Fantasy trip to Birmingham for 2011 winners Reg Vardy
After the breathtaking comes the banal.
The exotic Fantasy Island brilliance on show at the European Championships in Rotterdam has been replaced by the more mundane banding reality of the 92nd Spring Festival in Blackpool.
This place is more like the Island of Doctor Moreau come a Saturday night: The only fantasy wish worth coming true here is to bag one of the two priceless British Open tickets that are available to the successful qualifiers at the Grand Shield.
Everyone else has to come back next year.
Heaven only knows what HG Wells would have thought of the modern day Golden Mile: Hen nights and stag parties, kebab house leftovers and puked up lager.
No wonder he called his book an exercise in youthful blasphemy; and no wonder the 60 bands that make the trip to the ornate splendour of the Winter Gardens are so damn keen to get away from the place.
It of course makes for a quite brilliant contest day.
The competitors know that they could be as close as just one, two, or at most, three steps away from the Elysium paradise of Symphony Hall.
They also know that they are a bit of bad luck, a crappy draw and a few clipped notes away from seemingly endless seaside purgatory too.
Nobody gets to the British Open the easy way.
For instance, on paper it’s hard to squeeze a Rizla fag paper between the 20 bands that battle it out in the Grand Shield, whilst the same is true for the Senior Cup and Senior Trophy contenders.
Area champions and Albert Hall qualifiers, big money winners and in-form contenders line up against each other in each section.
Picking out potential qualifiers, let alone the winners on three very demanding works such as ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’, ‘Elgar Variations’ and ‘Chivalry’ is a nigh on impossible task.
It’s no wonder the organisers have plumbed for an eclectic mix of David Read MBE, Dr Robert Childs, Malcolm Brownbill, Paul Andrews, Ian Brownbill and John Doyle to sort out the banding fates.
There is so much to play for here that qualification means just as much as victory. It’s also why the Spring Festival invariably brings out the very best in the competitors too. Miss a band for a quick cup of tea and you could well have missed the potential winner.
It’s why, despite the surroundings and the midnight mayhem, Blackpool remains a banding mecca like no other – and why the Winter Gardens will once again provide quite brilliant brass band contest entertainment this Saturday.
4BR will be there to bring you the action with our new look live coverage, Twitter comments and ticker bar, which brings you a snapshot of the atmosphere in and around the contest as it unfolds throughout the day.
The Senior Cup kicks things off at 10.00am, followed by the Grand Shield 10.30am, Senior Trophy at 11.00am.
Hopefully all three events will finish around about the same time so that the prizes can be handed out in the Opera House accompanied by the usual cheers of delight and groans of near miss disappointment.