If you ever want to find out exactly t why the Welsh cling to romantic notions about their position in the greater scheme of things, then you need to read a book called ‘The Welsh Illusion’ by a long dead political commentator, Patrick Hannan.
His sharp eye shed a caustic gaze at what he believed made those who inhabit the Principality persist in believing the myth of their own making – from the political struggles over devolution to the almost comic surrealism of the running of the old British Steel Corporation – or ‘Monty Finniston’s Flying Circus’ as it was known in the valleys.
Before he died, he should have taken the time to write about the state of Welsh banding: because that’s an illusion if ever there was one.
It is one that has produced 14 top six finishers in a row at the Royal Albert Hall, six national champions at First and Second Section level in the past four years, two podium finishers in the last three in the Third, and five in the last six in the Fourth.
All that from a region that despite the success has shrunk from being able to field 58 bands in 1999, to 40 this year.
That’s some illusion in anyone’s book.
Combination of factors
Through a combination of factors, Welsh banding has succeeded in producing champions at all levels, despite its playing base shrinking at an alarming rate.
Quality not quantity the supporters will chirp in the bars of the Brangwyn Hall: Accident rather than design the same drinking naysayers will say in reply.
Illusion or not, Wales will send three bands to Kensington in October once more, and last year came back from Harrogate with a fourth successive Second Section champion, podium finishes in the First and Third, and a top six finisher in the Fourth.
All that and Cwmaman, Point of Ayr, Ebbw Vale, Royal Oakeley, Pontypool, Rhyl and Upper Rhondda are missing from 12 months ago, whilst former National champions of 21st century vintage in Newbridge and Ammanford are longer term absentees.
The good news is that there is a warm welcome back for Severn Tunnel, Treherbert, Cwmbran and Ystradgynlais, but the Fourth Section still only has 5 bands and even the top section, which will see a battle royal on Sunday, has only seven contenders.
Welsh banding is an illusion of dichotomies: Plenty of well run events such as the Welsh area itself, and bands winning titles right, left and centre.
The trouble is that there are less and less of them each year doing it.