With the rest of UK banding feeling the pinch it seems the long awaited green shoots of recovery may well be sprouting in the London & Southern Counties region.
No double dip
It’s still a little hit and miss in places, but overall things are looking encouraging – no double dip recession for certain.
Amazingly, numbers have increased (just the one extra, but a great effort considering there are 77 bands taking to the stage). It’s good to see City of Oxford and Cottenham return to the contesting fold after a period away.
Success has come on the contest stage too - especially at the lower sections in Harrogate last year.
Friary Guildford came back as First Section National champions, whist there were seven other bands claiming top 10 finishes.
The top section bands didn’t make an impression on the tent at the Royal Albert Hall, but their counterparts certainly did at the International Conference Centre.
Hopefully that will continue this year, although the problem with having such a large entry list is that some of the contests here are pretty unwieldy beasts – with a bloated Championship Section contest of 12 bands.
There is still a great entry list in the lower sections with a number of bands starting to gain success at other national events in the last couple of years.
And whilst there is currently no regional representative at the British Open, the likes of Redbridge, Aveley and Zone One have started to make an impression on their travels – from Butlins to Brass in Concert, Blackpool to Yeovil.
Dave Hobbs and his team do a quite amazing job in keeping things ticking over at the Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre, and whilst it is not the prettiest contest venue in the world, it certainly does its job.
The region may not have the strength in depth of others, but the organisation of local events has been revitalised of late – especially with the Southern Counties Amateur Bands Association events at Folkestone and Hove.
Could it be that ‘southern’ banding is starting to lead the way into the second decade of the new Millennium? It may well look like it is.