2003 Butlins Mineworkers Championship
Skyline Resort , Skegness
One of the most horrendous results of the calamitous Miners Strike
of 1984/1985 was not just the great loss of jobs, but the destruction
of the social and cultural infrastructure that bound together nearly
all the mine working communities.
Forget the sugar coated disneyfication that was “Brassed
Off” – what we are talking about is the wanton, but
somewhat forgotten closures of reading rooms, libraries, Miners
Institutes that gave educational and welfare grants, amateur dramatic
societies and local history groups, as well as brass bands. In real
life, working class men and women didn’t grin and bear it,
or put on their band uniforms to go to rehearsal. No, whole working
class families suffered deprivation not only from loss of employment,
but loss of self respect and the loss of opportunity to better themselves
through schemes such as the Derek Ezra Scholarships and CISWO Welfare
Schemes. This was the spiteful, venomous bile that Mrs Thatcher
injected into the veins of the communities – no jobs and no
futures was the mantra. Within five years the industry had been
reduced to a rump of pits a seventh the size it was prior to 1984,
and as a result, the cultural infrastructure disappeared too.
That the Mineworkers Brass Band Championships themselves survived
until 2002 was something of a miracle. They began in 1962, when
the initial winners of the Championship Section were Carlton Main
Frickley conducted by Jack Atherton. In those days, bands were only
allowed to enter if they had a direct link to the mining industry
in that at least 50% of the playing membership had to be persons
employed in the coal mining industry. In those days, the mining
industry was the backbone of industrial Britain, a class of people
that Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once said was one of the three
groups no PM should ever provoke (the other two were the Treasury
and the Vatican).
The terminal decline ended in 2002 with the last CISWO Contest
held in Blackpool, and the future for a once proud occasion seemed
bleak indeed. However, Butlins – a company with a long association
with working class communities through their holiday resorts stepped
in, and more importantly have stumped up a lot of prize money to
attract the bands back to a contest that holds a proud place in
the history of the banding movement.
2003 therefore sees the rebirth of the contest in a new form –
the Butlins Mineworkers Festival, and this initial year has attracted
42 bands from all over the country to the Skegness Skyline Resort.
It may not have the grit and grime of Blackpool, but it does have
an impressive set up in which the contest can take place and a management
headed by Steve Walker who has a background in brass bands, and
who has some ambitious plans for the future.
There has of course been some disquiet in banding circles that
despite the big prizes on offer, bandsmen and women will still have
to pay £12.00 to get into the Resort itself each day, but
on closer inspection, and with clarification from the organisers,
the truth behind the scare stories isn’t as bad as it may
at first seem. The organisers have tried to encourage the bands
to stay on the site itself – with respect to Skegness, the
town itself isn’t quite the Las Vegas of the East, so with
a cost of £35.00 per person for the weekend for a four share
chalet, it would have made sense for the bands to take the opportunity
to stay on site, as the £12.00 daily fee doesn’t apply
to residents. That bands haven’t is a little short sighted,
so those who stay in the town (where we think there won’t
be much in the way of entertainment) will have to pay to get in.
For their £12.00 though they get to use all the facilities
such as the free cinema, swimming pool, the chance to hear Tony
Fisher and even Orville the Duck etc, from dawn till 12 midnight,
so it is still a pretty good day out, and the bus driver doesn’t
have to pay for parking! Band Secretaries should have made more
detailed enquiries it seems.
As for the contests themselves, although the numbers are not as
great as the organisers would have initially hoped, 42 bands it
still a good starting point, and with £5000 up for grabs for
the winners of the Championship Section, somebody will be going
home happy come Sunday night.
The Mining Industry may have declined and almost disappeared, but
unlike coal there seems to be a market for brass bands in the 21st
Century. If only Mrs Thatcher had the sense to realise that nearly
twenty years ago.
The Championship Section
Just five bands will compete for the Championship Section title
and the chance to win the first prize of £5000. That is the
equal biggest top prize in brass band history (the other time was
the one off Harry Ramsden Fish and Chip Championships a few years
back). Given that second prize is £2000, third, £1000
and fourth £500, just one band from Desford, Carlton Main,
Ever Ready, Newstead Welfare and Thoresby won’t be getting
something back for their efforts. Good work if you can win it then.
The contest itself is split into two parts, with a set work (a
rather pointlessly over cut “Les Francs Juges”) testing
the bands on the Saturday and then an entertainment programme to
be performed on the Sunday. The aggregate marks of the two will
decide the winners.
