The Grand Shield 2001 - Runners and Riders
We give the rundown on the competing bands at the 81st Grand
Shield... and our prediction of the result!
Saturday 5th May
Winter Gardens, Blackpool
Saturday 5th May sees the running of the 81st Grand Shield Contest
- in our humble opinion, the hardest brass band contest of all to
win. As we can at this very moment hear a thousand voices shouting
"Bloody Rubbish", we had better explain ourselves.
The three big British Contests usually have just a small elite
group of bands that can, and usually walk off with the top prizes
year in year out. (Some clever dick will now proceed to reel off
the names of Marple, City of Coventry etc at the Open - but you
get our drift). The Grand Shield however has no elite group, with
the possible exception of the odd band now and again that stands
head and shoulders above the crowd - but even that is not usually
enough to guarantee success. No. To win the Shield you require skill,
talent, a good conductor, a damn good draw and a huge dollop of
luck - as the field you will be playing up against will be formed
of bands that in every way but none, will just about be exactly
the same standard as yourselves from solo cornet to Tam-Tam player.
(We had to get that one in!)
This year is no different, with 20 bands that in reality you couldn't
prize apart with a fag paper and a test piece that all of them will
be more than capable of doing a good show on. Never mind Monsieur
Ballisat's bonkers re-write, this is going to be a neck and neck
race to the finish, with the top two getting the invite for the
So here's our rundown of each of the runners and riders and our
very, very dodgy prediction of who we think will fill the podium
Ashton-under-Lyne. (M. Evans)
5th place last year capped an impressive trek to the top section
for the band from the North West, and since that time the band has
steadied itself impressively in a tough area. Last place in the
Area's though was a set back and they may find that this year's
contest may be a little more difficult to make a mark in. Outsiders.
Aveley and Newham. (N. Taken)
One of the most improved bands in the country during 2000, with
impressive performances at London (7th), Pontins (3rd), Yeovil (1st)
and finally the Regional Championships 2001 (1st). It's that type of
form that makes them out to be one of the favourites, and with a
good team of soloists around the band, "Epic" should suit the Londoners
well. One to look out for we think - although they have a pretty
ordinary record at the Shield over the years. Contenders.
B.T.M. (G. Pritchard)
The young band from South Wales came 4th last year and have continued
to develop and mature under the sensible direction of Gareth Pritchard.
If this progress has been cemented then they can be a real threat
as they have some very fine individual soloists throughout the band.
However, they were very disappointing at Pontins late last year
(17th) and came only 6th at Yeovil in a pretty mediocre field. The
Areas weren't much kinder (7th) although they did play better than
the result showed. Possibles.
Besses o' th' Barn. (G. Pritchard)
Mr Pritchard's second or first band - whichever way you want to
look at it came a very close 3rd last year and have continued to
make steady rather than spectacular progress in the top section.
8th at Yeovil this year was disappointing but they played very well
at the Area (6th) and beat three of their rivals in this contest
to boot. Some quality solo players should see them around and about
the top six, but where exactly could well depend on the amount of
detailed preparation having only 50% worth of MD amounts to. Contenders.
British Telecom. (M. Fowles)
Another band that has gone through the mill somewhat over the past
few years but that has now got back onto its feet. The loss of Peter
Shaw on solo cornet to Fairey's will be a big blow though their
recent 5th place at the North West Area was a very good return to
form and fortune that last year saw them drop out of Pontins. Mike
Fowles is a good safe pair of hands and although they may not repeat
the 2nd place of 1998, they could well feature in the top half at
Bodmin. (S. Sykes)
Up until the end of 2000 this really was a band to look out for
at any contest, but 2001 has been something of an almighty anti
climax for the Cornish band. After narrowly missing out in 1999
for a qualifying place the band seemed to be on the road to further
success after retaining their Yeovil title in 2000 and again qualifying
for the National Finals in London. However, 15th place there and
a disappointing 3rd at Yeovil this year heralded a poor 6th place
at the Areas, where they fielded two soprano's on the day. Now an
outsider, but could still feature given a bit of luck.
