There is always a smile and a reason to celebrate in Darlington...
Picture: Steve Jack
2013 will mark the 30th anniversary of the Dolphin Centre hosting the North of England Championships.
Even after three decades it may not be the most memorable venue in the banding world, although the people who come here certainly make it amongst the friendliest.
The welcome is always accompanied by a smile and a sense of humour, with Regional Secretary Alan Hope and Chairman, Peter Dalby running a cracking contest that certainly makes the most of the available resources.
The weekend was a personal landmark for Alan.
2012 marked his 21st year as Regional Secretary, making him not just the longest-serving secretary across all the regions, but also a timely reminder that he will be a very hard man to replace when he finally decides to sit back and enjoy the weekend as a punter rather than a hard pressed administrator.
With a smile on his face, he may joke that he's mad to have carried on in the role for such a length of time, but banding in these parts owes him a huge debt of gratitude for his dedicated service.
You can't blame him either for taking the opportunity to present a new ‘Best Trombone Section’ trophy that he and wife Ann donated for use in the First Section.
As he laughingly pointed out - he felt he had better get it done before it became a memorial award!
See what we mean?
Great and good
Darlington also welcomed the great and good too, with Peggy Tomlinson accompanied by husband Malcolm enjoying themselves free from the pressures of Yorkshire Area duty, whilst it was good to see both Nicola Bland on behalf of Kapitol Promotions and Terry Luddington from the BFBB.
Bands can feel a little isolated in these parts – so it was good to see they were not forgotten on a weekend when both Wales and London were in competition too.
It was also a weekend of quite spooky numerical coincidences - from Barton’s return to the National Finals 105 years after their last appearance, to the surreal oddity that saw Reg Vardy miss out on the Albert Hall for the first time since 2001 - on the very same day they last failed to make it there.
The most heart-warming sight though was seeing banding photographer/journalist and Sunderland fanatic, Steve Jack back in action after a long layoff due to illness.
The North of England is Steve's manor and he knows everybody and they know him.
The applause that rang around the hall when his return was announced showed just how much the banding community in these parts have missed him.
And that told you everything you needed to know about the people who make this championship such a joy.