British Open Championships - The Grand Shield Qualifiers


4BR updates the record of how the qualifiers from the Grand Shield Contest have done at the Open since 1972. It makes sobering reading.

Be my Strength and Shield?

Hepworth (Persimmon Homes) and Ashton under Lyne are the two bands to have qualified from the Grand Shield this year to Symphony Hall. How well will they do though?

We've updated our records and gone back as far as 1972 to find out what happened to the qualifiers when they reached the big time. How many bands do you think who won through are now actually still in existence?
Anyone who has a passing interest in football will be familiar with the argument that arises every time a team from the Nationwide League has gained promotion to the Premiership. To succeed, the common wisdom goes, a team must spend on players, invest in talent and hope that others have as bad a season as Southampton last year. If they don't, then come the end of May, they will find themselves dropping out quicker than an Australian batsman on a green top wicket at the Oval.

For the bands at the British Open it's not quite as bad (there is a 2 year safeguard period now), but once you are at the Open, you don't want to lose the privileged position and return to qualifying from the Grand Shield - a contest that is perhaps the hardest of the lot to win.

We've therefore updated our research and looked at the qualifiers from the Grand Shield from as far back as 1972 to see which ones have done a Newcastle United and made a bit of an impression and which ones have sunk quicker than Tony Blair's popularity ratings. It makes for some interesting reading.

1972 was a year in which Stanshawe won the Grand Shield under the great Walter Hargreaves and they certainly went on to make a mark at the contest - even though they are now just a footnote in brass banding history.

After their win they took part in the 1972 Open but didn't quite make a mark off the number 11 draw and came away with nothing. The following year though they came 6th on "Sovereign Heritage" and from then on they were strong competitors. Runners up the following year, 6th in 1975 and runners up again in 1976, they had come a long way since they were formed in 1968. They changed their name to Sun Life in 1978 and came 4th under Derek Bourgeois in 1980. However, they had to wait until 10 years later before they came in the prizes again, but when they did they won it on "Le Roi D'Y's". Their defence saw them come 13th and they followed this with 6th, 15th, 12th, 17th and finally 12th in 1996 before they folded and were no more.

1973 saw a band from the North East called Patchogue Plymouth win through under M. Brand who then went to the Open under C. Peacock on "The Accursed Huntsman", but came nowhere on their debut. The same applied the following year, then 1975 and finally 1976 before they disappeared. Today we are in doubt if they even exist.

1974 and Woodfalls (who are certainly still with us) who won through under Courtney Bosanko to try their luck on "James Cook", but they too didn't make an impression and they lasted three years without making a mark before they were relegated. They did however return at a later date after winning again at the Grand Shield in 1985 and are one of a select group of bands to win the Grand Shield contest twice.

1975 and Coventry School of Music took the Grand Shield on "Tournament for Brass" and under Leonard Pepper they debuted on "Fireworks" - the piece that caused so much furore that year. They didn't quite shoot into the stars like a rocket though and they lasted just the two years before fizzling out.

1976 saw Tredegar win through under the late John Childs, but their first taste of the Open lasted just three years before they too fell from grace after their 1978 performance on "Benvenuto Cellini". They returned though in 1994 after coming runners up the Grand Shield to Cory and remain at the contest today and were runners up in 1996.

1977 and East Lancs Paper Group won through under the direction of David Loukes, who went on to become Resident Conductor at Black Dyke. They drew 13 on their debut and it was a touch unlucky for them as well as they came nowhere and didn't appear at the contest ever again. They now no longer exist.

Ratby were the 1978 winner under Betty Anderson, who became the first woman to appear at the Open as a conductor that year. The band couldn't come first though and off a number 6 draw didn't make a mark. It was their only appearance.

1979 David Loukes did it again - this time with the Rochdale Band and their debut that year at the Open was on "Carnival Romain" off the dreaded number 2 draw slot. They didn't make a mark, but stuck around at the contest until 1984 when they finally fell through the trap door.

