West of England Regional Championships
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After all the thrills and spills of the rest of the Regional contests
around the UK, its now the turn of the bands in the West of
England to give us a contesting weekend to remember and to round
up the list of qualifiers for both Torquay and London later in the
Banding in the West Country is a bit of an odd thing, as geographically
it not only comprises bands from the traditional peninsula of Devon
and Cornwall, but also includes bands as far west as the Forest
of Dean, north to Gloucester, west to Bournemouth and nearly in
France, with Jersey!
In the overall picture of things the West of England may not be
the strongest of the Areas in playing standards, but it does have
84 bands all keen and competitive, and all wanting to make an impression
on the judges and get the trip to the Finals. The last couple of
years has seen a little bit of a renaissance though and 2002 may
see the top section bands finally make the breakthrough back to
the highest levels that was once only the preserve of the famous
Sun life Band.
Below the Championship level things are looking rosier too, with
fine performances in 2001 from a number of bands. Could this be
the year that they too make their mark especially as they
will only have to make the short journey to Torquay for the Finals?
The Colston Hall, Bristol
Saturday 6th April
Adjudicator: William Relton
Aldbourne (B. Grant), Bodmin Town (Russell Gray), Bournemouth Concert
Brass (Nigel Taken), Camborne Town (F. Renton), Cinderford (L. Baglin),
Flowers (P. Harper), Hyde (P. Wise), JAG Mount Charles (B. Hurdley),
SWT Woodfalls (G. Cutt), Thornbury (tba), Yeovil Town (P. Bailey).
The Colston Hall in Bristol sees the last group of top section
bands tackle Whitsun Wakes and for us this could
well be the closest of all the contests to decide who makes the
trip to the Royal Albert Hall. Just a glance at the list of past
champions in the past five years will show that only Flowers have
managed to win the contest more than once and that none of the bands
who have won the contest have actually gone on to retain their title.
That can mean one of two things. Firstly that none of the bands
has been strong enough year on year to beat their fellow rivals
on a consistent basis (you have to go back to the tenure of Sun
Life for that), or more likely the field contains a whole raft of
bands of much the same standard: We opt for the latter. So whom
do we think this year will come out on top?
Aldbourne have a pretty consistent record here, but 2001 didnt
really see them set the world on fire on the contest stage, and
their performances have tended only to be good enough to claim mid
field placings wherever they have gone. 3rd at Weston, 6th at Wychavon,
13th at Yeovil and 7th at Reading tend to confirm that they are
a very capable band that needs a bit more quality in the ranks to
make a mark. They have opted to go for the experienced Brian Grant
this year instead of David Williams so they may get one of those
new manager boosts (a bit like Everton at the moment)
and get into the prize list.
We at 4BR totally underestimated Bodmin through 2001 and we rightly
ended up with more egg on our faces than even Edwina Currie could
manage. Each time we wrote off their chances, they came back and
stuck two fingers up at us and they just missed out on qualification
to the Open, when they came 3rd at the Grand Shield and played very
well at the Masters to come 12th. Russell Gray leads them this time
and with a recent runner up spot at the Yeovil contest at the beginning
of the year and a win at Bugle they should feature up and around
the podium again.
Bournemouth Concert will be hoping to carry on the good form of
the past few months, when under the baton of Major Chris Davies
they gained 4th place at Yeovil and beat a number of higher ranked
bands into the bargain. 2001 saw them come 6th at Reading as well,
and with a good core of solid players around the stand they will
be hoping to feature higher up the prize list than they have done
here for the past few years at least.
Camborne Town come to the contest as reigning champions, but if
the rumours are anything to go by, they will be having great difficulty
trying to repeat their success and become the first band since Sun
Life in 1995/96 to retain the title. Last years win saw them
travel to the Albert Hall and come a disappointing 19th, and they
have been very quiet on the contest appearances of late. Frank Renton
is once again at the helm, but he could find that it wont
be as easy as last year and a repeat of his Scottish win may just
be out of his reach.
The legendary Lyndon Baglin, who has already booked his place at
the Albert Hall by playing with BAYV Cory during their recent Welsh
Regional Championship win, will take Cinderford on stage. Whether
or not he can bring something special to help Cinderford in their
attempt we will have to wait and see, as this will be the bands
first year back in the top section since 2000. Last year they came
runner up in the First Section here and went on to claim 11th place
at the Lower Section National Finals. The step up in class though
is a big one and they may be happy securing their position in midfield
this time round.
2001 was a peculiar year for Flowers and Philip Harper, and as we
suggested in our End of Term Report on the band in December,
Flowers were consistently the most inconsistent band on the circuit.