The 2001 Areas in the North East saw EYMS return to form after a
fallow period in the late 1990's. The band created by Bob Childs
had won prizes by the bucket full up to that point, and had a 6th
place at the Shield in 1997 but latterly they had struggled somewhat
due to a lack of players and some chopping and changing of the man
with the baton. However, Alan Morrison took the band to Pontins
last year where they played well off an early draw to come an unlucky
12th and continued the improvement with a lovely show on "Jazz"
that gave them second place and a trip to the Finals. Alan's not
at the helm though, so we feel it could be a midfield place this
time around. Outsiders.
Ever Ready. (R. Farr)
Should by anyone's account be one of the favourites for the title,
especially with Ray Farr at the helm and an array of talented corner
men to call on. However, they haven't had much luck impressing the
men in the box of late with 13th place in London followed by 7th
at Spennymoor (amongst some strong company) and a very disappointing
3rd at the Area where they felt they played well but overblew it
a bit. 5th here in 1998, but 16th in 1999 shows they can be a bit
unpredictable. Didn't compete last year so they should be going
all out to get an Open place. Contenders.
Fishburn. (I. Robinson)
The third of the North East's bands and the one in the real rich
vein of form. Confounded the bookies with a super win at this year's
Area where Ian Robinson put together a very classy performance.
Improving and maturing slowly, but very capable of competing for
one of the top spots, they have a good solid team of soloists and
a very good man at the helm which could bring reward. A "light"
sounding band, which may explain why they ended bottom of the pile
at last year's National, but "Epic" could suit their neat and tidy
style and they should improve on 1999's 14th place. Possibles.
First City Brass. (J. Wise)
If ever a band wanted to forget the Areas then these are the boys.
They were awful and still came 4th in a very weak field that they
should have dominated. Jeremy Wise continues to impress with them
however and like fellow London band Aveley, they have greatly improved
over the past two years. The Nationals saw a good quality performance
and 9th and they came 4th at Yeovil this year, which should have
heralded further success at the Area. Should put this behind them
though and will be keen to improve on last years 16th place at this
Kirkintilloch. (A. Ramsey)
The most experienced of the two Scottish bands on show have the
undoubted ability and players to win the contest, and with Frank
Renton at the helm they could well have been very much in with a
chance. However, Mr Renton is elsewhere and they return with less
flamboyant but solid Alan Ramsey at the helm. 6th in 1995 is their
best here in the 1990's and they could only manage 10th last year.
5th at the Areas this year was a little disappointing so they will
be hell bent on achieving a good result. Well worth listening to.
Mount Charles. (B. Hurdley)
The 1999 Pontins Champions have found life a little more difficult
of late, with their defence in November 2000 resulting in 4th place,
Yeovil seeing them get 5th and the Area's seeing another solid if
rather unspectacular 5th. The Grand Shield last year saw another
mid table place (8th) so we can't help but feel that 2001 may see
a repeat of the same. Bryan Hurdley is a top class band trainer
who took Flowers Band to this title in 1998 so he knows what it
takes, but this time out he may find that a top ten place may the
best thing on offer. Outsiders.
Point of Ayr. ( Alan Lawton )
At the end of 2000 this was a band that appeared to have no future,
after they were forced to withdraw from the National Finals in London.
Time has been kind to them and the central core of talented soloists
remained to make a very impressive mark at this year's Regional Championships
in Wales where they took 2nd place and qualified for the Finals
again. On their day they are a very capable band indeed and have
an impressive record at the contest that includes 2nd in 1993, 3rd
in 1997 and 6th in 1998, 8th in 1999, but only 18th last year. Thomas
Wyss is back on top form also and he has just as good a record here
as well with a 3rd, 4th and 5th to his name. Could be in at the
death given a bit of luck. Possibles.
Rolls Royce Coventry. (D. Lea)
The runners-up here in 1999 on "Comedy Overture", return back to
the fray after finding life swimming with the big fish a little
too much for them. Two years at the Open saw them come 22nd and
16th last year, but it wasn't enough to survive - a fate that does
tend to happen to many qualifiers from the contest. A very capable
and solid band well directed by Dave Lea, they have stumbled a little
of late and came a poor 7th at the Areas. The test piece may suit
them again this year, but we feel the Midlanders could be set for
a few years in the qualifying pool with the smaller fry before a
return to the shark infested waters of the Open return again. Outsiders.
