Famous Five take on the Contest Organisers
of five of the leading, and famous bands in the UK have joined forces to initiate
a dialogue between themselves and contest organisers to try and seek a radical
new approach to the question of brass band contests and how it affects competing
bands in the future.
The five bands and their representatives involved in
this approach are Derek Rawlinson, Chairman of Brighouse and Rastrick, Tim Walters,
Chairman of Fodens, Allan Littlemore, Band Manager of Leyland, Terry Webster,
Band Manager of Grimethorpe Colliery UK Coal and Andy Gillooly, Band Manager of
Their extensive memorandum was sent to Philip Biggs and
Richard Franklin of the All England Masters Championships, Paul and Jacqueline
Beer of the Brass in Concert Championships, Norman Jones of the British Federation
of Brass Bands, Martin Mortimer of the British Open Championships, Philip Morris
of the National Brass Band Championships, Peter Bates of the North West Regional
Championships and Peggy Tomlinson of the Yorkshire Regional Brass Band Championships.
memorandum has been sent on behalf of these bands only, although they believe
that the vast majority of bands throughout the country hold the same opinions
4BR has been sent the full memorandum and publishes it below
to show everyone the contents and the proposals set out by the five bands. We
think it will start some sort of debate - 4BR itself has already penned an article
"Major Headaches" which will cover what we think is good, bad and in
need of change at the major brass band contests, and we hope that after reading
what these five bands have to say, you too will enter into the debate.
memorandum reads as follows:
Over the past few weeks we, the above bands, have been meeting
to carry out a comprehensive review of all the matters affecting
affairs between us as competing bands and you as contest organisers.
You will appreciate that in playing standards we comprise a number
of the top ranked bands, while financially we range from being well
sponsored to being not sponsored at all. We are very mindful that
our respective sponsorship circumstances can so easily and quickly
After thorough debate we
have concluded that, as far as we are concerned, things cannot continue to go
on as they have been. While we only speak for ourselves, we believe that the vast
majority of bands will be in accord with our aims and objectives.
set out below our collective stance on a number of issues for you to consider
separately or jointly, as you choose. However, we would like a written considered
response from each Contest Organisation with regard to your intentions for 2003.
We would look to receive this by 1st September 2002 at the latest. This will enable
us to decide our collective course of action for the 2003 contests and beyond.
we are available to discuss any or all of the matters raised with you, preferably
with all at the same time, so as to ensure common understanding of our position,
consistency of message, and avoidance of any one organisation having a priority
over the others.
We appreciate that not every point we raise impacts uniformly
on each particular contest organisation, but each will want to respond as it thinks
Brass Band Contests:
Over the last few weeks we as a group have been discussing the
whole question of the brass band contest scene in so far as it affects
This discussion has shown up very significant issues and a common
purpose. We would like to take this opportunity to share with you our concerns,
and our objectives of effecting change, so as to benefit all of the bands.
It is both fair and accurate to say that every single band,
in the contests that you promote, ends up financially "out
of pocket". This is even true of the winners. One illustration
of this is that we bands typically spend over £5,000 to play
for less than 15 minutes in the Royal Albert Hall and, at most,
can win only £2,000 in prize money. 85% of the bands who are
invited to the National Finals are guaranteed to win nothing.
can be drawn for all the other contests.
We are looking for much more prize
money in total and a much greater spread of prize paying places.
This seems an appropriate time to point out some of our findings
on ticket prices. Again taking the National Championships first,
the Loggia tickets have gone from £8.00 in 1987 to £22.00
in 2001; similarly the programme prices have increased over the
same period from £1.50 to £3.00. The prize money has
remained exactly the same at £2,000, £1,500 and £1,000
for these dame 14 years.
With regard to the
British Open the ticket costs, as comparable as we can make them because of the
change of venue, have increased from £9.00 in 1990 to £15.00 in 2001
and the programme from £1.00 to £2.50 in the same time. Over the same
period the prize money has increased by just 10%; all of that increase going to
The All England Masters ticket costs have increased from £9.00
in 1995 to £15.00 in 2001, while over he same period prize money has remained
unchanged. No doubt programme prices have gone up considerably too, but no figure
is shown on the cover.
At Brass in Concert tickets have doubled in cost,
from £6.00 to £12.00 over the period 1991 to 2001. In that same period
prize money has not increased at all.
Even the Regional Contests, for which
we have insufficient ticket price costs, have reduced the prize money from a total
of £550.00 in 1980 to £375.00 in 2001, some twenty one years later.
While we are looking for a substantial increase in prize money,
we are also looking into ways that opportunities can be taken to
reduce our costs of attending contests. A key area here is the question
of overnight accommodation where in London, for example, costs of
the order of £2,500 per night are incurred.
Again using London as an example, the timing of
the 2000 contest meant that, if a Championship band so chose, it could travel
to London and back home on the same day.
To us there seems to be two avenues
of opportunity for all of these contests; one is a "long range" segmented
pre draw and the other, maybe preferable, is a post Noon start with a previous
day pre draw.
The experience at the All England Masters has shown the advantage,
and security, of a sectored pre draw. Not all the competing bands have to breakfast
at an unseemly hour and the drive into the same crowded streets, only to find
their early rise has been unnecessary.
Only recently one band to our knowledge,
but not in our group, was invited to the British Open in Birmingham. To avoid
the cost of an overnight stay the players rose at 4.30am, met at the bandroom
at 5.30am, travelled to Birmingham, breakfasted in time for a rehearsal at 8.30am
and were then drawn in the last three! Additionally, of course, they unnecessarily
incurred about five hours of coach costs. In fact they could not afford to stay
for the results otherwise the drivers hours limit would have been broken with
the further cost of calling out two other drivers.
