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ABBA AGM

Association of Brass Band Adjudicators AGM
British Federation of Brass Bands Headquarters, Barnsley
Sunday 4th January

4BR sent our man Malcolm Wood to see and hear what the adjudicators had to say at their AGM.


Whatever aspect in life we refer too, people always complain about those in authority for one reason or another. Whether it is politicians, football referees, tennis and cricket umpires, they always annoy the majority because they have to make unpopular decisions. For us in banding, that mantle applies to the judges at contests. It is only the winners that tend to agree with the decision made, but the judge is giving the result as he/she hears it. Along with other representatives from the banding media, 4BR were invited by Dr Roy Newsome & Malcolm Brownbill to observe the afternoon presentations on judging at the Association of Brass Band Adjudicators AGM in Barnsley.

The morning session was taken up with the typical mundane things that AGMs require. The election of officers and reviewing things from the past year, and no doubt a few thoughts on the forthcoming year. The afternoon though was in the capable hands of Brian Buckley and Ray Farr who both gave an insight into the world of adjudicating. It was fascinating stuff. It was definitely not grumpy old men auditioning for the BBC Television series, more a group of people who had one single objective in mind: they want to become better at the job they do.

Being a judge and having the capability to pick out the winners is only part of the story. The importance of communicating the correct messages to the audience after the competition is vital, and this was the topic of Mr Buckley’s presentation: The art of communication and perception (in what and how it is said). I have to say it was a first class summary of what every judge really should do, and without doubt, everybody present will have gained something from the session. It was one of those sessions where it did not make any difference how long those assembled had been doing the job, something was in it for everybody.

The old saying is of course that is ‘fail to prepare, be prepared to fail’. Mr Buckley stressed the need for whoever was in the box to give a little thought to what they would say in written notes and on stage. The point was emphasised that ‘comments made on stage are not always a true reflection of the results’, and this was widely agreed. Judges are no different to anybody else, and do make mistakes, and the presentation was very much a guide to the things that he or she can consider and remember in advance.

Everybody was reminded that the banding audience are no mugs nowadays when it comes to identifying good, bad and indifferent performances these days. Supporters of bands, students of band courses, players and conductors, the media, listen to every word said by the judge, and take it on board, and comment on it afterwards.

With this in mind, Mr Buckley gave the following thoughts for everybody to ponder:

Prioritise what you want and need to say.

Minimise the risk for misunderstanding.

Make sure credibility is given to what you say.

How many times has a judge said ‘Two bands were outstanding today’ – fine, but ‘why’, and when the results and points are announced, third place gets, 183, second, 184, and the winners, 185’ It is a familiar scenario and one which with a bit of thought can be avoided, because clearly, two bands were not outstanding, and a cut above anything else, because the results suggested otherwise.

All comments on stage (and in the remarks of performance) must be structured towards the results, this is vital:

Keep what needs to be said simple and factual. That way, little chance of what is said being misunderstood

Decide what needs to be said, how and why.

Judges must always perform effectively.

All of these points are valid of course, and before Ray Farr commenced his presentation, he made the point that he wished similar advice had been available when he commenced adjudicating.

Mr Buckley made the point that we (judges) can do a great job at contesting, and go on to make a mess with the comments. Not everybody of course is fluent and comfortable with public speaking, and without doubt, taking on board the points raised will be useful.

Ray Farr then gave a chronological review of his experiences in adjudicating. Mr Farr has judged at many events in the UK, Norway, New Zealand & Australian championships, Japan, and he shared numerous stories and anecdotes on things that he had learned down the years.

In addition Ray suggested that judges take the following on board:

Know The Score inside out.

The judge is not judging the best band, it is the best performance.

Gut reaction to the performance. Why did you like/dislike it? Does it meet the judging criteria you are working too?

Remember the skills that you have learnt as a judge, balance, tuning etc

Written comments must reflect all of the above.

An interesting afternoon and it will be interesting to see how judges take on board what they heard in the forthcoming months. Thanks from 4BR to Dr Newsome & Malcolm Brownbill for the invitation to gave an insight into what the adjudicators are thinking about.


Malcolm Wood
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