2007 London & Southern Counties Regional Championship - Postcard

22-Mar-2007

Stevenage proved to be a most enjoyable location on the weekend, but getting home from there was a totally different matter altogether for 4BR...


When it comes to travelling to events for 4BR at the moment, there is something in the water that means things won't go according to plan

Somebody somewhere has decided that 4BR correspondents are challenged when it comes to travelling to events at the moment.  Regular readers will recall the tales of woe for the 4BR Editor's journey to Norway, not too mention an arduous round trip to Yeovil in February for your reviewer due to the unpredictable nature of the good old British weather.

So what went wrong this time then?  Well all was going ok as Rob Richardson's aged ‘Proton' (which amazed his friends last year by getting to Torquay and back for the West of England Championships) arrived in Stevenage on Friday evening only for both driver and passenger to discover smoke coming from the bonnet.

Having completed our duties on Sunday the decision was taken to head back North to Manchester, but our journey came to a halt at Leicester Forest East Services where the car was declared a non car, deceased, kaput, no longer of this mortal coil (or even an electrical coil for that matter) due to the gasket not functioning, by a friendly AA mechanic.

With the temperatures falling rapidly and not feeling too happy with life, the salubrious surroundings of the cafeteria kept us warm until around midnight when the AA returned to take us to Manchester via Bradford. Our first driver was clocking off at 1.00am but suffice to say, it was gone 3.00am when we finally reached our beds.

Away from our tales of woe, the London & Southern Counties weekend was actually a pretty decent affair with a few highs and a few lows to go with it.

The bands really turn out here in numbers and apart from the Midlands and North West, boast the biggest turn out of bands nationally – 79 turned out this weekend and they love every minute of it.

David Hobbs and his team did a cracking job in making sure everything runs like clockwork and they ran to their anticipated schedules – bang to the minute near enough.  The venue, although not the most architecturally inspiring is able to accommodate all the bands over the weekend without too many problems.

Ok, the Sports Hall given the generous name of the Main Concert Hall is acoustically lifeless and isn't the greatest place to play in, but it serves the purpose for which it is booked.  If there is a way that the heavy-duty curtains can be removed for the weekend it would be beneficial to the overall sound that's projected for the bands, but that could cost a fair old sum and local authority's are not flush with cash.

The staff within the centre does a fine job stewarding over the weekend and it was unfortunate that those on the door came in for some unnecessary criticism prior to the results ceremonies on Saturday.

The decision was taken in advance by the Regional committee that no one would be allowed into the results without a valid ticket.  This clearly didn't suit a lot of people who were intent on giving their opinions to the stewards who were only doing their job – 4BR heard one particular individual from a band (and in walking out gear) give their opinion with a fine choice of expletives that quite frankly, beggared belief.  There is never any excuse for that type of behaviour towards someone who isn't earning a great deal of money and is trying their best.

The decision of the committee might not have gone down well, but when suggestions of how to get into contests without a ticket appear on other websites, it is perfectly understandable why they were insistent on this issue on Saturday but relaxed it on Sunday.

Anyone attending the London & SC Regional weekend is invited to give feedback to the committee via the usual channels of communication, and all the details appear on www.regional-contest.org.uk - follow the links to London. The committee are receptive to new ideas, but the ticket problem was nothing to do with the employees of the Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre.

In fact, their marketing team was fully on the ball in advance of the weekend.  Saturday 28th April will see Grimethorpe performing in the Gordon Craig Theatre and anyone who took their ticket to the box office on the weekend got a £2 discount on their tickets purchased. Good idea or what?

The contests themselves were enjoyable affairs with some results going to form and others not.  Adjudicators, Dr Nicholas Childs, Philip Harper and Steve Pritchard-Jones all deserve credit for coming out of their boxes and given informative appraisals of the set work and performances coupled with touches of humour – Dr Childs had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he realised he was sitting in a box with the curtain the colour of the current Yorkshire Champions – there's nothing like rubbing salt into the wound is there?

Currently, the London region only has one judge per section and whether they'll follow other regions with two in the box remains to be seen.  If it's something the bands want, then they'll no doubt give their opinions. Steve Pritchard-Jones in particular had one heck of task judging 23 bands in the Fourth Section.  It does cost to have two judges, but it is certainly becoming the accepted norm.

The most heart warming section of the weekend was that Fourth Section where those 23 bands took part in a contest which ran just short of seven hours.  It's fantastic to see bands competing in the knowledge that they have not got a full compliment of players but want to be part of the weekend, and there were many here that put any thoughts of victory a firm second to enjoy the experience of the contest stage. Congratulations to them all.  

That said, whether 23 bands is too many in the bottom section is debatable, but on the evidence of this year's Fourth Section and previous years, the issue of re-grading needs to be looked at to help the bands maximise their abilities.

It's not a radical or original comment but whilst bands want to and enjoy competing, where is the long-term benefit in finishing in the bottom three or four in this section? 

Stevenage was a good place to be over the weekend for the bands, 4BR and fans of Stevenage Borough FC.  One half of the 4BR management team took great delight in letting us know before giving the full results of the First Section that the Welsh had got lucky and beaten the English at rugby (which immediately brought predictions of the rugby references in the retrospectives) whilst the winning bands and the fans of Stevenage Borough will have had a great night celebrating. The winning bands head for Harrogate whilst the football fans head for Wembley after their local hero's got through to the final of the FA Trophy – the non-league version of the FA Cup.

As for your 4BR team, we were just glad we got home on Monday before daylight – hopefully it's the last travelling hiccup for a considerable time.

Malcolm Wood

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