2010 Lower Section National Finals - Postcard from Harrogate


4BR Editor Iwan Fox reflects on a weekend when memories of a terrible time in Torquay resurfaced once again.

Just when do the results come out on 4BR?
Picture: Steve Jack

Remember Torquay?

Remember the outcry and the fall out? Remember the claims that it shouldn’t ever be allowed to happen again?

Thankfully we didn’t get to the ludicrous situation whereby a winning band started playing on Sunday night and finished on Monday morning  – but it came close enough at Harrogate to rouse the same feelings of disappointment and anger from players, conductors and supporters alike.

Good intentions

Having to wait hours on end from the time of the draw to the time you take to the stage to play is an antiquated way of running things in the second decade of the 21st century, despite the good intentions of the organisers Kapitol Promotions Ltd to try and shoehorn 38 bands into a coherently structured contesting day.

There was sympathy for them too on Sunday, as certain contest elements were completely out of their control, but the usual degree of well drilled organisational flexibility that has been shown by Kapitol over the last six years was missing.

Claims that the day only overran by 29 minutes or so seemed hard to stomach when a host of bands (including the Third Section winners Delph) found that their bus drivers couldn’t hang about any longer in case they broke the law and had to head back to their depots.   

Others waited literally hours to take to the stage, only to race off and get changed on the bus on the way home. Some bands, with school age youngsters and teachers, shift workers and carers didn’t get back to their home until 6.00am on Monday morning.

There were still plenty of smiles at Harrogate
Picture: Steve Jack


There appeared to be a breakdown in communication somewhere – either before the weekend started (a number of bands 4BR talked to, said they were told that Sunday would be over around 9.30pm at the very latest) or during the day, where they appeared to be little information readily available to bands to amend their travel plans as the event unfolded.

4BR has been informed that five bands were asked to get ready for the start of the Third Section after the draw was made, only for them to find out that the Fourth Section contest hadn’t reached the halfway point and was running over time.  

To be fair to Kapitol, 4BR found few people complaining about the Saturday, where 37 bands were accommodated in a swift and efficient manner. Sunday was a different matter though.

Since the move to Harrogate, Kapitol has organised an increasingly progressive championship weekend (the efficient turn around of bands has been a feature over the last few yers), but this was a sign that not even the best laid plans are foolproof.

It was interesting that nobody seemed to be able to put their hand up and say that they were to blame for the choice of a Fourth Section test piece that took the best part of 15 minutes to get through – and up to 20 minutes plus to get bands on and off the stage.

That was an uncomfortable reminder of Torquay too.

Sticking with us

Once again, to be fair to Kapitol’s Philip Morris, he rightly took the opportunity to thank the audience ‘for sticking with us’ as he said at the late night awards ceremony that saw Delph announced as Third Section champion on the stroke of 11.00pm.

By then though he must have known he would have to defend the indefensible.

Even the Third Section adjudicators Kevin Wadsworth and David Lancaster made sure their opinions on the matter were aired in public too, with a razor sharp wit and their acerbic views were not lost on the audience who were still in the hall as the clock approached one hour to midnight.

Slick organisation keeps bandsmen happy...
Picture: Steve Jack

What can be done?

What can be done about it though?

Perhaps less qualifying bands, a different venue, an earlier start time?

Given that the number of competing bands at the Areas fluctuates from region to region, venues, even ones such as Harrogate are not cheap, and nobody wants to get up at the crack of dawn to rehearse a test piece on the morning of a contest – none of these seem likely to change in the near future.

It’s been a delicate balancing act that Kapitol has managed well up until Sunday, but all it takes is one bad experience and all that good works counts for nothing in the minds of understandably disgruntled bandsmen.

A pre draw, or segmented draw however seems a much more sensible approach – allowing bands to structure their weekend without having to run the risk of overtired children causing exhausted parents a headache even before they have played a note.

Here come the girls - Dumfries had plenty of support on the weekend...
Picture: Steve Jack

Not spoil

Kapitol could do this and not spoil the overall feel of the two days – especially when the bar prices are high and the food exorbitant (a plate of oven chips and a beef bap for £8.50) and there is little of note to do in the immediate Harrogate town centre environment except spend more money at even more overpriced outlets.

Bandsmen may even be inclined to go in and listen to more bands if they knew exactly how their day is planned (there was an encouraging crowd in to listen to the Fourth Section but that completely dissipated later in the day. 4BR counted 51 people in the hall for one late draw band in the Third Section).

The organisers have no control over these elements, as much as they do over one band taking close to 9 minutes to set up in the Third Section, but they do over ticket prices, prize money, adjudicators (a fine line up this year to their credit) and making sure they have a clear idea of test piece timings.


There is a great amount of goodwill towards the Lower Section National Finals (with plenty of occasional supporters coming along to enjoy the event), and a good deal also towards the organisers.

It would be a pity if after six well organised years, that goodwill is lost due to a reluctance to accept the need for a further progressive change in the right direction.

Iwan Fox


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