It all starts here...
From the expensive drama of Oslo to the cheap and cheerful bon-homie of Blackpool: From £9.00 for a glass of wine to ‘Happy Hour’ pitchers full of Red Bull and vodka.
The surroundings to celebrate a victory may be different at the Euros, but in essence, brass band contests are the same all over the world.
That’s what makes the Spring Festival such a great event. If you win, qualify or get promoted, Blackpool is every bit as good a place to be on a Saturday night than any well to do European capital city.
Miss out though, and it’s the Devil’s bum hole of the world.
This year more than most, bands will be determined to shorten their stays on the Golden Mile, especially as seven contenders in the Grand Shield have already booked their place at the Royal Albert Hall.
None of them will want to come back here next year after tasting the splendour of Kensington Gore in October.
The line ups in the Senior Cup and Trophy are also packed with bands that seethe with ambition, so there should be some cracking contests to enjoy in the Pavilion Theatre and Spanish Hall. No wonder there are no clear cut favourites at the bookies.
That may partly be down to the organisational changes at the event, with the news that a split draw will be in operation across the three contests.
The organisers have been proactive in their bid to help the bands plan their day, and where possible, save money. It’s a move that has been undertaken with the bands very much in mind – even if some grumbles still exist.
The aim is to see a rolling year on year draw in each section, with bands in the first half in 2012 (1-10) automatically being placed on the second half for 2013 (11—20)
The process would be reversed the following year, with those drawn 11—20, set to play in the first half (1-10) in 2014 etc.
Segment draws will still be made on the day to decide what draw number in either half will be taken by each competing band.
Promoted and relegated bands will take the allocated draw for those they replace in the relevant contest (bands relegated from the British Open last year will take the numbers of Grand Shield qualifiers Hepworth and Beaumaris)
Meanwhile, the six new bands in the Senior Trophy will be allocated the draw position in alphabetical order of those they replace.
It’s a system that seems to have been met with approval, but the organisers still wish to hear constructive feedback to ensure the process can be tweaked if required.
The cynics of course will tell you that it gives the judges an advantage, but open or closed, you either trust them or you don’t.
With such tough test pieces, it’s no wonder the organisers have plumbed for an experienced mix of David Read MBE, Frank Renton, Allan Ramsay, Adrian Morris, Lynda Nicholson and Simone Rebello to sort out the 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 a potential winner.
4BR will be there to bring you the action with our live coverage and Twitter comments, which bring 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 at 10.30am and Senior Trophy at 11.15am.
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.