The Nationals - Questions for the future


Kapitol Promotions have secured ownership of the titles associated with the National Finals. Will that mean security for our greatest event or a period of uncertainty?

In a move that could have far-reaching consequences for the future of the British brass band movement, Kapitol Promotions Ltd. has announced that it has secured ownership of the titles associated with the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain.

From 2002 until last year, Kapitol managed the National Finals on behalf of Besson Musical Instruments Ltd., but an ivestigation by British Bandsman and 4BR has revealed that, following the financial meltdown of Besson late last year, Kapitol moved quickly to secure ownership of ‘Besson National Championships of Great Britain Ltd.' and, subsequently, the ‘National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain.'

Kapitol was able to undertake this course of action because Besson did not ever secure registration of the titles at Companies House, a situation of which the greater brass band community was unaware, especially in light of comments made by Besson and others as the subsequent fall into administration unfolded. It is a state of affairs that somewhat mirrors the rather haphazard way that Besson controlled aspects of its business prior to going into administration on 6 December 2005.

Previous announcements

On 8 December last year, Besson made an announcement (published in British Bandsman on 17th December), in which the Company initially stated: ‘Besson is currently undergoing restructuring prior to a sale of the business.' At the same time, Jan Osman (then Marketing Manager of Besson) told BB, "It's too early to comment while the current uncertainty prevails, but Kapitol Promotions will remain in control of the National Championships for the foreseeable future." Kapitol, meanwhile, clarified its position when it stated: "Kapitol Promotions has never received any financial support to promote the ‘Finals' and, therefore, recent events at Besson will not affect the Company's ability to continue operating them. Kapitol will keep its pledge to promote the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain and will also continue its existing financial support of the Regional Championships."

However, on 22 December, the title, ‘Besson National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain Ltd.', was registered at Companies House in Cardiff by the directors of Kapitol and, soon after, they had also secured the ‘National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain', a title that can only be granted with the approval of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Future promotion

By the time Buffet Crampon acquired Besson in January this year, it would appear the future promotion of the National Championships was firmly in the hands of Kapitol, even though, in technical terms, ‘ownership' of the event is still unresolved. It has been revealed, though, that the directors of Kapitol Promotions, Philip Morris and Nicola Bland, met with representatives of Buffet Crampon during the past few weeks and have, in fact, secured sponsorship for the 2006 National Finals under the Besson banner.

The news that Kapitol has secured the titles has been greeted with differing reactions from certain quarters of the UK banding movement.

Golden opportunity lost

One Regional committee member commented: "This is a golden opportunity lost. This could have been the chance to secure the ‘National' for the benefit of the movement as whole, democratically run and with the profits ploughed back in to securing the Championships' long-term future."

Support Kapitol

However, a leading conductor told us: "Personally, I am glad Kapitol has taken the step it has. There is no one else who could have, or has shown any inclination to, run the event since the news of Besson's collapse. We should support Kapitol's decision to undertake a substantial financial risk at a time when others, most notably the British Federation of Brass Bands (BFBB), have come up with no alternatives."


Speaking on behalf of the BFBB, the organisation's Chairman, Robert Morgan commented, "From the BFBB point of view, Kapitol is the present custodian, but the National Championships really belongs to the bands. Through the years, it has been passed from one private company to another, but all we would ask of any custodian is that they look after it with great care."

When asked if the BFBB had any future plans to get involved in the organisation of the Championships, Robert Morgan replied, "The BFBB has a responsibility to make sure that the National Championships go in the direction that bands wish and we are prepared to work with the organisations in Scotland and Wales to ensure the future of our great contest. Many other brass banding countries would love to have an event like ours and we really should cherish it."

Series of questions

British Bandsman and 4BarsRest jointly sent Kapitol Promotions a series of questions in relation to the acquisition of the National titles. These covered the timescale involved in acquisition, the reasons behind the acquisition, the ownership of trophies and long-term future plans for the events in question; but at the time of going to press, no formal written response has been received.

However, speaking directly to BB, Kapitol Promotions Director, Philip Morris, said: "Kapitol is pleased that a link with Buffet Crampon, the new owner of Besson has been established."

Common business practice

Philip Morris confirmed that the decision for the directors of Kapitol Promotions to acquire the titles reflected common business practice and was made to help protect the future of the movement. He also confirmed that the event would be known from now on as' The National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain', after which any sponsor's name will follow.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Buffet Crampon told BB: "The Buffet Crampon group is delighted to continue the sponsorship of the National Brass Band Championship of Great Britain in 2006. We are excited to have the possibility to become more closely involved in the brass band world and this opportunity will allow us to explore this rich musical movement, which has such a high worldwide reputation."