As a result we are looking
either for a sectored pre draw in all the contests, except the Regional events,
or, more preferably, a previous day sectored pre draw and contest post Noon. We
must stress, however, that if the former, we expect this to take place at least
four months before the date of the contest. Only this way can we make the selected
accommodation if and where we choose.
We have a great concern that we, as a Movement, are failing
to develop competent younger adjudicators. To this end we are looking
to see an age spread of the three, where used, adjudicators, with
no more than one aged above 60 and below 65, no more than two aged
over 55 and the third to be under the age of 50.
Our experience of the All England Masters Championship
leads us to have a strong preference for separate individual boxes and individual
published placings. We do not expect any points to be awarded or announced.
Hat Trick of Wins:
Since specific rules are not published for every contest, we
are unclear as to whether the "hat trick" rule applies
to any of your contests.
Our position is quite clear. Any attempt to bar any
band, if it is successful on three or more consecutive occasions, is not acceptable
In general we have few problems with the Registry and applaud
the work done by those involved. Our problem lies with the different
methods used by each contest. We have cards sent in for "verification"
and them returned. We have them sent in and returned on the day.
We have them brought on the day and checked against a pre printed
Registry List. The whole thing is so needlessly complicated, confusing
for those who look after these things for our bands and give rise
to potential errors. For instance we have been made aware of people
being refused permission to play, or being told that their band
can expect disqualification, if a player whose name has been inadvertently
missed off the list, takes the stage. We are aware of two instances
of this of late. This is totally unacceptable to us.
We want, instead, a common approach
to be used at all contests. This, for now, should be the checking of Registry
Cards, brought by the bands on the day, against a pre supplied Registry print
out. Such a print out to be with the bands at least ten days before the date of
the contest. In the future there should be an even more simple system, using modern
technology, to suit both the Registry and the bands.
Number of Entries:
A recent article in the British Bandsman collated the views of a
group of banding eminences grise as to how many bands they thought
should be in a contest. The answers were as follows:
Marcus Bach: 12 - 14 bands
Jappie Dijkstra: 12
Philip Morris: 16
We agree with these people that there are far too many
bands in any one contest and have concluded that the absolute maximum should be
15; proportionately less in an "Entertainment Contest". We expect to
see a planned reduction to this number over the years 2003, 2004 and 2005.
We have concluded that too often entry rules stress words such
as "will", "must", "cannot", etcetera.
We fully recognise the need for discipline and order in these affairs,
but find this language unacceptable. Often these matters are dealt
with by older non playing volunteers associated with the bands.
As with the contest registry sheets, they are becoming so frightened
by the potential consequences of error that they are no longer persuaded
to take on these responsibilities.
Instead we are looking
for more appropriately, but firmly, worded requirements, with the consequence
of a reminder and a fine if the terms are not met. These fines should have a common
and agreed structure, but nevertheless be substantial, so as to discourage slack
administration. We are not prepared to see a band disqualified, or a player stood
down, for an innocent error of administration of timely entry.
Having lost money in winning a prize at a contest, there often
follows the cost of insuring the trophy. In many cases this can
be a very significant percentage of the prize itself. There seems
to be two clear alternatives. One is for the contest organiser to
arrange and pay for insurance, gaining better terms since t will
be an on going policy. The alternative is to give the bands the
option of having three months hold of the trophy and paying a proportionally
lower premium. This would enable the band to hold celebratory events
and have an official photograph taken before returning any trophy
to the contest organiser.
There is a growing tendency for Contest Organisers to introduce
a clause in the invitation to a contest, or even subsequently, to
the effect that the bands must sign away any rights hey may think
they have as to the recording of their performance. This covers
such as any subsequent broadcast, CD, DVD, video or the like. With
effect from 1st January 2003, such a clause is totally unacceptable
to we bands.
All England Masters:
In the interests of continued friendship in our Movement we
would like to state that we have had, and will continue to have,
very good relations with all other bands, irrespective of their
domicile. We believe we had no choice but to adopt the stance we
took over the question of any non-English band being invited to
the "Masters", and our position remains unchanged.
From time to time, including recently, we have received an amendment
notice to the number of percussionists allowed to take the stage
at a contest. Sometimes this notice is after the closing day for
registrations. Since the number of percussionists needed by a band
depends not only on the musical requirements but on their specialist
instruments and preferred layout, we expect to see an amendment
to your contests rules whereby each band is free to determine for
itself how many percussionists to use.
We are mindful of all he administrative planning and work that
goes into any contest, just as a lot of work goes in by the players
and the band officials. Nevertheless things are not always totally
satisfactory from either point of view. Consequently we believe
it is in all out interests for a common questionnaire to be drawn
up which every competing band would have the opportunity to return.
This we see as being drawn up jointly between us and to cover all
the arrangements leading up to and including the contest.
we would want to share with each Contest Organiser a review of the submissions
so as to take any opportunities for future improvements.
The fact that this memorandum is so long, and covers so many
issues, perhaps reflects that fact that dialogue between we bands
has been so marked by its absence over the years. We have now started
to put that right.
We hope that you will each respond very positively to what we have
had to say, so that our contests, the organisers and our bands can go forward
together, bringing greater understanding and strength to the Band Movement.
are looking forward to hearing from you.
Derek Rawlinson, Brighouse and Ratrick Band
Tim Walters, Fodens Band
Terry Webster, Grimethorpe Colliery UK Coal Band
Allan Littlemore, Leyland Band
Andy Gillooly, Williams Fairey