2010 Action Research Entertainment Contest - retrospective


Not even a health and safety scare could put a dent in Elland's winning performance at Blackpool's Opera House. Malcolm Wood donned a hard hat to enjoy all the action...

Winter GardensIf you think that preparing for a contest is a tough job, spare a thought for the organisers.  

At the Winter Gardens, everything had been put in place, ready to go in plenty of time to enable Gary Walczak and his hard working team of volunteers a chance to enjoy the day.  

Then came the news that the roof was unsafe.

The challenge

Fortunately, for Gary and his army of helpers (and it really is an army), the news that the famous Ballroom was unavailable saw them put Plan B into action – or more appropriately, ‘Plan B for Action Research’.

The move to the Opera House was undertaken with minimum fuss and after an enjoyable event ran as smoothly as anyone could have hoped for, Gary was left with another headache:  The ‘new’ venue proved to be an ideal alternative.   

And as for the contest?

It proved to be an absolute cracker.

Think outside the box

Once again, the challenge for the competitors was to come up with something that little bit different - something that hadn’t been done before. Amazingly, the bands on show really did bring some innovative thinking into play once again.   

It also meant that once again, the Action Medical Research Youth Entertainment Contest was an absolute treat.


Creating the whole package is one thing, but the dedication that goes on behind the scenes by players and supporters, family and friends is one of total commitment and dedication to the cause. There was an amazing array of eye-popping presentations on display.

This year, we had opera, ballet, the circus, Americana and much, much more.  The impact of televised dance competitions was certainly seen to fine effect too.

Entertainment adjudicator Stan Lippeatt must have felt he was a cross between Simon Cowell and Arlene Philips such was his need to understand the complexities of the differing disciplines on show.

Loved it

Both Stan and Alan Morrison (marking the musical content in the box), not surprisingly loved every single minute of their tasks.

Alan plans to return to watch next year if his schedule allows, whilst Stan made the point that any number of senior bands should have come and looked at how the young performers put on an entertainment showcase.  

Great friends and colleagues, there was a humorous rapport between the pair on stage when addressing the audience before the announcement of the results.  They spoke with genuine warmth and appreciation of everyone's efforts, were constructive in their remarks but still ensured that the hyperbole was justified.

Important Words

Arguably the most important words of the day came from Alan.  

The Mayor of Blackpool had talked about regrets and ensuring youngsters never had them in later life. The Brighouse MD picked up on the 'if only' point with a prescient bit of advice: “'When you leave these bands, make sure you go onto another band,” he said. “Go into the Fourth Section, build up from there, support your local band, support brass bands.  Enjoy banding, support banding. It’s so important that you do that.”

The wise words were greeted with applause as well as acknowledgement.

Wise marking

Wise words and a bit of well placed wisdom shown in the rather archaic marking structure too.

Unfortunately, this hasn't always been the case in years past, but these judges knew what was needed and how to implement a system with fairness and transparency. Only eleven points separated the bands from top to bottom in the music category, and only seven with the entertainment element.

This wasn’t an artificial reflection of the differences between the bands either – more a sensible differential between degrees of excellence.   

Class apart

The five point winning margin was well deserved.

Stan and Alan had Elland as winners in both categories. There was no doubt about it either.

Their overall performance was a class apart from their rivals, and few could argue against it. They will now receive an invitation to perform at the Brass in Concert weekend later this year.

Carmen inspired

Elland Youth's winning programme certainly wouldn't be out of place if it was copied at The Sage in November.

Samantha Harrison's band opted for a choreographed theme depicting Bizet's tale of that cigar rolling seductress, 'Carmen'.

With the players dressed in costumes (not forgetting the MD in tails), the opening overture gave more than an indication that they were in fine form.

Everybody raised their game and the super bass end took a deserved section award for their part in an excellent overall contribution.

A great deal of thought had gone into the overall presentation:  'The Children's Chorus’ was slick, the band's singer was terrific and trombonist Daniel Eddison took the solo prize courtesy of a cracking display in 'The Toreadors Song'.

'The Bullfight' (which took the ‘Most Entertaining’ award) was cleverly choreographed and full of humour (including a request to save the bull to appease distressed vegetarians in the audience). 

By the time they concluded with the 'Grand Finale: Viva la Fiesta', Elland was already grasping the Action Research title in both hands.

The Cats Tale

Chris Jeans and Youth Brass 2000 have never been shy of trying something a little different, and this year they opted to showcase Peter Graham’s clever ‘Cat’s Tales’ tribute to Elmer and Leonard Bernstein, Henry Mancini, Sonny Rollins and George Gershwin.

From the sharply choreographed 'Catalonia', the presentation, as well as the playing was of a seriously high standard.  As good as the playing was though, (the euphoniums took their section award) the entertainment side didn't retain the innovative impetus of Elland - and it didn't quite tickle Stan Lippeatt's fancy either – placing them 4th.  

They will be disappointed they didn’t retain their title, but on this occasion, they were a fine runner up – losing to an outstanding champion.

America comes third

Poynton’s fine effort gave the young band a deserved third place, and their Americana theme was well presented both from a musical and entertainment perspective.  

