New venue same result for Fodens
Picture: Steve Jack
There was a palpable sense of relief at the end of a very long, and at times contentious day of contesting at Blackpool.
Relief for the organisers that everything ran according to plan at a venue that has undergone some pretty drastic changes of late, and relief for the competitors too, who went home safe in the knowledge that the battles for London and Cheltenham were over for another year.
It was an exhausting, but rewarding experience for all concerned though.
The refurbished concourse in the Winter Gardens saw old friends meet up once again to renew even older rivalries and discuss the pro's and cons of the day.
There were the usual moans and groans about adjudicator's decisions, but it was all done amid the sparkle of a venue that has been given a new lease of life.
Much of the talk though seemed to centre on the test pieces– especially how difficult they were even for a region that has produced a host of recent National winners.
Most seemed to agree that some of the choices seemed ‘ambitious’ to say the least.
'Paganini Variations' still remains one heck of a piece to master, and whilst at the top end of the Championship Section there was the usual quality on show, there were some pretty non descript offerings too.
Foden's, continued their Winter Garden hegemony: It’s now six wins a row.
How Allan Withington would love to be able to bottle their winning performance and pump it into the musical veins of Grimethorpe at Bradford this weekend.
If he can the roof could come off at St George’s Hall.
Meanwhile, the musical ambitions of the majority of First, Second and Third Section bands were severely dented by the set works they had to perform.
Given the depth of quality of the competitors at those levels here, it showed just how misjudged the selections have been.
Opinions varied of course, but there were not many performances that will linger long in the memory banks – and this from perhaps the strongest lower sections region of all.
The main post results bar room debate centred on the Second Section, where Kevin Wadsworth’s clearly defined post contest analysis left a number of conductor's and players disgruntled – although they could have no cause for complaint that he doesn’t take the opportunity to explain just why he picks the winners he does.
The North West Regional Committee runs this event in the way it chooses to do too – but the bands may want to know why they still insist on one man in the box.
Perhaps that one of the reasons why there is such an unique atmosphere here: Everything is under one roof – including the judges.
Whether or not it will continue that way in future remains to be seen, but as long as the new venue doesn’t try and up its hire rates too much to pay for all its new paintwork it seems the Area event is here to stay.
There are not many accessible buildings in the North West with three halls that can accommodate over 70 bands in one day that’s for sure.