the band as for the past two years Flowers relied on Richard Evans. Can Mr Harper do the business?

4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 8th
Last Five Years: 7th 1st Section 1997; 9th 1st Section 1998; 1st 1st Section 1999; 6th 1st Section 2000; 8th 2001

Jeremy Wise leads the assault with his father’s band for the second successive year, and they will be keen at least to improve on last year’s 8th place.

They were consistent performers in the First Section and won that tile here in 1999, so it says a lot about how much they have improved that since they were promoted after coming 6th in the first section, they have secured their position in the top flight with a little bit of comfort.

JAG Mount Charles
4BR Ranking: 28
Last Year: 5th
Last Five Years: 5th 1997; 5th 1998; 8th 1999; 4th 2000; 5th 2001

On paper, the band to beat – on their past record over the last five years, the band that has to improve somewhat to even gain a qualification place. 2001 was great, but 2001 is now history and even though they won Yeovil in style this is the real litmus test.

Bryan Hurdley takes the band for the sixth time, and they will be going hammer and tongs to improve on a record that can only boast 4th place in 2000 as their recent best. Will this be the year – the omens are good, but are they really up to it?

SWT Woodfalls
4BR Ranking: 57
Last Year: 3rd
Last Five Years: 6th 1997; 1st 1998; 5th 1999; 3rd 2000; 3rd 2001

Another band that has a fine record over the past five years and they just missed out twice in 2000 and 2001, when under Peter Parkes they performed as good as they have ever done.

The 1998 winners under Melvyn White have now got Garry Cutt to lead their assault, but they are up against some real quality bands and they could just find it another year of a near miss. A podium place is not beyond them, but can they raise their game further and get a trip to Kensington?

4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 1st 1st Section
Last Five Years: 8th 1997; 7th 1998; 10th 1999; 1st 1st Section 2000; 1st 1st Section 2001

The First Section “Double Champions” return back to the top flight for the first time since they struggled during the late 1990’s.

Philip Harper was the man instrumental to their resurgence and it will be interesting if they bring that form to bear now that they are up against a much higher class of opposition. Watch this space.

Yeovil Town
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 4th

Last Five Years: 1st 2nd Section 1997; 1st 1st Section 1998; 10th 1st Section 1999; 2nd 1st Section 2000; 4th 2001

A band that has come a long way in a short space of time. Just a few years ago they were competing (although they were winning) the second section, and they have followed this up by winning the first section in 1997 and gaining promotion following their runner up spot here in 2000.

4th last year was a fine achievement and Philip Bailey has continued the solid foundations laid down by Steve Sykes. They could well come high up again this year, but they may find it a bit harder and they won’t be an unknown quantity this time around.

2001 Result:

Camborne Town
SWT Woodfalls
Yeovil Town
Mount Charles
Bodmin Town

4BR Prediction:

Mount Charles
SWT Woodfalls
Yeovil Town
Dark Horse: Bournemouth Concert

The Champions:

2001: Camborne Town
2000: Flowers
1999: Bodmin Town
1998: SWT Woodfalls
1997: Flowers
1996: Sun Life
1995: Sun Life
1994: Flowers
1993: Sun Life
1992: Sun Life
1991: Flowers
1990: Camborne Town
1989: Sun Life

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