'Stars and Stripes Forever' featured a fine cornet player who really nailed the famous obligato part, whilst the band just about clung on to the rapid tempo that MD Andy Hirst opted for in the final bars – they weren't hanging around!

The band's euphonium soloist was a lovely lyrical voice in 'Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair' (as were the ensemble accompaniment), whilst the Pink Panther appeared with a neat lazy feel in the second movement of ‘Cats Tales'.

The band’s soprano player gave a sparkling rendition of 'Solitaire’, before they closed with a fair dollop of razzmatazz - with the flags waving in 'American Trilogy' complete with Elvis on solo euphonium!

Butlins reprise for Enderby

Enderby reprised much of their recent Butlins Mineworkers programme – a sensible idea that worked well.

The theme was the 1960s, with everyone suitably dressed (not that this reviewer could remember first hand – but plenty of parents and grandparents for that matter did - much to their amusement!).

'5,4, 3,2,1' was an effective opening and the band really got into the groove in 'Out of the Blue'.  Their soprano player didn't go unnoticed as his performance in 'Penny Lane' helped him gain the 'Best Sop' of the day and along with his fine cornet partner, delivered a lovely 'Flower Duet' by Delibes.  

The playing standard was maintained throughout the final couple of numbers and the band certainly deserved its place amongst the podium prizes.

That number one feeling

Rochdale Borough Yout
h has a proud record at this contest and until last year had dominated the event for four successive years.   

MD Eric Landon this time opted for 'Popular Classics' – and a selection of easy listening items that wouldn’t have been out of place on Classic FM.

It provided a well balanced programme, effectively presented from the slow walking choreography in the opening 'Bolero', to the comedy moments between the xylophonist's in 'Lizteria' and the ballet dancers who then went to play tubas.

The quality of the playing though didn't quite match up to the entertainment side and there was a feeling that the band had perhaps concentrated a tad too much on the visuals and not enough with the aurels.

It was enjoyable, but they knew they perhaps left their best playing in the bandroom.

Wardle's Middy

chose a challenging programme that was top and tailed with the music of Paul Lovatt-Cooper.   

and 'The Dark Side of the Moon' would test a good band at a higher level and it's fair to say, Lee Rigg coerced two fully committed, if slightly uneven interpretations out of his young troops.  

They were more at ease with 'Breezin Down Broadway', 'Little Prayer' featuring a fine euphonium player with loads of potential, and finally, a cracking performance of the march, 'The Middy' (which gave them the ‘Best March’ prize).

Whilst they had to settle for sixth place overall, they should be delighted that their neat stage presence won them the deportment prize and that accolade of being recognised as possessing the most potential.

Cats but no cream

It was all about new beginnings for Sellers International Youth with Alex Kerwin at the helm.  

The band may not have been in the prizes this time around, but they can be proud of their efforts. The feline inspired programme wasn't without the odd uncertain moment, but Sellers had put a great deal of thought into the presentation (not surprisingly they were dressed as cats) and they certainly enjoyed themselves.  

The band's horn soloist produced a fine rendition of  'Memory', whilst the duet 'Two Cats' was nicely played with a clever touch of humour too.

The circus

The final competitor of the day was Houghton Youth who took everybody on a trip to the circus.

Fun was the key word here.  

The band played well and included 'Come Follow the Band' and the old classic 'Send in the Clowns', whilst there was great hilarity with a movement from 'Elephant Act' - complete with a pachyderm that left a movement prize of a very different kind!  

The final closing number, Paul Lovatt-Cooper's 'The Big Top' epitomized the whole programme – one of fun and great entertainment.

Elland's day

This was Elland's day though and a victory that really did produce ecstatic scenes of well deserved and brilliantly choreographed celebration on stage at the announcement of the results.  

Samantha Harrison is the fulcrum of the band and her hard work and dedication over the years was rewarded by a fabulous performance by her young players who responded magnificently to her direction.

Next year's date is provisionally pencilled in for Sunday 13th February, when it is hoped that the 27th contest will have a full compliment of bands once again.

Gary Walczak and his helpers may not be able to fix the roof, but you can be sure he will fix that problem by for certain.

Malcolm Wood

Action Medical Research Youth Entertainment
Programme of Music

Bands listed in Result order:

1. Elland Silver Youth
Overture to Carmen
Children’s Chorus
The Flower Song
The Torreador's Song
The Bull Fight
Grand Finale: Viva la Fiesta

2. Youth Brass 2000

Cats Tales
I. Catalonia
II. Catwalk
III. Scat
IV. Catnap
V. Toccata

3. Poynton Youth

Stars and Stripes Forever
Jeanie with Light Brown Hair
Catwalk from Cats Tales
American Trilogy

4. Enderby Youth
5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Out of the Blue
Penny Lane
Flower Duet
Soul Bosonova
Macarthur Park

5. Rochdale Borough Youth
So Deep is the Night
A Night at the Ballet
Toccata in D Minor

6. Wardle High School
Breezin Down Broadway
Little Prayer
The Middy
The Dark Side of the Moon

7. Sellers International
Top Cat
Cat o’ nine tales
Duet: Two Cats
Everybody wants to be a cat

8. Houghton Youth
Come Follow the Band
Send in the Clowns
Movement from the Elephant Act
The Big Top


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