2006 English National Championships - Postcard from Salford


It was hot, sticky and nail biting to a very a predictable result - that was the story of the English Nationals as well as the World Cup Quarter Finals.

Given that the vast majority of the country had at least one ear or eye on what was about to unfold in Germany, the weather was amazingly hot and humid, and there was even a set of road works messing up the traffic on the main road entrance to ‘The Lowry' complex at Salford Quays, the inaugural English Nationals can still be deemed an encouraging success.

Do you think the football has started yet?: A few empty seats as England kicked off

That said, it may be the only time that the contest itself takes place here as a combination of a poor acoustic, some pretty average backstage facilities and no real definite commitment to encouraging a long term booking arrangement may well mean that the contest could have something of a peripatetic feel to it over the next few years.

That may be a good thing as there are a number of very good concert halls around the regions in England, which may offer better value for money. It's been a pretty good start though, even if the weather did mean a lot of sweat was shed in the contesting cause on stage!

The BFBB should be pleased with their efforts too. The contest was well organized and it would seem that even the more high profile absentees could be looking at filling their diaries with a contest date this time next year if the rumours are true.  

The good points of the contest were there for all to see and hear.

The decision to ask Philip Sparke to write a new piece proved to be excellent, whilst the use of multi media presentation on the large overhead screen was great (although if you bought a ticket for the boxes you couldn't actually see it as the overhang of the tier above blocked the view). Keeping the audience involved on a hot day with explanations of the test piece from the composer and close ups of the performing bands was also good and should be kept. It was a touch strange though watching and listening at the same time as the pictures were about 0.5 of a second delayed from the live sound of the band.

It also meant some lovely close up shots of players battling their way through the piece, and a couple of some who didn't always look as if they were giving proceedings their absolute attention!

Do I really want to be here? Redbridge's third cornet player enjoys herself!

The BFBB has invested a great deal of time and energy in this contest and it showed as there was a well run feel to things throughout the day. The tiny blips were overcome with humour and good sense, and the decision to make a 1 hour break in the split draw proved worthwhile and popular. People (and the judges) came back refreshed whilst the decision to allow the adjudicators the chance to use a taped recall system of performances to change (or reinforce in this case) their decisions was of real merit. 

The Gala Concert was a good idea that filled the gap and was produced with a lightness of touch. Miss Sykes was a lovely hostess, even if she got a bit muddled with the results, but she has a genuine feel and appreciation for brass bands. She looks a million dollars too even if her baritone playing may not be quite up to Championships Section standard any more. Who cares!!

Melanie Sykes
Melanie Sykes smiles for 4BR! Steady Tiger...

The only downside was the appearance and playing of the Police Fanfare Band. Not quite a sparkling performances from the lads in uniform we must say. Perhaps it was a form of crime prevention?

There were a couple of downsides though which will need attention. The hall as we have said wasn't perhaps ideal, but then again in an age when big venues are multi purpose and more inclined to being theatre rather than concert hall inspired, we can't really complain. Remember when the Europeans were held in sports halls?

Evening all: The lads from the Police show us their new crime prevention technique

The main problem for us though was the question of borrowed players.

There should be no need for bands at this level of contesting to be allowed to borrow players to take to the stage. If this really is a contest to rank up there with the Open or Nationals then allowing bands to fill certain seats with star names is not on.

Black Dyke may not have been at the contest, but Peter Roberts, David Thornton and Andy Holmes from the band were, as was Morgan Griffiths, Neil Hewson and a few others too from other top outfits. It just didn't feel right, and what happens if next year both Dyke and Grimethorpe make it here?

As for the playing of the National Anthem?  Don't quite see why this is still held as being so important, and anyway, how many people actually sang the darn thing this year, even if they may have been slightly surprised by the YBS interpretation.

All in all then a most encouraging start to a contest with a big future ahead of it. Such is its importance that EBBA delegates flew in the see what was going on, met up with the BFBB and reinforced their decision that this is now the only route for English representation at the Europeans. That really did give it the seal of approval.

Roll on next year then. Hopefully there will be no football, the weather will be its usual murky self and the road works will have been repaired.  Then it would just about be perfect.

Iwan Fox.


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