1980 saw victory go to the neatly named Andrews Heat for Hire Band conducted by Graham O'Connor (a man with the knack of getting bands to the Open) and they went on to make their debut on "Energy" that year off the number 13 draw. That was their only go, but they were to return sooner than many expected.

1981 and the start of the Leyland age, as Richard Evans booked his place at the Open with the brash upstarts in the white jackets after a win on ""Tournament for Brass". The rest is history (with a second place on their debut no less), and won the "biggie" itself on "Salamander" in 1994. They too however have tasted the disappointment here and were relegated in 2003 to the Grand Shield and have yet to return.

1982 and the now defunct Brodsworth Colliery under Denis Carr took the title on "Festival Music" to gain a spot at the Open, where they stayed until 1985 without ever making the prize list. After that they hung around a little while longer before the pit closures finally put paid to them. One to thank Mrs Thatcher for then.

1983 and the 2003 Open test piece arranger Stephen Roberts took the Jones and Crossland Band to victory on "Symphony of Marches" and claimed their Open berth on "Connotations". The band from the Midlands were very successful at the time, but didn't make a mark at the contest and they lasted only until 1985 before they lost their place.

1984 saw Andrews Heat for Hire do it again, this time under Denis Carr as they took the title and the qualification place for the second time in four years. This time once more they lasted just the one year.

1985 was the first year that the bands that came first and second were invited to the Open, when Woodfalls won the title for a second time and were joined at the September contest by Point of Ayr from North Wales, after both bands had qualified on "Journey Into Freedom". Woodfalls lasted just the two years without making a mark and Point lasted until 1989 without ever troubling the top six places.

1986 and another now defunct band won through. This time it was Lewington Yamaha Brass under Denis Carr (for a third time) who won the day at the Shield on "The Wand of Youth", and they were joined by Solent Concert directed by Wesley Garner. Lewington lasted three years before losing their spot, and never troubling the announcer on stage, whilst Solent just lasted the one year and that was that for them at the Open. Thankfully though, they are still competing.

1987 and Blackburn and Darwen took the title under the direction of Alec Evans on "The Accursed Huntsman", with a young man called David King taking second spot with his band, Kennedy's Swinton Concert. Blackburn lasted just the one year before dropping out, but Kennedy's came 7th on their debut, were out of the prizes the following year, but under Garry Cutt on "Diversions for Brass Band" won the title of British Open Champions in 1989. The following year they came 5th, then 6th in 1991. In 1992 though they came home 18th, and that was the last time they competed at the Open. Within a year or so they were no more.

1988 saw CWS Glasgow take the title under Howard Snell on "Un Vie de Matelot", and they were joined by Sellers College Brass directed by Phillip McCann at the Open on "Contest Music". CWS came 8th on their debut, but the following year didn't come anywhere and dropped from the contest, only to return again in 1991 on invitation after winning the National Championships of Great Britain. They remained at the contest until 2002 when they were relegated, but returned immediately after coming runners up at the Grand Shield in 2003. Sellers remained until 1999. In that time though they posted a 5th place in 1991 and 7th in 1995 before falling away. They returned in 2004 after winning the Grand Shield.

1989 saw Hammonds Sauce return back to the Open under the direction of Geoffrey Whitham after they had lost their place at the Open in 1983. This time they lasted a bit longer - until 1993 in fact before they were relegated, but returned under the YBS banner in 1995 to startling effect. The band that joined them that year were Asphaltic Newham from London (the last London band to make it to the Open) and they lasted three years with a best of 13th place in 1991 before dropping out. They have since joined forces with the Aveley Band and are trying vainly to return via the Grand Shield to this day.

1990 saw Stalybridge take the Grand Shield honours with a win on "Trittico" conducted by Malcolm Brownbill, who were joined at the Open by a band called Marple directed by Garry Cutt. Stalybridge came 18th and last on their debut and were relegated immediately, but Marple made more of an impression and although they didn't feature in the top six in their first year they came 11th in their second in 1991. In 1992, 1993 and 1994 they came 4th and then 11th again 1995. 1996 though saw them gain a momentous victory on "The Severn Suite" at Bridgewater Hall to create history. Their defence a year later they came 11th and then 5th in 1998. 12th place in 1999 and 22nd in 2000 was followed by 18th in 2001 which sealed their fate and they were relegated. They are still going, but after some horrendous bad luck and a lack of players they are surviving very nearly in name only.

