The 4BR Special Award this year goes to a remarkable musician who continues to seek new artistic horizons.
Allan Withington is a traditional brass band man at heart — with a family heritage that links back to the glory years of the Wingates Band in the early 1970s and beyond.
However, it is hard to think of another conductor of the past 20 years or more who has so actively sought to explore the potential of the brass band as an artistic entity away from the restrictive confines of the test-piece contest stage.
Not that he hasn't been incredibly successful on them — as his outstanding list of accomplishments show; with National titles in the UK, England, Norway, North America and Switzerland to add to the World Championship, British Open, Brass in Concert, All England Masters, Siddis, French Open and French Open accolades amongst many others.
He has worked with many of the world's leading orchestral conductors and bands and was awarded the Iles Medal in 2001.
However, his competitive successes form only a small part of his expansive musical environment — one that sees him travel extensively throughout the globe seeking inspiration for a series of projects and commissions that bring brass bands to new audiences.
The initial genesis has been nurtured in Norway — and especially through his association as a trumpet player with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, where for eight years he was also responsible for helping develop their renowned series of inter-generational family oriented concerts.
Designed to inform, enlighten and entertain, he even created a show for the Norway's Princess Martha Louise to host — after knocking on the Palace door to be introduced in person.
This is the ethos that runs in his musical DNA — and why he continues to strive to break down barriers and seek to explore those exciting new horizons.
There are no restrictions to his imagination, no excuses for not trying something new in the creative process.
In 2018 his production about the life of the enigmatic French fashion designer Coco Chanel, featuring Manger Musikklag, dancers and puppeteers was one of the highlights of the prestigious international Festspillene in Bergen.
It was also the latest in a line of critically acclaimed productions that he has created in association with like minded artists and musicians — notably on the lives of figures such as King Arthur, Joan of Arc (which was initially performed in the village of his second home in Monflanquin in France), Edward Grieg and Marlene Dietrich, to subtly acerbic musical analogies and metaphors — such as a programme that wittily explored pre-technological life in a 17th century royal court or the politics of the 21st century world through the literary lens of William Shakespeare.
There are no restrictions to his imagination, no excuses for not trying something new in the creative process4BR
2018 also saw the tenth anniversary of his international Conducting Summer School, which has inspired well over 150 student delegates from all corners of the world to think outside the confines of the space they occupy in front of a brass band, by working with fashion students and chefs, a leading rhetorician or even performing in a prison environment.
His work ethic is immense — as his musical appetite to seek out like minded people, bands, composers, artists and creators in any sphere of life to satisfy it.
Like any musician he has had his critics, endured disappointment and rejection.
However, he has always remained one of the most intelligent, engaging, knowledgeable and welcoming of men too — helped and supported as always by his wonderful wife Kirsten.
He is an inquisitive pioneer of unbridled musical passion — and the banding world owes him a great debt of gratitude for being so.