Both Carlton Main and Ever Ready seem the best prepared to tackle
the two parter, fresh as they are after competing at Spennymoor
last week. Ever Ready will be full of confidence after coming third
and winning the entertainment prize there, whilst Carlton Main certainly
didn’t disgrace themselves either. Both are good bands and
with plenty of quality around the stands, they should fancy their
chances of battling it out for the big prize.
Meanwhile those perennial masters of mystery, Desford will come
looking to add a few bob to their coffers as well, although what
shape and form they bring to the contest is anyone’s guess.
On their day they can be very good indeed, and if they play to the
form they displayed in London at the National Finals they will certainly
be contenders. What their current entertainment form is though,
is something of a real mystery. They do concerts and gigs all round
the world, but what they have up their sleeves we will have to wait
and see. They do have some very classy players to showcase though.
Both Thorseby and Newstead will be looking to do well – and
although both have not competed in either of the two big set work
contests at Birmingham or London this year, or at Spennymoor, they
are very solid outfits and could well make a concerted effort to
upset the apple cart. A good show on Saturday could leave them both
going for it big style come Sunday and the Entertainment leg. They
may both well spring a surprise or two.
The competing bands:
Carlton Main Frickley
Thoresby Colliery UK Coal
A small field then, but one that has enough quality about
it to guarantee two high standard mini contests. Ever Ready are
the favourites for us – Spennymoor was a huge boost and should
set them up with enough entertainment ammunition to overcome any
small points deficiencies they may have from the Saturday set wok.
We take them to win. Desford we think will show that they have enough
about them to push them close, whilst Carlton Main should also be
hard on their heels. Newstead and Thorseby should battle it out
not to miss out on the prize list, with Thorseby just edging it
1. Ever Ready
3. Carlton Main
5. Newstead Welfare
13 bands will be battling it out for the chance to win the top
prize of £875. Second place will net £750, whilst third
will get the bands £625 and fourth £500. Good returns
indeed. The contest is in traditional format with just a set work
to be overcome on the Saturday in the shape of the great old war
horse “Rhapsody in Brass” by Dean Goffin – perhaps
the only brass band work composed in the Libyan desert.
The Welsh seem to be out in force with Ammanford Town, Pontardulias
Town, Treherbert and Tylorstown Valley Lines making the long trip
up from the old South Wales coalfield, whilst the 2003 First Section
National Champions, Horden BHK (UK) Ltd Band will also be looking
to add another impressive first prize to their already very successful
year. Joining them from the North East will be Westoe (STHCT), Pride
Valley and Easington Colliery, whilst Yorkshire provides Barnsley
Building Society and Riddings. The Midlands area are represented
by Shirland Miners Welfare and Gresley Old, whilst the Scots will
be represented by Newtongrange.
The competing bands:
Barnsely Building Society
Gresley Old Hall
Horden BHK (UK)
Shirland Miners Welfare
Tylorstown Valley Lines
A close run one this for us, with a number of good solid
bands more than capable of winning and winning well on their day.
The test piece should not hold any terrors for the competitors,
although the third movement is more tricky than you expect, especially
if taken at too high a tempo – sop players will certainly
earn their money on this one.
Horden of course are the National Champions, a prize they won on
fine style under Wilf Beddell in Dundee, but they slipped up somewhat
in Pontins a few weeks back when they could only manage 6th place
under Peter Parkes no less. None of the bands that beat them that
day are here this time, so they should feature close to the top
of the pile once more.
Newtongrange are the other band to keep an eye out for though for
us. Long time Championship Section contenders in Scotland they have
been demoted due to the vagrancies of the Regional results, but
they still retain a healthy core of experience and at this level
it should hold them in very good stead. Close behind them we think
will come the group of Welsh bands with Ammanford in good form of
late, as are both Tylorstown and Treherbert. Gresley came 8th at
the Nationals and Riddings 7th, so they cannot be discounted whilst
Shirland are always a band worth looking out for. Both Pride Valley
and Easington will want to show that after their disappointing showings
at the Regionals when they came 7th and 8th are behind them.
We go for the experience though, and a two way fight between Horden
and Newtongrange for the top honours, with Gresley next and a close
old scrap between a Welsh trio of Ammanford, Tylorstown and Treherbert
making up the top six. Shirland are our Dark Horses.
