2006 Butlins Mineworkers Open Brass Band Festival - Introduction


Skegness may be a long way away and surrounded by speed cameras, but once you get there the Mineworkers Festival offers something for everyone.

Butlins LogoCan it really be a year ago that the 2005 brass banding season started in Skegness amid all the glitz and glamour Butlins could muster on what was a pretty cold weekend on the east coast of the country. Skegness may be one heck of an isolated place, but once you get there (and watch out for the plethora of speed cameras on the way in) it is a great venue for a brass band festival.

Butlins have really upped he ante with the Mineworkers Championships in the short three year period in which they have embraced the event, and even though they haven't quite matched the numbers that take place at Pontins, they will surely get there over the next few years.

It is also nice to report that both organisations have a good working relationship and both are now the leading festivals of their type in Europe. You know what you are going to get at Pontins, and Butlins is the same: a warm friendly atmosphere, good organisation, an excellent choice of test pieces and the chance for the bands to return home with a wad of cash to keep the treasurer happy. If only all contests were like this – especially as there are real grumblings from bands in the lower sections that the choices made for this year's Regionals (2nd Section especially) which take place in just a couple of months time are again ill conceived.

The organisation at Butlins is first rate. The draw will take place on Butlins own television and radio channels, and is done with a lovely sense of tongue in cheek humour that makes it a joy and not a chore for band representatives and hard working journalists (honestly) to attend early in the morning. The prize giving is also of the same ilk – a great bit of OTT presentation that winds up the atmosphere and makes it into a great occasion when the winners run onto the stage like contestants from ‘The Price is Right'.

It is the night time entertainment though that really offers something for everyone. This year you can have the choice of a traditional brass band concert, the National Jazz Orchestra and Sonar Brass right through to some heavy duty Soul music, throwback disco and much, much more.  There really is something for everyone.

For the bands it offers the chance to start their season with the chance of winning excellent prize money on a selection of test pieces that are both player, and audience friendly.

The top section offers the chance for over six grand of bunce, but the bands will have to work hard for it what with the very testing set work ‘St. Magnus' followed the next day by the entertainment programmes. Given that more acts have been shot down in flames here than a night out at the pyromaniacs annual dinner and dance it will be interesting to see what the bands dish up in the entertainment stakes. None we think will outdo old Frank Renton though who will be compere on the Sunday event and will bring his usual mix of knowledge and dodgy jokes to put a smile on the faces. He is worth the entry fee alone.

Elsewhere the bands will have to get to grips with some well chosen works – from the original firestarter himself ‘Prometheus Unbound' right through to a touch of Purcell and some neat Alan Fernie and Iain Rainer works. It is also a delight to report that the organisers have gone for an eclectic group of judges too, with the experience of William Relton and Malcolm Brownbill mixed in with the new brand of professionals such as Simone Rebello and Alan Morrison.

4BR had a great time last year, and so we suspect did all the bands, players and supporters alike. There is plenty to do for everyone at just about any hour of the day (even the band traders are well catered for), so make the most of it and enjoy it. The drive home on Monday morning won't seem half as far. 


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