2005 Besson National Championships of Great Britain - Happy days are here again for Leyland


After a peiord of uncertainty, Leyland are back as National Champions in a dream come true for some dedicated players and an inspirational MD.

Leyland's Bass Section
Leyland's bass section
Photo: Copyright Fitzgerald/Coles 2005

Leyland's 2005 National Final's win may have come as a bit of a shock to those who thought the contest on Saturday was a three horse race between Black Dyke, BAYV and Grimethorpe Colliery (UK Coal), but for Band Chairman Gary Westwood it was perhaps the most pleasant shock to his system in the 24 years he has been associated with the band.

Gary joined Leyland in 1981 in the exciting sponsored days when Richard Evans was at the helm and success at major events was something that was taken for granted – and expected. However after the ending of the last of Leyland's sponsorship deals around five years ago, he has been a stalwart member both in his cornet playing role and as one of the bands administrators, which has seen them overcome some pretty hairy times to finally hit the jackpot on the weekend.

"It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride over the last few years," he told 4BR. "We have had to get used to being a non sponsored band and at times it has been very hard financially. However, the players spirits have never wavered and we have a hardcore of people here who have continued to be totally dedicated to Leyland Band and what it stands for – many of whom have been with the band a number of years."

Some of those players were with Gary when they won their other major championships such as the British Open in 1994 and in 2003 when they took the All England Masters title, whilst new faces have joined the ranks and helped the band in their most recent successes in winning the North West Regional Championships for the past two years. 

However, those successes and the continued high standards that the band has set for themselves has meant a continued search for financial help, and the 2005 win was made possible in no small measure by the intervention of the chocolate makers Cadbury. Principal Eb Bass Chris Doran entered the Cadbury's ‘Dream Factory' competition, asking that the chocolate firm make his dream (and therefore the Bands' too) come true. His idea captured the imagination of the judges and earned 1 of the top 20 prizes, covering not only transport and accommodation for the Band, but a new set of the famous white jackets too.

In addition a local firm called Alcoa provided funds for trousers and shoes, so the band were kitted out in champion winning style before they took to the stage.

"We were hoping to raise a few eyebrows before we went to London, and I think we have certainly done that now," said Gary. "I must thank Cadbury's for helping us in this way – it really is a dream come true, whilst Alcoa were also very generous and we hope it shows that the association with the band has been successful."

The win also means an extra busy time ahead for Leyland as they will undertake a ‘Listen to the Band' recording next weekend as well as the further promotion of their new CD called ‘Hymns of Praise' featuring the music of Goff Richards.  Next year also sees the 60th anniversary of the formation of the Leyland Band, and winning the National title will be the perfect way in which to celebrate the achievement in their concerts.

Gary was also full of praise for the work put in by MD Russell Gray and the contribution made to the victory of the Norwegian Runar Valheim Varnes who played solo trombone and who also won the prize as the best instrumentalist on the day.

Leyland's Trombone Section
Leyland's trombone section
Photo: Copyright Fitzgerald/Coles 2005

"Russell has been fantastic since he came to the band in August last year. He brings with him so much musical talent and determination to do well that it has rubbed off on the players. He really inspired us to the win, especially as we felt the draw may have been against us. Runar is a lovely bloke who fitted into the band brilliantly. He is so unassuming, but when he puts the trombone to his lips he is simply sensational."


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