When they were good they were very good (5th place at the Masters,
3rd at Yeovil and 9th at London), but all too often it all went
a bit peetong and they just couldnt do a thing right. They
dropped out of the Open after coming 21st and were beaten by a couple
of lower section bands at a local contest and when they crossed
the Severn Bridge to take part in the Welsh Miners contest. They
have plenty of class around the stand, but at times they do tend
to go for it in a big way and come a cropper. Buoyed
by the recent result at Yeovil and the win at Wychavon they should
be back on track and we can see them just about squeezing into the
frame and back on the bus for London.
Hyde came 8th last year, when under the baton of Jeremy Wise they
put in a solid performance that saw them take a couple of scalps
in their first year in the top flight. 2001 has also seen them come
2nd at the Wessex contest, come 7th at Folkestone and 10th at Wychavon,
so they have managed to start building a secure foundation that
should see them come through this test. Mr Wise is a canny MD at
the best of times, and he will certainly know not to expose the
bands limitations in a vain hope to copy the bigger blowing bands
on the day. Another solid performance and a few more scalps could
be a good result.
JAG Mount Charles had a fairly spectacular year in 2001, but even
though they did win splendidly at Pontins, Torquay, Hall for Cornwall
and Yeovil, they also failed to make an impression at the two higher
class contests they competed at. 17th at the Masters and 14th at
the Grand Shield are a reminder that there is still a lot of work
to do for the band to become consistent and feared performers against
the bigger and better bands. This therefore is the crux of the matter
for them as they approach the Area contest a competition
that has seen them only come as high as 4th in the past five years.
They surely come to Bristol as pre match favourites, and rightly
so, but they will also come to the contest knowing that if they
are to be taken seriously then they must start winning or gaining
a qualification spot at the very least only then we could
we measure how good they really are. Interesting.
SWT Woodfalls had a pretty decent 2001, and of the rumours are anything
to go by confidence is high in the camp that they could very well
get a return trip back to the Albert Hall for the first time since
1998. They have engaged Garry Cutt to spearhead the challenge this
time round and that should ensure a quality interpretation at least,
but they will have to improve on their form that saw them come 20th
at the Maters, 6th at Yeovil and 5th at Pontins if they are to squeeze
their rivals out of the way and gain a qualification place.
Thornbury return to the top section for the first time since 1999
and in the past two years they have been triumphant at the contest
in the First Section. They have been making steady progress during
2001 and they came 13th at the National Finals in Preston and followed
that up with two second places at the Torquay contest. Another band
that will hope to secure their long term future in the top section
and will be looking to take a few scalps this time around at least.
Philip Bailey will once again lead Yeovil into battle and they will
be keen to improve on their 4th place of last year. 2001 saw them
come 11th at the Wychavon contest and 11th at Pontins, although
they did win the Wessex contest. We saw Philip Bailey at the Welsh
Area contest where he steered a poor Burry Port Band through the
set work with a sensible and well though out interpretation and
if he repeats that again with Yeovil they could well feature in
the prizes again.
So who is it going to be then? We at 4BR are not usually the types
to chicken out on giving you our dodgy prediction, but this is for
us a contest just about too close to call. Anyone of four or even
five bands could well win, and win comfortably, but if they all
perform to form it could be a very difficult decision for the experienced
William Relton. JAG Mount Charles are the favourites and on paper
they should have enough about them to win and further emphasise
their rise towards the top echelons of the banding tree, but both
Flowers and Bodmin have enough class around the stand to push them
out of even qualifying if they dont quite do the business.
Camborne may even repeat their triumph of 2001 and we cant
discount Woodfalls or Yeovil, or even Bournemouth.
Still, well stick our neck out and go for Mount Charles to
pip (and we mean pip) Flowers and Bodmin this time around. If we
get it wrong then at least we told you so in advance.
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 7th
Last Five Years: 4th 1st Section 1997; 2nd 1st Section 1998; 6th
1999; 5th 2000; 7th 2001
A consistent record of achievement at the contest in the past few
years, yet they just havent done enough to secure a qualification
spot since they returned to the top flight in 1999.
Brian Grant takes over the helm from David Williams for this year
and they will be hoping to gain at least a podium position. Will
need to play well though to better the 5th place in 2000.
4BR Ranking: 33
Last Year: 6th
Last Five Years: 2nd 1997; 3rd 1998; 1st 1999; 2nd 2000; 6th 2001
Russell Gray takes the band this year and they will be hoping to
better the disappointment of 6th place in 2001. They have a fine
record here though and won the title in 1999 under Nicholas Childs
and qualified for the Finals again in 2000.
Enough quality around the stand should see them at least secure
a podium position, but can they squeeze into Finals and push out
their rivals? Well have to wait and see.
Bournemouth Concert Brass
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 10th
Last Five Years: 3rd 1997; 6th 1998; 4th 1999; 7th 2000; 10th 2001
In 1997 the band just missed out to a trip the National Finals by
a couple of points, but since then they have fallen away somewhat
at the contest and came a lowly 10th last year.
