2010 Butlins Mineworkers Championship - Postcard from Skegness

28-Jan-2010

It may not be to everyone's taste but Butlins certainly understands the brass band culture.


Prize winners
The Butlins Prizewinners 2010

One thing is for certain: Butlins understands brass bands.

Big prizes, decent venues, challenging test pieces, good contest formats – no wonder each of the halls was packed to the rafters with supporters and listeners all weekend.

Resort

The cynics may argue that the Mineworkers Championship has an audience that can’t go anywhere else – and to be fair, the Butlins Resort is a pretty isolated place to visit at the best of times.

However, that doesn’t explain away the fact why so many people choose to come here in the first place. At the fag end of a freezing cold January over 5,000 packed into the Butlins Skyline Resort because a contest was being held.

That tells you all you really need to know. It is now the biggest brass band contest event in the world.

Baker
Baker Boy: Redbridge's Matt Baker in colurful mood

Russian housewives

It was like banding used to be in the early 1970s – queues of people snaking back from the entrance to the halls, waiting patiently like old Russian housewives at a bread shop in a Moscow high street – all to get in to listen to the bands play.

If you wanted a quick cup of tea during the entertainment contest on the Sunday you risked coming back to find squatters had moved in to nick your place before your warm bum print had a chance to wear off the seat.

And not just for the top bands either (and come to think of it – when was the last time some of these bands played to packed halls at a major contest?).

People aplenty

At each of the lower section contests, there were people aplenty – from the early morning risers who enjoyed the Fourth Section contest on Saturday morning to those who squeezed into the Reds nightclub to enjoy the delights of the Youth contest on the Sunday afternoon.

Lippeatt
Stan's the man: Stan Lippeatt was smiling all weekend - honest!

Ever since the contest was rejuvenated in 2003, Butlins has decided to put its money where its mouth is. It has invested heavily of course in its own infrastructure (by next year the Centre Stage venue will have a Grand Tier to accommodate even more people) and it has listened to the bands that want to come and compete.

Bang on the dollar

Stan Lippeatt was bang on the dollar when he remarked that the event could only continue to take place as long as the supporters and the bands made the trip. Given that 24 bands packed out the First Section and there were decent fields in each of the others (including a growing entry list in the Youth Section), no wonder he was smiling when he said it.

The organisation behind each of the contests is now first rate, with Brian Eggleshaw and his team doing an excellent job in keeping things on track – from the televised draws to the glitter ball explosions of the prize ceremony on Saturday night.

Deserved

Brian was a very surprised man when he was announced as the deserved recipient of the Butlins Special Award for 2010 for his immense contribution to the growing success of this event, but he still made sure that after a quick cup of tea and a bite to eat he went through the results of the Championship Section and posted them up for everyone to see at Contest Control.

Eggleshaw
Special Award: Brian Eggleshaw ran a great weekend

The family orientated atmosphere throughout the weekend was excellent. Fellow bandsman turned journo Mike Kilroy, brought along his family and they had a great time of it whilst Mike sat with the assorted hacks, scribes and low life reptilia that make up the banding journalist fraternity (according to one or two none too amused MDs at the comments on the 4BR Twitter page).

Uncles and aunties

Meanwhile, Paul Lovatt-Cooper was also there with his partner Jen and young Master Luca LC, enjoying himself quietly as the bands found out to their cost that they had somewhat under estimated his test piece.

Young Luca has more ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’ it must be said than Tony Soprano, but in the years to come he will no doubt enjoy the stories told about the test piece written in his name. 

PLC
PLC and LLC - father and son

There is something for everyone here – from the two penny slot machines for knee high gamblers to the easy access for disabled listeners on scooters. The Redcoats are helpful, the accommodation has been upgraded, the late entertainment is first class, and even the bar prices don’t incur a reduction in your credit rating at the bank. 

Charity

All that and those wonderful girls from Brass & Boobs once again raised thousands of pounds for Cancer Research.

In a very short space of time Butlins has revolutionised our expectations of a brass band contesting weekend – and it was interesting to see other major players in the contest running business paying a visit to see just how they do it too.

Butlins may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is one that we will all be getting used to in the years to come.

Iwan Fox

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