2008 Scottish Regional Championship - Introduction

3-Mar-2008

Domestic pride or national success – it’s a hard balancing act when Celtic pride is at stake in Scotland.


The Scottish Championships – which also double up as the regional event, such is the dual identity of the contest here, is always a closely fought affair with the struggle for domestic supremacy more keenly battled over north of the border than in perhaps any other region of the UK. 

Maybe it’s a throwback to the age of the squabbling clans or something, but whenever you get the Scots together there is just as much pride in a somewhat pyrrhic domestic victory than in a brave assault in trying to get one over the rivals from over the border. It’s a Celtic trait shared with the Welsh and Irish, and it is one that can be more than a little self destructive. 

Scottish banding is in pretty good shape. The domestic organisation is first rate, with a sense of long term objective planning. They may not quite be ready to reap the rewards just yet, but in a few years Scotland could become a beacon of integrated excellence in brass. The Scottish Open has found its feet and this year there is even an increase in the numbers of bands making it to the contest stage – up 2 to 50.
 

That said, the overall standard of competitive banding is not enjoying a purple patch – far from it. It is now a decade since Scotland had three bands in the top section at the Royal Albert Hall and not since 2000 has a qualifier made it into the top six there.  There have of course been occasional fine results at the Open, Masters and European, but consistent challenges for podium places year in year out?

As for the lower sections: Just the one national title in the 21st century tells you a great deal, especially when it is only backed since 2000 by three top six places, but no podium finishes in the First Section, one 3rd place in the Second Section, that sole win and one 3rd place in the Third, and no top six place in the Fourth.

Last year’s representatives came 16th & 17th in the First Section; 12th & 13th in the Second; 7th & 14th in the Third and 11th & 20th in the Fourth. There is real talent here, but winning on home soil is one thing, winning away from home, quite another. The Scots either don’t travel too well, or they are not quite up to the mark nationally at present.

That hopefully may change and there are really grounds for optimism with the vibrant youth banding scene and the work of Development Officer in bringing together disparate bodies for the good of Scottish banding.  It may be a little way down the high road or low road as they say up here, but you sense they are heading in the right direction at least.


Championship Section:

The Championship battle should be a very interesting one this year, with the traditional ‘big three’ all with something to prove in their own ways.

Kirkintilloch has the Europeans to look forward to in Stavanger in May but will surely be looking for a boost to their fragile confidence much closer to home this weekend. Scottish Co-op has also been in a state of flux and will be looking to reassert itself domestically at least, whilst Whitburn had a great 2007, but will know that it hasn’t done itself any favours at this contest now for quite some while.

If any of these three don’t hit top form there is a group of up and coming contenders closing in on their tails and a surprise or two could well be on the cards. Messers Read and Sykes could be in for an enjoyable contest.   There is also the added bonus here of plenty of individual awards to fight over also in each of the five sections, so individual pride is also at stake too.


First Section:

Not much success nationally to report for the First Section bands, but this year there does appear to be a stronger line up with plenty of potential for national success.

There is a Scottish connection with James Cook – even if it is for some possible misunderstandings over holiday traveller’s cheques south of the border, but there is a whole host of outfits that will fancy their chances this year on the piece. David Thornton and Steve Sykes will have plenty to enjoy, but the trick will surely be to use qualification as a springboard to future success and not just as a means to gloat over local rivals.


Second Section:

The 11 bands in the Second Section should enjoy Kenneth Downie’s set work, but just like the First Section bands the question remains whether or not they can use success here to build for the assault at Harrogate later in the year. 

Again though, the talent appears to be there for David Thornton and Steve Pritchard-Jones to separate out, but will it travel well to North Yorkshire later in the year?


Third Section:

More of the same to report – domestically it will be a strong old fight, but will it translate into anything at Harrogate? The signs are there that this year a stronger more competitive challenge will appear, but perhaps the Scots won’t hold their breath just yet.

The Dark Side of the Moon is an enjoyable piece, but whether or not it will be mastered here is another question all together.


Fourth Section:

There are signs that the foundation stones of Scottish banding are getting stronger, but competitively they are still in a pretty fragile state. The green shoots of recovery and rebuilding are to be seen here and there though, but shoots they are as yet and not fully blown sturdy Scottish pines.  This could be hard one for David Read and Raymond Tennant to sort out.

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