2006 West of England Regional Championships - Introduction


There was sadness accompnaying the contests here last year, but hopefully not this time as the youngsters of the West of England are really starting to make their mark.

Last year at this contest there was a great depth of sadness that pervaded even the celebrations of all the winners. The death of Shaun Thomas was a body blow to the contest weekend and brought everything into its right perspective.

Thankfully this year the contest will not be overshadowed by such a tragedy, but Shaun's contribution to the banding movement will not be forgotten by those who take to the stage here.

He was an integral part of the long term development of youth players in the region and his, and others work is now blooming. No other region, with perhaps the exception of the North West has such strength in depth in the lower sections, and here in the West that strength is based on youth. Just about every band has a fair sprinkling of young talented players, and although it hasn't quite made its mark at the very top most level, that is only a matter of time. Even the Championship bands here are now benefiting from the long term planning and the signs are here that in the next few years the region could be celebrating something big.

The emphasis is obviously in the Championship Section, but if you are looking to be entertained then make sure you get to her the huge turn out of bands in the Fourth Section and the real cracking bands in the First Second and Third. You will not be disappointed.

Championship Section:

As we have said, the fruits of the long term labour have yet to flourish in the top section although there are bands such as St. Austell who are already improving rapidly on the strength in depth of their young players. Holding on to them may be the problem in the future.

The one thing that does strike you here at this contest has been the inability of the reigning champions to come back and defend their title. Last year it was Mount Charles who would have been many people's favourites to have held onto their crown but in the event they fell away (although it was something of a surprise result on many fronts).

This time Bournemouth come year as champions, but how much would you want to bet on them holding onto their title and booking themselves another trip to the Albert Hall. It does make for an intriguing contest though, and it is spiced up this year with a number of the contenders in very good form. PolySteel are the reigning Butlins Champions and performed very well at Yeovil, whilst Mount Charles also displayed a great deal of confidence at Skegness too and were unlucky not to have come higher than they did. Add to them SWT Woodfalls on the back of a fine performance at the Scottish Open and a decent show at Yeovil, Aldbourne, Bournemuth, St. Austell and many more and you can see why this one will keep the judges on the edge of their seats from the word go.

The trouble is that when it comes to the finals themselves, there doesn't yet appear to be a band here who can really mix it with the big boys. Last year the two representatives came 13th and 19th. There are good bands here potentially very good bands, but they must up their game at the highest level (there is still no West of England Band at the British Open too).

First Section:

Although there hasn't been a First Section winner since the formation of the section in 1992, bands from the area haven't done too badly and have registered three podium finishes since 1998. Last year's representatives, Aldbourne and Cinderford came  back in 4th and 16th paces respectively, and there are signs here that whoever gets the nod from the judges Geoffrey Whitham and Denis Wilby may well fancy their chances at Harrogate.

Second Section:

There was a real celebration at Harrogate last year when the St. Keverne Band under the direction of Derek Greenwood too the National title in splendid fashion. Theirs was a performance built on the foundations of youth and it must not be forgotten that the other representative, Woodfalls Concert Brass also excelled in coming 3rd off the dreaded number 2 draw. In seven of the last eight years at least one representative has come in the top ten at the Finals and there is no reason to believe that the sequence will be broken this year either.

Third Section:

The good news continued in the Third Section with a 3rd place for Portishead Town and 12th for Shrewton Silver and in the last eight years at least one band from the region has picked up a podium finish. Looking at the runners and riders this time round there are a number of bands who would do well in any region let alone here and whoever gets the nod from Geoff and Denis will be strong contenders come the finals.

Fourth Section:

The region sent three bands to Harrogate last year and Verwood, Drybrook and Swindon cam back with varying results of 6th, 13th and 19th. There has been three National wins since 1998 though and three second places too, whilst only once in the same periods has not one of the bands come back with at least a top six place. The contest at this level is vibrant and combative (and not short of controversy aka Mr Hurdley last year) but it is always a delight to go and listen to.


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