2010 Pontins Championships - Postcard from Prestatyn


Memories of 1988 came flooding back at Pontins on the weekend - and that may be its biggest problem for the future...

Pontins pointing to the future...

The memories came flooding back standing near the door of the toilets in the arcade next to Lunars Hall.

Like one of those wobbly flashback moments you see in rubbish films, a chance meeting with an old friend saw the 4BR Editor hanging outside the bogs waxing lyrical over the delights of Pontins circa 1988.

Easy to look back
And that’s the great strength, as well as the inherent weakness, of these championships in Prestatyn: It’s so easy to look back and not forward on this particular contesting weekend.

Back in the days of mullet haircuts, white trainers and big glasses, Pontins was a young man’s delight. Even the Bavarian Stompers catch phrase of, ‘Charcoal, Charcoal, stick it up your….’ got us all up on our seats, bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale in hand, swaying back and forth like a bunch of seals waiting for a bucket of fresh fish to be thrown our way.

But 1988, was also the year in which Tredegar Band (I was playing sop for them) took the decision to take Pontins a bit more seriously. It was the last time the band decided unilaterally to stay on camp for the weekend.

The usual Pontins celebrations...

Rock hard

Just like 2010, the test piece was an absolute rock hard cracker – ‘The Year of the Dragon’.

To celebrate the fact that we were determined to have a good time of it, our ‘Artist in Residence’ (the band was years ahead of its rivals in so many ways!) commissioned tee shirts emblazoned with the historic tag line; ‘ Pontins 1988 – Year of the Flagon’.

We knew our priorities.

Never mind about the playing on the Sunday, Saturday night at Pontins meant one thing and one thing only – getting bladdered.

We came 15th.

We returned to the contest in 1990 after the exasperated band committee decided that the band should stay in Llandudno - away from the bright lights, cheap beer and the sounds of men in shorts playing Germanic beer songs with a Manchester accent.

We won the title.

Looking back in time...


And in a nutshell that now tells you perhaps why Pontins is no longer the contest its once was.

Despite the great prize money, the excellent organisation and the challenging test pieces, it still projects itself in the same way it did 22 years ago.  The Harry & Margaret Mortimer Championship Section still takes place in the ‘Fun Factory’ Hall.

The wonderful Darrio Touhladjiev has managed to keep Pontins involved in brass band contesting for 37 years, but even he, with a nice line in irony, admitted that they were a little disappointed by the turn out of bands on the weekend – 57 bands in total.

Still a fine figure – but not what the bean counters want to see when they come to look at the ‘heads on beds’ balance sheet.

’Perhaps it’s the difficult test pieces, or the increased prize money,’ Darrio said with tongue firmly in cheek at each of the results ceremonies.


Whatever the reasons, bands are no longer staying at Pontins for the weekend in the numbers they once used to. It has become a contesting day out, rather than an ‘on camp’ contesting weekend.

Pontins has invested heavily in the Prestatyn Resort (a cracking ice rink, upgraded facilities and amenities), and there is more to come in what is to be a £50 million re-development.

However, money alone will not rid it’s image to a new generation of bandsmen and women and their families of a time when Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister, Robert Maxwell was found bobbing in the seas like the wreck of the Hesperus, and Liverpool were winning football matches.

Times change, people change, banding has changed.

Players now want more for their hard earned cash than just the chance for their bands to pick up a very substantive wad of prize money – and they want something more than the same old entertainment, however spruced up, to be provided for them if they are to stay on site. 

There is no problem with the contests themselves (although the test pieces chosen by James Scott were severe this year). There is nothing wrong with the welcome, the organisation, the rules (the five borrowed player rule is there to be utilised) – and certainly not the prize money.

That's where Pat's been hiding all these years... 

More stuff

All the weekend could do with is a something just as good elsewhere on the resort to give the bands that feeling that the contest is looking forward to reaching its 40th birthday rather than just looking back to better years gone by.

More stuff like the British Army Brass Band concert, which has proved to be hugely popular, less that’s as old as William Rimmer’s version of ‘Les Preludes’.

Pontins has been a superb supporter of the banding movement, and is keen to hear bandsmen’s views and opinions to help it reach that goal.

So why not get in touch with them (www.pontins.com/bandchamp) through the Contest Administrator Darrio Touhladjiev or the controllers Frank Hodges and Colin Morrison.

They are keen to listen to well thought out ideas and even keener to ensure Pontins has a bright banding future. They deserve our support.  

Lets just hope they don’t want to put on a 1980’s revival night though.

The memories are still too painful…

Iwan Fox


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