2005 Regionals: Wales - Introduction

7-Mar-2005

The Brangwyn Hall in Swansea will see 52 bands take to the stage this weekend in what promises to be a keenly fought over series of contests from a vibrant Welsh banding scene.


Although the Welsh Region is one of the smallest in terms of the number of bands taking part, it remains one of the strongest in terms of what its bands achieve on the contest stage year in year out. That gives the Welsh a great deal of pride - but it is also the case that the Welsh are never happy either.

This year it has been the thorny old question of how the country should decide who its representatives should be at the European Championships something that doesn't look likely to resolved, and if it isn't that then there is always the problems that surface with the Regional Championship being held in the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea.

Being a pretty parochial lot, having the contest held in South West Wales means that lots of bands have to travel a fair way to get to play, and with the prize money not high, it means that many bands have to book an overnight stay: Thus, the complaints.

Having the contest held in a more central venue was tried a few years ago in Aberystwyth, but to be honest it wasn't a very good in terms of what it had to offer the acoustic in particular was pretty awful. So, with the help of the local council it seems the venue for Welsh banding at the Regionals will remain in Swansea for the foreseeable future or until the Welsh get around to organising yet another committee meeting.

Still, the quality on show in Wales is pretty good at the moment, and the great news for the organisers comes at both ends of the contesting spectrum.

In the Championship Section, the continued good form of the best bands in London means that for fifth year out of the past six, at least one extra Welsh band will qualify for Kensington. It was nearly two more as it was last year as BAYV and Tredegar for the second successive year came high up in the prize list. 

That success has certainly rubbed off on the other top bands here as well, what with excellent form being shown in the past few months from the likes of Cwmaman and Tongwynlais, whilst bands such as BTM and Beaumaris have also being upping the ante as well. The Championship contest should be excellent this year, and there may be more than just Tredegar pushing BAYV for the title and that European qualification spot. 

Welsh bands have a pretty good record of late at the National Finals, with at least one of the qualifiers coming in the top six in the past eight years ,and at least two of them, three times in the past five. Add to that one win, two runners up spots and three third places, and you can see why the contest here is a good one.

Right at the other end of the scale there is also great news in the Fourth Section, where this year there is an expanded field with a number of bands making comebacks and at least two making their debut. This is as much to do with the fine work of the bands themselves and of the Regional Committee who have with the co-operation of the area associations been making a real go of encouraging these bands back into the contesting fold. It has been hard work, but now it is starting to pay off, and other Regions should take a leaf out of the Welsh book.

The standard in the lower sections is also improving as well, with the Fourth Section sending bands to the finals where at least one of them has come in the top six in each of the past six years, with a win in 2000 as well. They may find this year's test piece difficult, but they are a confident lot and whoever gets the nod will be looking forward to doing well in Harrogate.

The Third Section though has proved to be less successful and has reflected the problem in the past that in reality there has not been much of a difference between the bands in the Fourth and the Third here in terms of overall playing standards.  That may have changed this year with at least a couple of bands here more than capable of making a mark at the Finals, but it would be about time. In the last six years, the best result has been one 4th place in 2002, whilst last year in Harrogate the two representatives came 11th and 19th.

The Second Section  has done a bit better over the past few years Ammanford won the National title in 2002, but since then it has only been the one 4th place of last year from  Llanrug that has broken a sequence of lowly finals positions from the Principality's representatives.   Whoever gets the nod this time will surely be looking to put an end to that.

Finally, the First Section and the bands hoping to take the big step up into the Championship Section. Thankfully, this appears to be a Section on the up, with a number of very good bands now starting to make their mark here, such as Parc and Dare, Northop and Wrexham Brass. Last year Parc and Dare went to Harrogate and came runners up, so they will be confident of repeating that again this year, whilst the North Wales bands will also be putting up a strong fight.

It should make for a great weekend in Swansea. The Norh Wales bands invariably send down a very strong contingent who return back North with more than a few prizes tucked under their belts, whilst there is a bit of a resurgence in the West as well. Welsh banding has much to commend it nowadays, from the way in which it is run, right through to the way it plays its music.

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