Buoyed on by a good showing at Yeovil though, they will be looking
to see if they can once again come in the prizes and even sneak
into the winning enclosure. It may be hard though and it could well
be an improvement on last year that may be their reward. The experienced
Nigel Taken who recently qualified with Aveley & Newham directs.
4BR Ranking: 50
Last Year: 1st
Last Five Years: 4th 1997; 2nd 1998; 3rd 1999; 6th 2000; 1st 2001
The reigning champions had to wait 11 long years to stop the title
winning drought that started after they last won here in 1990, but
they have always been there or thereabouts and Frank Renton leads
for the second year to try and gain another London trip.
They have quality players around the stand, but they have had to
replace many players who have left since last year. The rumours
say that they a little off the pace this year, but they also said
that last year as well. Well see.
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 2nd 1st Section
Last Five Years: 2nd 1st Section 1997; 3rd 1st Section 1998; 9th
1999; 8th 2000; 2nd 1st Section 2001
Back in the top flight after losing their status following relegation
in 2000, Cinderford have improved immeasurably under the baton and
direction of Lyndon Baglin.
Whether that could be enough well have to wait and see, but
they will be keen not to fall into the cycle of promotion/relegation
once more. Two promotions and one relegation on the last five years
shows how hard it is to secure a place in the top flight.
4BR Ranking: 17
Last Year: 2nd
Last Five Years: 1st 1997; 4th 1998; 2nd 1999; 1st 2000; 2nd 2001
The champions here in 1991, 1994, 1997 and 2000 would seem to be
in a three year cycle of winning performances and so it wont
be until 2003 on paper until they triumph again.
They will be keen however to crack the curse and as they have only
failed the once in the past five years to qualify for London, they
should have enough about them in terms of class and experience to
make it again this year. Philip Harper has his first crack at qualifying
with the band as for the past two years Flowers relied on Richard
Evans. Can Mr Harper do the business?
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 8th
Last Five Years: 7th 1st Section 1997; 9th 1st Section 1998; 1st
1st Section 1999; 6th 1st Section 2000; 8th 2001
Jeremy Wise leads the assault with his fathers band for the
second successive year, and they will be keen at least to improve
on last years 8th place.
They were consistent performers in the First Section and won that
tile here in 1999, so it says a lot about how much they have improved
that since they were promoted after coming 6th in the first section,
they have secured their position in the top flight with a little
bit of comfort.
JAG Mount Charles
4BR Ranking: 28
Last Year: 5th
Last Five Years: 5th 1997; 5th 1998; 8th 1999; 4th 2000; 5th 2001
On paper, the band to beat on their past record over the
last five years, the band that has to improve somewhat to even gain
a qualification place. 2001 was great, but 2001 is now history and
even though they won Yeovil in style this is the real litmus test.
Bryan Hurdley takes the band for the sixth time, and they will be
going hammer and tongs to improve on a record that can only boast
4th place in 2000 as their recent best. Will this be the year
the omens are good, but are they really up to it?
4BR Ranking: 57
Last Year: 3rd
Last Five Years: 6th 1997; 1st 1998; 5th 1999; 3rd 2000; 3rd 2001
Another band that has a fine record over the past five years and
they just missed out twice in 2000 and 2001, when under Peter Parkes
they performed as good as they have ever done.
The 1998 winners under Melvyn White have now got Garry Cutt to lead
their assault, but they are up against some real quality bands and
they could just find it another year of a near miss. A podium place
is not beyond them, but can they raise their game further and get
a trip to Kensington?
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 1st 1st Section
Last Five Years: 8th 1997; 7th 1998; 10th 1999; 1st 1st Section
2000; 1st 1st Section 2001
The First Section Double Champions return back to the
top flight for the first time since they struggled during the late
Philip Harper was the man instrumental to their resurgence and it
will be interesting if they bring that form to bear now that they
are up against a much higher class of opposition. Watch this space.
4BR Ranking: None
Last Year: 4th
Last Five Years: 1st 2nd Section 1997; 1st 1st Section 1998; 10th
1st Section 1999; 2nd 1st Section 2000; 4th 2001
A band that has come a long way in a short space of time. Just a
few years ago they were competing (although they were winning) the
second section, and they have followed this up by winning the first
section in 1997 and gaining promotion following their runner up
spot here in 2000.
4th last year was a fine achievement and Philip Bailey has continued
the solid foundations laid down by Steve Sykes. They could well
come high up again this year, but they may find it a bit harder
and they wont be an unknown quantity this time around.
Dark Horse: Bournemouth Concert
2001: Camborne Town
1999: Bodmin Town
1998: SWT Woodfalls
1996: Sun Life
1995: Sun Life
1993: Sun Life
1992: Sun Life
1990: Camborne Town
1989: Sun Life