2005 Regionals: Midlands - Introduction


The Midlands can offer no less than 84 bands to listen to over the next two weekends, so why not forget about their organisational blips and get to Burton on Trent to enjoy their brass bands battling it out against each other instead.

It all seems to be going on at the moment in the Midlands doesn't it?

The Ibstock Affair should have come to a close by the time we write this, but you never know, and it has cast a somewhat long shadow over the event. Whatever the rights and wrongs though, the Midlands provides the Regional Championships with an enormous 84 contesting bands and a headache of vast proportions for the organising Regional Committee to sort out.

They have done this by splitting the contest over two full weekends – a sensible approach in anyone's book, and so it means that on the 5th and 6th of March, the bands in the First, Third and Championship Section get to do their stuff, whilst a week later the bands in the Second and the very large Fourth Section get to play.

Even though there has been the odd organisation problem here in the past (the question of not giving out the full results is a bit irksome for both the press and the bands) the organisers run a very tight ship here and the venue isn't too bad a place, even if the acoustics are not the greatest and the facilities a bit cramped and dated.

Still, it is home, and one that has served the banding community well here. There may be more flesh venues available, but then, they cost much more money don't they, and putting on a two weekend contest isn't going to be cheap wherever you go.

Playing wise the Midlands hasn't been doing too badly in recent years either. Although the glory years of Desford, GUS and Ransome were a time ago now, in recent years they have started to show that they are coming back to their former strength. All three have very good results behind them in the past 12 months in particular whilst the likes of Staffordshire are now snapping on their heels.

The Championship Section contest could well be one of the most closely run competitions of the whole Regionals with at least four bands having more than a good chance of winning the title and claiming one of the two qualification laces up for grabs. It is perhaps the most evenly matched contests of all.

Meanwhile, depending on the result of legal wrangles elsewhere the First Section could or could not contain the Ibstock Band.  It may well be the latter, and if that is the case then it is a great pity. Still, the contest must go on, and this is another competition that could be very closely run indeed between a whole host of up and coming as well as established outfits.

Last years two qualifiers from here didn't really set Harrogate alight come the finals (they ended up 15th and 17th in a 17 band field), but there is enough quality on show here to suggest that this time whoever gets the nod from Roy Roe will travel North confident of going well.

The Second Section was a different kettle of fish entirely last year, with the Hathern Band leaving Burton on Trent and having a fine 2004 contesting season that culminated in them winning the National Second Section title itself in Harrogate, whilst the other two representatives, Raunds and Stourport came 11th and 17th.  Again, it would appear that there has been a strengthening of quality in the bands here for the contest this year and whoever gets through will be confident of possibly repeating Hathern's success.

The Third Section should be a fun packed contest – the very difficult test piece should see to that, but once more there is a sense that it should be a strong contest on the Sunday here with a large field out to impress adjudicator John Berryman. He certainly knows what it takes to do well here, and lat year the three bands that made the trip to Harrogate put in solid accounts of themselves to come away with 5th 8th and 9th places. 

Having a look at the line ups in the lower sections shows that there are a number of very fine young bands who have been making their mark in contests all around the country and the Fourth Section here is no exception. The largest field of the entire Regional Championships will be faced with a very stern test in the form of ‘Divertimento', but the organisers have got themselves one of the most experienced and best regarded judges to check out the bands on show – Malcolm Brownbill.

Last year the area sent the three bands to Harrogate where they came away with 5th, 7th and 11th places and that was a pretty good effort and showed that the bands here are solid and competitive against the best anywhere else in the country.

In a many ways it will be hard to forget what has gone on with the Ibstock affair, but if you just want to go along and enjoy a number brass bands enjoying themselves on stage, then the Midlands has a great deal to offer.


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