There is always a warm welcome to be found at the West of England Regional Championships.
Perhaps it’s the early spring breeze that gently blows though the palm trees surrounding the Riviera Centre, or the smiles you get from the organisers and helpers as you make your way to the hall.
Red hot blast
However, there may be a red hot blast about to erupt here – although not from the place you might suspect. Things at Championship level are bubbling up nicely this weekend, thanks to the early season form of a few of the rival competitors.
The travails of the Championship Section bands once they get to the Royal Albert Hall are well documented: A last podium finish in 1993 and a top six finish in 1994, whilst the 2010 qualifiers came 13th and 18th.
However that could be about to change – and there is a feeling that Sunday afternoon’s contest is one not to miss.
Colder further down
Its further down the sections that a once rich seam, of what appeared to be a never ending supply of highly competitive bands has dried up a bit , although there were two podium finishers in Harrogate.
That’s still a fine return in most regions books (Yorkshire included), but the heady days of winners galore around the turn of the Millennium is starting to fade in the memory banks.
That said, even the most patriotic musical Polyphemus found in Bradford still casts a green eye of envy this way: Five of the nine qualifiers came home with top ten finishes from Harrogate.
Plenty to look forward too then – from Flowers attempts to become the first top section band to retain its title since 1996, to the delights of the Fourth Section where 22 bands are sure to impress Derek Broadbent and David Lancaster.
The region still produces high quality lower section outfits, even if it’s not quite the gold top double cream variety of recent vintage.
Ticking over nicely
Brian Elliott and his excellent team of volunteers keep a field of 74 bands ticking over nicely.
There is even good news on that front as numbers are up one this year, with the loss of Heyl, Solent, South Molton and St Breward, offset by the return of Bodmin, Soundhouse, Bideford, Gosport, Midsomer Norton and Tiverton, and debutants Andover Town.
The West of England may not be able to boast as many National Champions as Yorkshire just yet, but it is making every effort to ensure they will have plenty of bands trying.