The 1991 winners were Whitburn, conducted by Peter Parkes who pipped Wallace Arnold Rothwell and Stocksbridge to the title, whilst all three gained a trip to the Free Trade Hall in Manchester.
Whitburn lasted just the one year after coming 20th on "Paganini Variations" and were relegated back to the Grand Shield (the 2 year safety period didn't come in until a few years later), whilst the same fate befell Wallace Arnold who came 18th. Stocksbridge however kept their end up for a six-year period that lasted from 1991 until 1996 when they disappeared from the face of the earth somewhat, but are now back and contesting well. That six-year period saw them come 7th, 11th, 7th, 8th, 15th and 10th. Whitburn had to wait once more to return.

1992 saw Dodworth take the title under the baton of Graham O'Connor whilst Besses O' th' Barn were second and Wingates under John Hudson third. All three got the invite to the Open. Dodworth lasted four years to 1995 after coming 8th on their debut and following up with 18th, 19th and 20th to get relegated. Besses meanwhile lasted until 1999, an 8 year period that saw a results sequence of 12th, 19th, 20th, 9th, 13th, 16th, 17th and 21st. They dropped out for two years before making a return in 2002 under Lynda Nicholson. They were relegated again in 2003.

Wingates lasted four years and after coming 17th, 6th, 17th and finally 21st in 1995, they dropped out only to win their place back the next year in 1996 under Nicholas Childs. Since that time they came 9th, didn't compete at the 1997 event and then came 15th and 23rd in 1999 to drop out again.

1993 saw victory go to William Davis Construction who beat Point of Ayr by three points under the direction of Keith Wilkinson and the Rhodian Band. This was the last time before 2004 that three bands got the invite to the contest.

William Davis came 17th on their debut and followed this with 13th, 22nd and finally 21st (under the name of Markfield Band as they lost their sponsorship) and they were relegated. Within the year they had ceased to exist. Point of Ayr lasted just two years and after coming 20th and 21st they too were relegated never to return and although they continued to compete with success in other contests they too are now defunct as a contesting band. The third band, Rhodian also lasted just the two years and came 22nd and 18th before being relegated. They continue to compete though and we believe are still going strong.

1994 was the year of the Welsh with Cory taking the title under Graham O'Connor by two points from Tredegar. Both are still at the Open, with Cory taking the title in 2000 and 2002 and Tredgear coming runners up in 1996. However, Cory struggled in their first year at the Open and came 22nd before improving rapidly. Tredegar meanwhile came 16th, 12th and 2nd and have become consistent challengers ever since. They remain the only pair of original qualifiers from 1991 to 2001 to remain in the contest.

1995 was the year of YBS and David King to win through with Whitburn coming second under Philip McCann. YBS came 3rd on their debut, and have won the title four times since, whilst Whitburn's second spell has seen them be comfortable competitors, with a decent results sequence that saw them come runners up to YBS again in 2003.

1996 saw Wingates return to the Open under Nicholas Childs, but they lasted just four years as we said previously, whilst Polypipe Rossington who were second under Bryan Hurdley lasted just the one year after coming 18th in 1996. They didn't compete at the delayed 1997 contest and never returned again. Their current whereabouts are not known.

1997 saw Rothwell (Leeds) and Douglas Blackledge take the top prize with NSK Ransome and Brian Grant claiming the other qualification spot. Rothwell came 14th, then 19th before joining forces with Yorkshire Imps to become known as DUT Yorkshire Imperial Rothwell. Ransomes lasted just four years after a very impressive 4th place on their debut and following an 11th, 20th and 21st in 2000 they dropped back to the Grand Shield. They are yet to return.