1. BHK (UK) Horden
3. Gresley Old
Dark Horse: Shirland
Another hard one to call this, with ten bands having a crack at
Philip Sparke’s very tricky “Triptych”. None of
the bands on show here made it to the National Finals in Dundee,
and only Snibston who came 12th and Strata Brass who came 16th were
at Pontins. The form guide is a little patchy then.
Snibston also won the recent Wigston Contest, whilst Hopkins Solicitors
Blidworth Welfare were runners up to them there. Apart from that
and it is a bit of a mystery to us with Lewis Merthyr 8th a few
weeks back in Treorchy, whilst GT Group were 6th at the Wilkinson
Contest. Armthorpe Elmfield were 11th at the Yorkshire Regional
Championship, Frickley and South Elmshall were 5th that day in the
same section. Rockingham are a bit of a mystery as they are here
after a regarding issue that has been sorted out by the Yorkshire
Regional Committee and Shirebrook Miners Welfare came 17th in the
Midlands Regional earlier in the year. It’s a bit of guesswork
Given that some bands have been playing in National contests of
late, we would think they may just have the edge …. then again.
We therefore on the grounds of knowing no better opt for a top six
of Snibston, Blidworth, Strata, Rockingham, Frickley and GT Group
with Felling as the Dark Horse. You never know, we may be even close.
The competing bands:
Frickley and South Elmshall
GT Group Peterlee
Hopkins Solicitors Blidworth Welfare
Shirebrook Miners Welfare
Snibston and Desford Colliery
1. Snibston and Desford Colliery
2. Hopkins Solicitors Blidworth Welfare
3. Strata Brass
5. Frickley and South Elmshall
6. GT Group Peterlee
Dark Horse: Felling Brass
10 bands will be out to impress the judges in the Third Section,
where they will have to get to grips with Peter Graham’s neat
and musical “Dimensions” – a real good test for
the bands. The top prize is £625, whilst the other podium
places get £500, £375 and £250.
Two of the bands on show made it to the National Finals in Dundee,
with Loghgelly coming 12th and Wansbeck’s Ashington coming
16th, whilst none made the long trip to North Wales to compete at
Pontins. Recent form has seen Loghgelly come a fine fourth in the
Borders Entertainment Contest, whilst Shirland were runners up at
Wigston. Apart form that the others have been pretty quiet of late
although Ynyshir can always be relied upon to put in a decent showing.
Crofton came 9th at the Yorkshire Regionals, whilst Dearham were
8th in the North East. Leicester Co-op were 16th in the Midlands,
Maltby were 7th in Yorkshire and Whitwell, 13th in the Midlands.
Another shot in the dark then. Loghgelly for us by a head followed
by Wansbeck’s, Shirland, Leicester Co-op, Ynyshir and Dearham.
Crofton are our Dark Horses. We live and die by our predictions!
The competing bands:
Leics Co-op Snibston, Charnwood
Maltby Miners Welfare
Shirland Welfare Training
Wansbeck's Ashington Colliery
2. Wansbeck’s Ashington Colliery
3. Leics Co-op, Snibston, Charnwood
4. Shirland Miners Welfare
5. Ynyshire Welfare
Dark Horse: Crofton
And finally to the best section of the lot – the Fourth,
with the added bonus this year of a real corker of a test piece,
Peter Graham’s “Haslemere Suite” which was used
at National level a couple of years back. Just the seven bands taking
part, but with prize money that reads £500, £375, £250
and £125 there will be some pretty good pickings for the bands
who can master a difficult but enjoyable test piece.
Two of the bands on show made it to the National Finals and out
in good shows there as well, with Grange Moor coming third and Dinnington
Colliery coming 11th. Pontins saw Kirkby come 9th, whilst other
than that it has been pretty quiet on the contesting front. Dearne
Valley just missed out on a trip to Dundee when they came third
at the Yorkshire Regional Championships, whilst Thurcroft came 8th
at the same contest. Trimdon came 12th in the North East, whilst
Kirkby were 6th there.
All in all then a pretty good line up with two bands for us that
stand out. Grange Moor should if they play to form come out on top,
with Dinnington and Dearne Valley close behind. Kirkby and Thurcroft
should by close on their heels with Creswell making up the top six.
Our dark horse is Trimdon.
The competing bands:
Dearne Valley Brass
Grange Moor Brass
Kirkby Colliery Welfare
Trimdon Concert Brass
1. Grange Moor
2. Dinnington Colliery
3. Dearne Valley
4. Kirkby Colliery Welfare
5. Thurcroft Welfare
6. Creswell Colliery
Dark Horse: Trimdon Concert Brass
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