2008 London & Southern Counties Regional Championship - Introduction


After the thrills and spills of 'Super Sunday' the spotlight falls on the 82 bands that take to the stage in Stevenage.

StevenageAfter last weekend's banding feast where you got even dizzier than going on the big dipper trying to keep track of who won where and when, the London & Southern Counties Regional contest will benefit from being totally in the spotlight this Saturday and Sunday. 

Theoretically, trips to Stevenage coincide with the onset of Spring but with the onset global warming nowadays, nothing is a certainty apart from the great atmosphere that this contest brings and the cold chill that blows through the Stevenage venue!

With over 80 bands in attendance once again, there is a vibrant competitive atmosphere at the Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre and none more so than when the bands are awaiting the announcement of the results. Once again they'll all be dreaming of glory and the trips to Kensington and Harrogate in the Autumn. 

However, with the exception of Potters Bar in 2004, there hasn't been a National Champion Band since before the Millennium. That may well change though as there are continuing signs that the bands here have upped the ante in recent times and could well pose a threat to Northern and Celtic supremacy come the finals.

Enormous pride

There is enormous pride in these parts it the bands that compete but it still remains that winning a title is a tough nut to crack against some of the heavyweights from the various regions as the results tables in recent years demonstrate. Last year the two representatives at the Royal Albert Hall came 14th and 15th, whilst at Harrogate it was no top six finishes but three encouraging top ten ones. It’s a question of the bands getting there – slowly, but surely.

Once again, the Gordon Craig Theatre will be in operation on Sunday hosting the Second and Championship Sections whilst the salubrious surroundings of the Sports Hall, renamed the Main Concert Hall for this weekend will host Saturday's Third and First Sections and the mammoth Fourth Section on Sunday.

Last year there was a problem letting people back into the Main Concert Hall for the results due to a decision taken in advance by the Regional Committee and the door stewards.  This was addressed in time and hopefully the common sense that was shown will be repeated this year - people want to hear the results and listen to what the adjudicator says especially when they've participated, although it would also be nice if a few more of them took the time to buy a ticket and went to listen to a few bands too. Bandsmen may complain about the cost of tickets, but it does put money back into the regions pockets to reinvest for years to come – so a bit of give and take on this one may be in order.

Talking of adjudicators, it's still just one in London, and when you consider there is a large number of bands, it remains a bit of a surprise that two have not been implemented as yet – especially in the gargantuan lower sections. 

With 24 bands in the Fourth Section, 17 in the Third,15 in the Second and First, leaving the Championship the smallest with 12, surely its time London joined four of the other regions and went for two in the box?

That said, David Hobbs and his army of helpers will make sure the weekend runs like clockwork once again.  It's a task of epic proportions to turn around 80 bands as they do here, but it’s all done, fairly slickly and efficiently. It is some achievement.

Championship Section:

The Championship Section has been dominated by Redbridge and Aveley and Newham in recent years with only Staines stopping total domination 2 years ago and making it through to the Royal Albert Hall.

With Rob Wiffin leading Redbridge this year, it will be interesting to see if by 8pm on Sunday, its the same two bands who've qualified, but with the ever improving Zone One Brass, the return of Staines, the top two could be pressed very hard and if they qualify, they'll have done it the hard way.

‘Festival Music’ has proved to be a tough nut to crack over the past two weekends and it will be fascinating to see how the bands here approach the work. Adjudicator David Horsfield has been around and about already this year so he will know just what is required of the bands.

First Section:

The First Section continues to host some well matched bands and it’s the same this forthcoming Saturday.  It does make for a very interesting contest, but the litmus test comes for the qualifiers when they reach Harrogate as few have successfully challenged for top honours in the past two years.

James Cook has caused all sorts of problems for bands up and down the land so far and David may have a hard task separating the bands out here unless one or two can really catch hold of it by the scruff the neck and post a qualification performance. Bands here have put in a strong challenge at the finals in the past, so cane whoever goes this time do so again after a couple of fallow years.

Second Section:

Kenneth Downie's Second Section work has proved to be an enjoyable affair so far and it should be the same on Sunday morning. 

If the bands can get to grips with the right style (which has caused problems this year) then they could well be impress Steve Pritchard-Jones. The field is very evenly matched with a number of bands in with a shout of not just taking the title but heading for North Yorkshire.  Those that do will be looking to improve on the record up there in recent years where it has been a bit of a struggle (last years finalists came 12th, 15th and its just the one top six place in the last decade) but this year's qualifiers will surely be looking to put the record straight this time.

Third Section:

Paul Lovatt-Cooper's ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ will be an enjoyable test on Saturday morning and its film style music is one that the bands appear to have relishing playing. What no one knows yet is whether any of the bands here will eventually go on and emulate Jersey's National title win from 2005, but there are encouraging signs that quite a few of them may well fancy their chances.

Steve Pritchard Jones is the man with the difficult task of separating out the bands in what should be a good battle for the honours.

Fourth Section:

So who is going to come out on top from the mammoth field of bands in the Fourth Section?  A fair number of bands are in with a shout and if they can master the good basics of playing and the various styles of Rodney Newton's ‘Four Cities Symphony’, then they could have cause for celebration late on Sunday afternoon.

The test piece might not be the most technically difficult work but it is proving to be popular and enjoyable as it allows just about everyone to post a decent account of themselves. The key may well be the ‘Paris’ movement so whoever has done their homework and jumped on EuroStar of late may well be in with a decent shout.


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