2009 Yorkshire Regional Championship - Postcard from Bradford


Sometimes banding isn't enough. What you really need is to rub shoulders with true greats...

Rubbing shoulders with the greats - Smokie...

Sometimes you just know you are in the presence of greatness. Friday night at the Hilton Hotel in Bradford was one such occasion.

Forget a pint with Jim Shepherd or a chinwag with Geoffrey Whitham - this was in a totally different league all together.

We are talking, ‘Smokie’…


Before you fall off your chair in front of your computer screen with the shock of it all – your 4BR Editor was somewhat speechless too, even after a few pints of Stella and a fish supper – just revel in the mental picture for a moment or two longer.

There in the bar, complete with slightly over tight fitting shirts unbuttoned to slightly paunchy midriffs, jeans that take a crowbar to get into, and more mullet hairdo’s than a Waddle & Hoddle ‘Diamond Lights’ revival tour, were the lads that brought you classic hits such as, ‘If You Think You Know How To Love Me’ and ‘Living Next Door to Alice’.

Mick, Steve, Terry, Mike and Martin – proper Bradford names for a band that originated 44 years ago just around the corner from St George’s Hall.

Great bunch

And what a great bunch they were too, despite the fact that this was the group that was also responsible for producing Kevin Keegan’s truly awful one hit wonder, ‘Head Over Heels in Love’.   

They had just come back from a 12 date tour to Germany, that after a trip to Israel (‘…we are big there’) and just 24 hours before they flew off to do some ‘cool gigs’ in Australia they had taken time out to honour a long term commitment to a great charity cause in Bradford (..and no, they didn’t call it ‘charidy work’…)


With them was a chap called John Parr, who was some musician – having written music for the films ‘St Elmo’s Fire’, ‘Three Men and a Baby’ and the ‘The Running Man’.

He also penned the little ditty, ‘The Best a Man Can Get’ for the Gillette shaving advert. Not surprisingly his chin was as clean shaven as a new billiard ball.   He also worked with a brass band once too – although he couldn’t remember the name.  ‘They were good though’, he added kindly.

If you ever thought playing in a brass band was odd, spare a thought for these lads – 50 year olds stuck in a musical past that involves them sporting clothes and hairdos that should come with a Health & Safety warning.

Strange old world

Strange old world isn’t it, and although these particular rockers enjoyed a few pints into the small hours, there was no throwing of televisions out of the fifth floor windows of the hotel later that night, and all of them were up for an 8.00am full English breakfast.

They even went to bed before the first unofficial 4BR Poker, Scotland versus Wales Tournament was staged in the bar and won by the 4BR Editor. The return leg on Saturday night was won by Scotland’s Alan Edmond however…

Odd things

Still, back in the strange world of Yorkshire banding, all sorts of odd things were going on too.

From the delightful quartet of youngsters who took part in the Youth Adjudication Panel on the Sunday, to the composer Frank Hughes doing a passable impression of a Victorian Music Hall Act in his pre results speech at the end of the Fourth Section.

It was like the ‘Good Old Days’ too when it came to the Championship Section contest on Sunday night, as the start was delayed for 15 minutes so that the waiting crowd could get into the hall.

We even had a tub thumping speech from the local Labour MP – all working class rhetoric and anti opera loving goading. It was like a brass band episode of ‘Life on Mars’.


Even the usually imperturbable Peggy Tomlinson was caught up in the excitement at one point, as she breathlessly announced that the winners of the Second Section would head to The Albert Hall and not Harrogate!  The good humoured Yorkshire crowd aired their comic disappointment at the news that Peggy had made a rare mistake. 

As ever the Yorkshire Regional Committee put on a great show over the two days – all fed and watered by an excellent bit of grub in the control room at the back of the hall.

Peggy could be justifiably pleased that four of the five composer’s of the test pieces made it to Bradford too – although it was just beyond her powers to get Gilbert Vinter to make an appearance – not even Doris Stokes and a well placed ouija board could have done that.

Wonderful job

Meanwhile, Ray Payne also did a wonderful job making sure everyone had the right percussion equipment to play on too. He took the time the ensure that younger players in particular were not rushed and that everything was on hand for them – especially when all the exotic instruments of the Second and First Section test pieces were needed.  Top man.

Rothwell may have taken the top section title and created a bit of history for themselves on the weekend, but in the greater scheme of things, nothing will ever compare to meeting a band whose real claim to fame is that their greatest hit is now the theme song for the comedian Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown. 

Fame can be very cruel…

Iwan Fox


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