2006 Midlands Regional Championships - Introduction

8-Mar-2006

The Midlands can offer no less than 81 bands to listen to next weekend. It is a well run event with plenty of good bands, but are they producing the winners come the National Finals?


There has been more coming s and goings in the Midlands in recent years than an episode of the much loved, and sadly missed soap opera Crossroads. What with arguments and court cases, relegations and promotions there has been enough going on here to keep any script writer happy.

The banding though remains lively and is very well run by the Regional Committee both here and when they undertake other events such as Butlins. All they really need to make things complete is a set of National titles, and although bands from the area have been successful in the past few years, it has tended to be at the lower levels and certainly not in the Championship.

Championship Section:

The Championship Section contest could well be one of the most closely run competitions of the whole Regionals with at least five bands this year having more than a good chance of winning the title and claiming one of the two qualification places up for grabs. It is perhaps the most evenly matched top section contest of the entire Regional Championships. All 11 bands are in with a shout.

The Midlands really did use to be a hot bed to top class bands, many of whom were real contenders at the Nationals. Not since the hey-day of Desford though have they really been anywhere near to returning to the Black Country with a nice big silver pot. And that was some time ago now. The last time someone came close was in 2000 when Ransome surprised many by coming runners up and although in 6 of the last 7 years at least one qualifier has come in the top 10 there has only been just the two top six finishes since 2000. It seems the qualifiers here are solid and dependable, but not quite up to really pressing for the top places. Last years qualifiers Desford and Woolley Pritchard came 9th and 12th respectively. OK, but nothing more than that.

As we have said there could be a case to be made for any one of the 11 bands at the contest, from Desford to Woolley Pritchard and there has been three different winners in the last three years. Whoever does get through though will have to up their game if they are to challenge in Kensington come October.

First Section:

The First Section also offers an intriguing prospect of a well matched contest. Here, a large field of 17 bands should present adjudicators Malcolm Brownbill and David Horsfield with plenty to think about.  

There are a whole plethora of solid bands here with one or two with real Championship Section credentials. Bands from the Regional have enjoyed themselves at the Finals in the past few years, with Staffordshire's famous win in 2002 the pick to go with their other 21st Century victory in 2000. In 2002 the three qualifiers came 1st, 4th and 6th, but since then they haven't really been close to repeating that result. Last year, the two qualifiers Raunds Temperance and Bedworth could only manage 13th and 17th places respectively. That weren't too clever but there is a real sense of optimism this year that whoever gets through will be strong contenders. We will have to wait and see on that one.   

Second Section: 

The Second Section has also tasted National success in recent times with the Hathern Band winning the National Second Section title itself in Harrogate in 2004.  It would appear that there has been a strengthening of quality in the bands here for the contest and another well matched field should pose a few problems for adjudicators Stan Lippeatt and Peter Roberts to sort out. 

The Midlands bands have secured five podium places since 1998 (always a good indicator of the quality of bands that are sent to the Finals), but last year the two qualifiers, Shirland and Wigston could only mange 11th and 13th places respectively.  Both are here again this year, and both will want to return to Harrogate again we are sure.  

Third Section:

The Third Section should be a fun packed contest – the difficult test piece should see to that, but once more there is a sense that it should be a strong contest on the Sunday here with a large field out to impress adjudicators Geoffrey Whitham and Alan Hope.

The strength of the bands here can be seen in the fact that last years three representatives came back from Harrogate in 2nd, 4th and 8th places, whilst in the last six years at least one qualifier has come in the top six. In fact only two bands from the 12 who have made it through to the finals since 2002 has not come in the top 10 there.  Whoever makes it through this time then will be confident of adding to that success story.

Fourth Section:

Having a look at the line ups in the lower sections shows that there are a number of very fine young bands who have been making their mark in contests all around the country and the Fourth Section here is no exception. The second largest field of the entire Regional Championships (just behind the gargantuan Fourth Section in London) will be faced with an enjoyable test in the form of Alan Fernie's ‘Anglian Dances'. It should make for an enjoyable contest for adjudicators Geoffrey Whitham and Alan Hope to cast their experienced ears over, although the standard could be variable.

Last year the area sent the two bands to Harrogate where they came away with 12th an 17th respectively and however gets through will want to improve on a record at the Finals that since the great result of 2001 when the area produced the winners Shirland plus two top six finishes, has seen just two more top six places from 11 bands.

The Midlands has lots and lots going on, but also lots and lots to enjoy. It should be a great weekend here this year and who knows, the region may well produce a few potential National winners too.

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