2008 West of England Regional Championship - Postcard from Torquay


4BR had a great time in Torquay at the weekend and perhaps we’re a good omen too?

The 4BR team thoroughly enjoyed its return trip to Torquay last weekend having first ventured to the South West in 2006. 

It may have been a round trip of over 560 miles to hear over 70 bands but the friendliness of the people makes you feel so welcome and the trip so worthwhile.

Our hotel was a stone’s throw from the venue at the Riviera Centre and was warm and welcoming too. 

It was also great to see the West of England Regional Committee once again - some of the friendliest and most helpful people you could wish to meet.  Frances Calver, the Chairlady has a smile and a friendly word for everyone, whilst Secretary Brian Elliott does so much unseen work behind the scenes. He also has the luxury of knowing that he can turn up for the weekend and let his army of fantastic volunteers get on with their respective jobs too. It’s an impressive team. 

They all know what they have to do and from those who meet and greet the bands, to the backstage hands, everything is done with a smile.

Straight talking judges

The four judges of Colin Hardy, Alan Hope, Peter Roberts and Rob Wiffin had an enjoyable weekend too, although as is always the case, we are sure some bands will disagree with what they said in their written, let alone, on stage comments.

To be fair, it was a no nonsense approach telling the bands how it was; they complemented where required, and if it wasn’t to their liking, then that was addressed too.

From the top section right down to the Fourth, it was told as it was. Peter Roberts made the point that bands in the Third Section could have benefited from another two weeks preparation on their piece – he’s also judging in the North East, so don’t say you’ve not been warned!  It may have been a prickly point for some perhaps, but an honest assessment can be a hard hitting one at times.

Youth aplenty

In all of the contests it was a delight to see so many young people taking part – and obviously loving it.  They have to produce their own players down here as imports are few and far between, and the amount of work that goes on to get them to the standard required is absolutely amazing.  Each youngster - and we’re talking about some really young one’s here, play as though their lives depend on it, and for percussionists in particular, its an entertainment in itself just watching them play their part.

Great venue

Torquay’s Riviera Centre is a great venue to hold the contests, with two halls running on the Saturday and one on the Sunday. The trade stands seemed to be fairly busy and so did the bars and tasty food outlet.  They’ve certainly got you by the short and curly’s when it comes to charging though. A traditional Cornish Pasty was sold for £2.95 and yes, it did get the response ‘did you say……..£2.95?’, and whilst no comment can be given on the price of a pint, the venue certainly makes money where it can. 

The football and the rugby

Once again, in the background were some very important sporting fixtures, most notably football and the Six Nations Rugby.

The BBC must have known Peter Roberts was adjudicating the Fourth Section as they very conveniently arranged for the live screening of Barnsley’s FA Cup tie against Chelsea to start at 5.30pm - once his judging duties were out of the way.

And oh boy was he happy on Sunday! His opening comments to the audience awaiting the Third Section verdict was to inform them that he was born in a Barnsley Hospital - and with a huge grin uttered the word ‘Chelsea’.


Four bands though went home over the weekend extremely happy with the result and convinced that 4BR are lucky omens. That is 4 out of 72 mind you. Two years ago we were present when Mount Charles won in the Championship Section and Helston Town took the spoils in the First.  Last year, the 4BR Editor had an enjoyable time in Torquay but the results were slightly different (and the retrospectives!), so no surprises to whom some of the bands would like to be present from 4BR in 2009?

The contests

The five contests themselves were enjoyable affairs although the standard of the playing did vary at times.  The bands seemed to really enjoy the five pieces beforehand and the choices went down well this year. You’ll always get grumbles, but in the main most were happy.  Each contest ran so slickly with the bands getting on and off stage very efficently with the help of the stage crews; it was impressive stuff and at the conclusion of the contests, the judges were taken into a 'quiet zone' where they can make sure everything is how they want it to be before the announcement of the results.  This is a sensible approach by the organisers that works well and it takes the pressure off the men in the box who whilst making the most important decisions of all, can hear so much noise from the audience.

The dreaded curse in the Championship Section struck again with defending champion, PolySteel this time missing out. If there was an award for the most inspired performance of the weekend though, it would have gone to St Keverne – a cracking band who just keep going from strength to strength.

One slightly over enthusiastic person (under the influence of alcohol it appeared) let out an unnecessary expletive at discovering his band was in the prizes in the First Section and was quite rightly reprimanded by Brian Elliott for his choice of language, but the good folk of Helston will most probably be still celebrating after taking the title and heading for the Championship Section. 

Bristol East and Kingsmead will be happy as well, especially Bob Shore who in over 51 years in banding was elated at the prospect of attending the National Finals. Verwood will also be glad the 4BR team were in attendance as they also qualified for Harrogate in 2006 and do so again, but this time in the Third Section. They same can also be said for Wincanton, who along with Brunel and Totnes will have to start their fundraising fairly soon.

National Winner?

So, on the evidence of the weekend, could there be a National winner in September and October from these parts?  Quite possibly yes. All of the bands will fancy their chances but keep your eye on the First, Second and Fourth Section contenders in particular. 

The Car

Finally, those who may recall the Richardson/Wood duo for 4BR, may also recall our car capers.  Not so this time though as Mr Richardson’s beast of a Citroen purred like a dream to and from Torquay - and we even managed to get away before the storms came.

Once again, the West of England Championships were a pleasure to attend and genuine heart felt thanks are given to Frances, Brian and the team for all their help. It will be a pleasure to return.

Malcolm Wood


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