Long term financial support

Our investigations reveal that, although Kapitol now owns the titles of the National Championships, this does not preclude another party or organisation setting up its own ‘National' event, although it would have to register it under its own name. However, an added complication for any would-be rival also appears to be Kapitol's long-term financial support of the all-important Regional Championships and the fact that the financial obligation to promote and support the Regional Championships, the Lower Section Finals at Harrogate, the Music Panel, the National Rules and the National Final at the Royal Albert Hall, is high and offers no guarantee of financial reward. It is also understood that Kapitol has secured dates at the Royal Albert Hall to host the event until 2012.

Question of ownership

The question of ownership of the famous National Trophy still remains to be resolved. It has passed through a number of hands (including E. Vaughan Morris, R. Smith & Co., Robert D. Alexander and Boosey & Hawkes/Besson) since the Daily Herald newspaper first introduced it in 1945, although who currently ‘owns' it is still something of a mystery. Kapitol Promotions does not claim any ownership and other trophies awarded at the National Finals (including the Lower Section Finals) are believed to be still technically ‘owned' by those who initially donated them for presentation. Further muddying the waters, a representative of Besson said that the Company is "currently trying to clear up any confusion as to the rights of the contest," but a full statement is expected from Buffet Crampon in the days ahead.

Vacuum filled

It appears that Besson's demise after 168 years of trading within the banding movement left a huge vacuum to be filled in respect to the future of the National Championships - a vacuum that Kapitol Promotions was quick to identify and take action to fill. With no other readily identifiable organisation making any attempt to secure the future of the Championships for itself, or for the movement as a whole, it appears that Kapitol may have acted swiftly enough to close the door to any potential competition. Only time will tell if it will be a successful strategy or not.

The ‘National' – a chequered history:

Since the end of the Second World War, ownership and organisation of the National Finals has undergone a number of major changes, with periods ranging from what, at the time, may have appeared to be financial security mixed with others when the future of the event was in acute peril.

1945: The Daily Herald newspaper sponsors the event at the Royal Albert Hall and announces: ‘Handsome cash prizes and trophies will be provided for contests in each district and any profits therefrom will be donated to charity.' The event was run by Edwin Vaughan Morris MBE and the Lower Sections were held at Belle Vue, Manchester.

1952: The 7,000 seat capacity of the Royal Albert Hall was deemed inadequate and the event took place at Empress Hall, Earl's Court.

1954: All four sections of the National Championships held in London on the same Saturday for the first time.

1955: The Queen bestows patronage of the National Brass Band Festival.

1964: The People newspaper takes over sponsorship of the event.

1966: Problems with National Registry and disruption of Area contests.

1967: E. Vaughan Morris assumes sole control of the National Championships.

1968: World Championship inaugurated.

1971: Vaughan Morris retires. R. Smith and Co. becomes owner, with British Bandsman as sponsor. Peter Wilson becomes organising secretary.

1972: National Championships reinstated as senior title following abandonment of World Championship.

1975: National Brass Band Championships and British Bandsman become property of Robert D. Alexander.

1977: British Bandsman no longer linked with National Championships. Peter Wilson leaves his position as organising secretary of the Championships and becomes Editor of BB.

1980: £2,000 prize for Champion Band of Great Britain introduced.

1981: Robert Alexander becomes bankrupt. Boosey & Hawkes pays off debts (reportedly close to £67,000) and take over ownership of National Championships.

1983: All four sections compete in Royal Albert Hall, with Championship Section taking place on a Sunday for the first time.

1986: Sunday ‘experiment' ends and all four sections revert to traditional venues throughout west London.

1992: Introduction of 1st Section to create ‘buffer' between 2nd and Championship Sections.

1995: Ownership retained by Boosey & Hawkes, but management handed to National Contesting Council. Boosey & Hawkes pledges £25,000 of sponsorship per year.

1996: NCC decides to move Lower Section Finals around the country, with Cardiff, Harrogate, Birmingham and Nottingham being used as venues.

1997: NCC control extended with reduced sponsorship.

2000: NCC control ends and Philip Morris takes over administration of the event. Millennium Finals see all sections held at Royal Albert Hall.

2001: Lower Section Finals come under the stewardship of the British Federation of Brass Bands (BFBB).

2002: Kapitol Promotions Ltd. administers Nationals on behalf of Boosey & Hawkes.

2003: Boosey & Hawkes/Besson sold to the Music Group for £33.2 million

2003: BFBB control of Lower Section Finals ends following operational difficulties and Kapitol Promotions takes over.

2005: Besson goes into administration. Kapitol enters process to acquire National titles.

2006: Buffet Crampon purchases Besson. Besson agrees to sponsor 2006 National Championships.


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