2010 British Open Championships - Postcard from Birmingham


As lasting images of the British Open go, none could beat the sight of the late night admirers at the winner's hotel...

British Open
Sitting pretty: The Golden Trophy awaits its next destination...
Picture: Ian Clowes

As the gleaming British Open Gold Challenge Trophy sat proudly in the bar of the Tredegar hotel late on Saturday night, one of the most bizarre post contest sights in the competition’s 158 year history unfolded before your very eyes.

Lining up to have their picture taken next to the iconic shield were what looked like a snaking line of half a dozen Pakistani businessmen: all smartly dressed, gleaming smiles, and beautiful manners.


Was this the real ‘spot betting syndicate’ the 'News of the World'  newspaper had really been talking about?  The Asian bookmakers who had made a financial killing on another one-day tournament in downtown Edgbaston?

Thankfully not - just six of the wonderful staff at Tredegar’s Birmingham hotel, all of whom kept the bar open well into the wee small hours for the Welsh celebrations, and for their trouble were delighted to have their picture taken with the most famous piece of silverware in the brass band world.

In the year’s to come, patrons of the Portman Hotel in Hagley Road will now be greeted on the walls of the reception area not just with signed pictures of Frank Bruno and David Jason thanking them for their hospitality, but also the 2010 British Open Champions.

Finding the right level at Symphony Hall
Picture: Ian Clowes

Bizarre twist

In a bizarre twist of fate however, Tredegar will be staying in the very hotel in London for the forthcoming National Finals that the News of the World bagged their cricket story.

You couldn’t make it up…

The scene rounded off a memorable day at Symphony Hall for a contest that despite its age, still manages to display a wonderfully capricious appetite for unexpected drama.

Something happened last Saturday that brought the grand dame of the contesting world to youthful life again – from the increase in audience numbers thanks to a hugely popular test piece and draw that had all the elements of intrigue and excitement from the word go, to the musical kaleidoscope of 17 high class renditions from the competing bands themselves.

Stephen Cobb receives his Iles Medal
Picture: Ian Clowes


The day ran like clockwork thanks to the slick operation of the backroom staff, the excellently produced programme and study score were more than value for money, the traders were kept busy, there were a delightful set of additional presentations all rounded off by that final heart stopping moment when a unique piece of brass band history was made.

The 158th British Open had it all.


The drama in fact unfolded before a note had played for Martin and Karyn Mortimer, as on their way to Birmingham, their car came to a complete halt whilst travelling along at 60 miles an hour on the motorway.

Potential disaster was averted by Karyn’s quick reflexes as she managed to pull over onto the hard shoulder before anyone else flew into the back of them. Their delight after a long, exhausting, but highly successful weekend will only be tempered slightly by the bill for repairs to the family Porsche.

Once again the Mortimer’s are steering the British Open successfully towards an exciting future.   

Brian Taylor receives his Mortimer Medal
Picture: Ian Clowes

Further drama

There was further drama however at the draw, with the usual mix of relief and disappointment as the various band representatives pulled out their fates from the velvet bag.

With just the two left to dip in, and with the rest of the band reps waiting with bated breath, draw numbers 1 & 5 remained. Hepworth went first and picked out number 5, leaving Cory, the defending champion, to draw Kelly’s Eye.  

You could have bottled the scarcely concealed sense of schadenfruede in the room as an aftershave.

With news of the Cory’s early doors defence, the audience piled in to listen to the Welsh giants, and with the draw also giving the chance to hear other fancied runners such as Brighouse (2), Leyland (6), Tredegar (8), Rothwell (9), Fairey (Geneva) (12), Black Dyke (13), Grimethorpe (15) and Foden’s (17), there was plenty to keep them in their seats for the next seven hours or more.

Martin Mortimer follows in his father's giant footsteps with the Iles Medal
Picture: Ian Clowes

Fed and watered

The addition of a well timed, and properly announced tea break after band number 9 was also well planned, so not just the three judges came back for a second half well fed and watered.

And so by the time they enjoyed a clever, self deprecating, but very familiar speech from Bill Relton, the thoroughly well deserved presentations to Stephen Cobb and Brian Taylor of the Iles and Mortimer Medals, and the four Harry Mortimer Memorial Trust Awards to Benjamin Richeton, Joanne Payne, Zoe Hancock and Sarah Watkins, the day had fairly sped along to its conclusion at a respectful time too.

The contest still throws up its little anomalies though – from the fact that it is now 56 years since the last band won off the number 1 draw, to Kirkintilloch being relegated to the Grand Shield just 12 months after posting a ninth place finish.  

The reduction of competitors has undoubtedly meant quality rather quantity is the overriding ethos governing the contest once more, but it also means that a band cannot now afford a temporary dip in form or contesting luck (the exclusion of Brisbane Excelsior’s 10th place finish in calculating the two year aggregate didn’t help the Scots either) if they are not to be threatened by relegation back to Blackpool.

Those looking over their shoulders next year will now include Grimethorpe (who ended in 9th) and Brighouse & Rastrick. Nobody is now immune to a possible spell of B&B on the Golden Mile.


It of course makes this contest such an exciting event, but perhaps the time has come for the organisers to look to make it a three year relegation aggregate in future – to safeguard bands against the disproportionate effects of a ‘one off’ bad result?

Still, as the audience filed out into the bustle of the Birmingham thoroughfares there was a buzz about the British Open once again – the type of buzz that only comes when a truly great contest has the ability to give just about everyone just what they wanted from it.

Even for those slightly bemused Pakistani hotel barmen.

Iwan Fox


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