Editorial ~ 2010: September


This month we give our opinions on British Open relegation, bringing bands back to Manchester and praise voices from the past.

A fairer method of Open relegation

Nobody wants to taste the bitter pill of relegation – especially when it comes with a band losing its place at the most prestigious brass band competition of them all – the British Open.

Rules are rules of course, but whilst the Open has encompassed change and has seen an overall reduction in the number of competing bands from as many as 23 at the start of the Millennium to 17 this year, the method of deciding who gets relegated has remained the same for far too long.

Perhaps the time has come for that to be amended too.

Kirkintilloch’s relegation to the Grand Shield on the back of a 9th & 17th place over two years, brought a great deal of sympathy even from the hardest nosed of rivals.  

One bad result it seems can now send you back to the wastelands of Blackpool.

No one is too good to be relegated, as even the great Brian Clough once said, but it does seem a little unfair that a combination of one bad performance, a possible poor draw and even the inclusion of a foreign band, can combine to seal your fate after just two years.

Now that the British Open has settled on compact contest format that allows for a much better day’s competition in terms of the music chosen as well as the duration of the contest itself, perhaps the competitors could be better served by a slightly more sympathetic relegation process – say over three, instead of two years.

It won’t of course mean that the bitter pill of relegation tastes any sweeter for those unfortunate souls that fall through the trap door to Blackpool, but it may well be a more equitable method of reflecting a longer term substantive drop in class rather than a temporary dip in form.

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Bringing bands back to Manchester

There is something about brass bands and Manchester.

The historical contest link may have been broken with the city when the British Open moved to Birmingham, but it will always have a special place in the hearts of top-level bandsmen.

And the evidence of the most recent Great Northern Brass Arts Festival may also suggest that the time has come to consider a contest move back to the city once again too.

Over 5,000 people paid for the privilege to listen to a wide variety of bands at Bridgewater Hall on the weekend, and whilst it may be fanciful to believe that there will be the same demand for a contest held at the same venue, it may be worth exploring the possibilities a little further.

Bridgewater Hall itself is a pretty good venue, and whilst many will argue that the sharp acoustic and lack of space would hamper bands and organisers respectively, it does offer something to at least think about.

Take someone with a clear, well defined marketing strategy, good PR skills and the vision to bring top line brass band competition back to the very place where it all began nearly 160 years ago and see what happens.

Then again, the BFBB may think of putting on the English National there.

If someone is brave enough to try, they may find that a return to the birthplace of Championship brass band contesting may well turn out to be a long overdue success.  

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In praise of voices from the past

Hugh Johnstone is 86 years of age and a wealth of brass band information.  

He recently recalled to 4BR the story he knew about the origins of the current British Open Trophy. He had it all written down somewhere he said, but the vast majority of his memories were just that – unwritten gems logged in the active recesses of his razor sharp mind.

It would be a great pity then that in years to come those memories, and a treasure trove of others like them from all corners of the banding world are lost with the passing of a generation that can recall banding basking in the dying embers of its glory years before the Second World War.

With technology as it is, perhaps it’s time to start to record their recollections for posterity – in a kind of audio library to be held at the Brass Band Archives.

Others have done so before in print, but there is something even more evocative about hearing about the great days of the banding movement first hand.

Time then to capture the memories before they are lost forever.

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