1998 was the year of the Flowers Band from the West Country (the last from that area to play at the Open) who were led by Bryan Hurdley to victory at the first Grand Shield where points were not awarded. They too lasted just the four years, coming 14th on their debut, followed by 19th, 18th and 21st to drop out. They have been very unlucky not to return back to the Open since. BT who came second (under Graham O'Connor again!) lasted just the three years and after coming 9th on their debut, they fell to 16th and 23rd to drop out.

1999 saw Carlton Main take the title with Rolls Royce Coventry taking the other qualification spot. Carlton Main are still with us after coming 14th, 9th, 17th and then 19th in 2002 to get relegated. However, under William Rushworth they won the 2003 Grand Shield to once more claim their place at the top table of banding, only to drop out after their 18th place in 2004. They will battle hard to get back for sure. Rolls Royce came 22nd on their debut and 16th in 2000 to drop back out of the top flight. They haven't been as fortunate as Carlton Main but are still seeking a return through the qualifying contests.

The 2000 Millennium Champions were Todmorden Old under Dennis Hadfield, but the band that had come so far are now no more and after coming 15th on their debut they imploded and didn't make the following years contest and folded in unfortunate circumstances. Glossop Old however still remain with us, but not at the Open, after two years in which they have came 14th and 20th, then 18th to be relegated back to the Grand Shield contests. They are battling it out there in a fight to return.

2001 saw victory go to another Scottish band, when Allan Ramsey steered Kirkintilloch to victory over Ever Ready and Ray Farr. Both did well enough on their debuts in 2001 coming 16th and 12th and both remain at the contest to date with Kirky getting a 4th spot in 2004 and Ever Ready (now Reg Vardy) also picking up a couple of top 10 places.

2002 saw Cwmaman Institute from Wales take the Grand Shield and go onto to claim a superb 5th place at the Open, whilst Besses o' th' Barn who returned to the Open for the first time since 1999 went on to come 13th but dropped out in 2003 to the Grand Shield. Cwmaman meanwhile were blighted by early draws at the next two opens and fell through the trap door in 2004 after coming 16th from the number 1 draw.

2003 saw Carlton Main and Scottish Co-op both return to the Open after falling through the trap door the previous year. They proved however that they had the appetite to return straight away and so they took up their positions once more at the Open, coming 18th and 13th respectively.  Carlton Main though lost out once again after two years, but Scottish Co-op have proved worthy challengers here and ame 3rd in 2004.

2004 saw the return of Sellers International, Desford and for the first time, Rothwell Temperance (although the band with the same name appeared on a number of occasions - the last in 1947). Sellers had a great time back and came a fine 5th on their debut back, whilst Desford did nearly as well coming 7th. Rothwell could only manage 15th, but all three remain for another crack this time around.

2005 and Hepworth and Ashton under Lyne are the latest to try their luck at the highest level. Both are fine bands and will relish the challenge, but can they survive more than the two years grace they get to start off with?

Since 1972, the following bands who have won through as winners of the Grand Shield no longer exist. Stanshawe (1972), Patchogue Plymouth (1973), Coventry School of Music (1975), East Lanc Paper Group (1977), Rochdale (1979), Andrews Heat for Hire (1980 and 1984), Brodsworth Colliery (1982), Jones and Crossland (1983), Lewington Yamaha Brass (1986), William Davis (1993), Rothwell (Leeds) (1997) and Todmorden Old (2000) - that is a very sobering thought isn't it?

Winning promotion from the Grand Shield may be seen as perhaps the best thing that could ever happen to an ambitious brass band. Some bands have prospered (Leyland, YBS and Cory for instance have gone on to win it) whilst even some band that got to the Open by qualification as coming runners up have done well (Kennedy's Swinton and Marple) - but where are they now? The truth be told - just like the Premiership the biggest success stories go to the bands that survive in the Open for more than three or four years, not to the bands that taste immediate success and then falter through unsustainable ambition.

It is perhaps worth noting how many bands who have competed here in the past 33 years now have their names engraved on the tombstones in the brass banding cemetery.


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