Rothwell Temperance. (D. Roberts)
The reigning Pontins Champions are a band that could really make
a mark at the contest this year. With a line-up that includes some
as many old heads as young ones Dave Roberts band has made solid
and durable progress over the past year or more. A talented team
of corner men should provide the foundation for a strong performance.
However, they came a disappointing 8th at this year's Yorkshire
Area where many had tipped them to be the dark horses so confidence
may be a bit shaky. Last year saw them gain 7th place here so they
will be keen to improve. Contenders.
Sellers International. (A. Exley)
A band that has tasted success at the very highest level in the
past ten years find itself somewhat mysteriously scrabbling around
in the qualifiers for the Open after two years in Birmingham that
saw them slump to 17th and 18th and get relegated to the Shield
in 2000. 13th here last year was another slump, but hard work and
a return to form of both players and conductor saw 6th at Spennymoor
amongst top class bands. The Areas were a disaster however and last
place was undeserved for a performance of real merit off the number
one spot in Yorkshire. Could be there or there about and are certainly
due a bit of good luck. Contenders.
Stalybridge Old. (D. Hirst)
A young band that has made remarkable progress over the last few
years and one that is doing well in an area such as the North West
where stronger and more famous bands tend to pick off the talent.
Jim Cant took the band to Pontins in November that saw them come
6th off the number 1 draw in a large field and the Areas saw them
come a solid if unspectacular 8th under David Hirst. They did win
the Rochdale Contest in January ahead of some good bands. They were
last in the Open in 1993, but have a good record of achievement
here with 6th place in 1996, 4th in 1992 and 6th again in 1991.
David Hirst is a quality band trainer and the piece should suit
them more than "Jazz" so a better result may be on the cards. Outsiders.
Thornton's Brass. (S. Shimwell)
A quietly achieving band from the Midlands, Thornton's have a decent
record at nearly every contest they attend without ever quite doing
enough to suggest they will push for a top place. The last two years
here have seen 10th and 11th placings, whilst the Area this year
saw them come 8th. Will never perhaps put the fear of God into the
opposition, but will go about their business with a solid and gritty
determination and a sesnsible approach from Stephen Shimwell. Possibly
the same placing on the cards again. Outsiders.
Unison Kinneil. (TBA)
The second Scottish band to make the trip south of the border will
also be determined to put in a strong challenge. The Regional Championships
saw a rather undistinguished 8th place under the baton of John Hinckley,
especially in view of their excellent 2nd place of the previous
year and brave showing at the Albert Hall where they came 18th.
Good solid corner men all round should see them give a performance
worth listening to, although we feel they may not be able to do
enough to trouble the bands at the top of the list. Outsiders.
Wingates. (B. Grant)
The 1996 winners on "Variations on a Ninth" have gone through a
few variations of their own since Nicholas Childs took them to the
title then. Two years in the Open were not notable with last place
in 1998 sealing their fate back to the qualifiers. Recovery has
been less swift however but possibly more permanent this time, with
James Gourlay taking the band to 6th place last year and Brian Grant
taking them to runners-up spot at Pontins and to a solid 7th at
this year's Area in the North West. On their day can be a contender
at any level (2nd on Jazz at the Masters for instance in 1997),
they have in Brian Grant a very accomplished conductor and a good
set of cornermen more than capable of getting them back into the
Open - again. Contenders.
Last Years Top 6. (No points awarded)
1. Todmorden Old. (D. Hadfield)
2. Glossop Old. (B. Grant)
3. Besses o' th' Barn. (G. Pritchard)
4. BTM. (G. Pritchard)
5. Ashton-under-Lyne. (M. Evans)
6. Wingates. (J. Gourlay)
4BarsRest Prediction for 2001
1. Ever Ready
3. Besses o' th' Barn
4. Sellers International
5. Rothwell Temperance
6. Aveley and Newham
Dark Horse: Point of Ayr