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When 4BR met ABBA

Find out how the debate went on Open Adjudication in the Judges Den!


4BR were the guests of the Association of Brass Band Adjudicators at the weekend where we took part in the debate initiated by them, concerning the question of Open Adjudication.

Iwan represented 4BR with his proposal that the movement should try and encompass more open adjudication, especially at the top most levels of the contesting, whilst Stan Lippeat, conductor of Thorseby Colliery and a very well known and respected player and judge himself put forward the case for the adjudication process to remain closed.

The Association is made up of many of the most well known and respected adjudicators on the circuit and familiar faces such as James Scott, David Read, Geofrey Whitham, Stephen Tighe, Kevin Wadsworth, Gareth Pritchard, David Horsfield, Lloyd Landry, Brian Buckley, Dr Roy Newsome, Alan Lawton, Roy Roe, Roy Sparkes, Colin Hardy as well as many more, made up a knowledgeable and friendly audience.

In a spirit of openness the press were invited along as well and both the Brass Band World, British Bandsman and The Conductor publications were on hand to report on the debate.

Derek Broadbent opened things up with a very interesting 15-minute preamble to the debate, which emphasised the context in which the debate was being held. It was an optimistic yet realistic portrait of the problems that he felt not only the adjudicators themselves, but also the process of adjudication was facing. It was a very considered and intelligent contribution from the outgoing Chairman of the Association.

Iwan opened the debate and tried to expand the discussion into a broad picture of how he felt the process of open adjudication, if encompassed and embraced could and should help draw a new and knowledgeable musical audience to contesting at the highest level.

He used the examples of the success of international competitions such as Cardiff Singer of the World and how it had become a huge success in no small way to the way in which the openness of the judges to show and explain to the audience how the result was reached.

It was very much a broad argument that emphasised the need for change, due to the economic realities of the new century and a need that would show that the movement as a whole was forward thinking and progressive. It was well received especially as it focused on issues that possibly many there were not anticipating.

Stan Lippeat rose next and gave a very strong and robust argument in favour of keeping the process “closed”. It was very well researched and contained a lot of information that struck a chord with the judges present.

Although not as broad in context or approach to Iwan’s, it did cover a lot of ground including the need he felt, for the process to remain free of the possible distractions and pressures that open adjudication brought with it.

His examples included problems encountered whilst in the box that he felt would be magnified if the process was open, such as aural distractions form errant mobile phones, audience and adjudication expectations of bigger name performers, the question (in the minds of the audience) of the integrity of the judges and the way in which the judges themselves could work in the knowledge that the audience was not solely watching them perform instead of listening to the bands on stage.

It was a strong and persuasive case that included many quotes and written conformation from many leading conductors and musicians such as Bram Gay, Peter Parkes, Dr Newsome and Richard Evans as well as interestingly many players from the Grimethorpe band of the almost immediate past that agreed with him that they had not on many occasions won the Mineworkers Contest, and had possibly only done so as it was adjudicated in the open. As that contest had been adjudicated by many of the adjudicators present in the audience it was a brave example to use.

There then followed a half hour or so of intelligent and quite probing questions directed (mainly it must be said) towards Iwan’s argument, but it must be said it was friendly fire!

Stan’s argument won the day without doubt and it came as little shock that it would appear that closed adjudication will be remaining the preferred process for some time to come with the Association, but it was a very open debate and judging by the response afterwards of many of the delegates, one that was welcome.

There does seem however a growing acceptance that the process of explaining the reasons behind a result to the audience at the Major contests will now become a more familiar sight, which is most welcome news.

Thanks then to the Association of Brass Band Adjudicators for the invite to 4BR and for the kind way in which we were welcomed and treated. It was for us a development that showed that the adjudicators themselves are willing to listen and discuss one of the most pressing issues that face the movement in a manner that gave them the opportunity to discuss and question other ideas, which may not be necessarily those they agree with.

The long trip to Barnsley from South Wales was well worth it and as Cardiff City beat Leeds United in football, it wasn’t a day totally lost.


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Conductor, adjudicator, band trainer and teacher