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2011 Regionals Championships — The points of no return?

4BR Editor Iwan Fox argues that the time has come to change aspects of the regional formats and provides a 10 point plan to consider before possible terminal decline sets in.

The 2011 Regional Championships have come and gone, but despite the musical highs and lows from Perth to Torquay, the stark reality was that the number of competing bands was at its lowest for over 30 years.

Just 477 bands made it to the starting line at the eight regional venues, with over 100 bands lost from the laregst contest in the banding world in just over a decade.


1. Autonomy:

Without losing overall control there is an opportunity for Kapitol to give each of the regions more autonomy.

A new entrepreneurial stimulus could see regional committees seek individual sponsorship deals, alternative venues and organisational structures.

Let the Areas decide on the best way to get the best bands to the Finals, and free Kapitol of a stifling obligation,  giving them the opportunity to invest more time and energy in the Finals at Cheltenham and London.


2. Restructure, Regrade, Replace:

The current top heavy structure with its bloated Championship Section is unsustainable. The First Section needs re-evaluation and overhaul, whilst there is a desperate need for an innovative stimulus to reinvigorate the Third & Fourth Sections.

Restructure from top to bottom with a clear emphasis on quality not quantity.

Be bold and realistic in re-grading bands.  A pyramid structure with a broader base (why not have two Fourth Sections in one area?) should be the comprehensive template.

Reinvest the prize money and replace the prescriptive rules in the lowest sections, so you can pay proper fees to judges and make the Fourth Section an event to promote inclusiveness.


3. Get involved:

Follow the Norwegian lead and insist people get involved.  

If you enter you help out.

Each competing band must provide one person under the age of 25 to help with programme sales, moving percussion, stewarding, IT and promotion, liaison with officials and competitors, photography etc. The list is endless.

At the end of it all hold a major debriefing session to iron out problems and instigate new ideas quickly and effectively.


4. Final changes

8 plus 8 for the Championship Section National Finals at London.

The top 8 bands each year get an automatic invite back, whilst the regions provide their champion or highest placed non- automatically qualified band.

Do not dilute the quality. If you are good enough you will get there, if you are better than good, you return automatically.

Look at the qualification rules for the lower sections.  2 bands out of 5 qualified in Wales and the North East, but only 2 out of 16 in other areas. 1 band for every 8 that takes to the stage seems fairer.

It's a much more equitable way of deciding who goes through.


5. Promotion and relegation

The current system has become an unworkable mess.

Make it simple: One year promotion and relegation.

One up and down, two up and own etc – all based on the contest result.

It may seem harsh, but everyone knows where they stand.


6. Set clear criteria for the appointment of judges

Ensure there are clear guidelines for contest organisers.  

Rival conductors adjudicating at the same level in different area contests is a nonsense.

ABBA has a comprehensive list of members who are assessed at being able to judge at the highest level, and there are plenty of non ABBA musicians out there too.   

Be prepared to pay proper fees for professional services.


7. Open up the lower sections

Follow the Norwegian example: Open up the Fourth Section to start.

No limits on player numbers, relax the registration rules, own choice test pieces, open adjudication.

Get rid of anything that excludes and prescribes.

Make it welcoming, make it fun and make it relevant.


8. Get rid of antiquated registration rules

Registration is a joke that is no longer funny. Most bands can’t field a full line up even at Championship level without begging, stealing or borrowing.

Make it a form of pay to play.

Invest in a proper 21st century registry; make the individual meet the cost in a yearly fee, and more importantly, make the individual and not the band, accountable.


9. New test piece initiatives

A long term, clearly defined music policy for the regional events, so choices are not made on whims and fancies, misplaced ideals and long shot hunches.

Get young composers actively involved in writing short works for the lower sections and start looking at new compositional voices both at home and abroad to test our very best bands.


10. Be inventive

Above all else, get people to think outside the box – and not just in terms of adjudication.

Allow scope to try something new and different – from projecting the full results onto screens in the halls, to audience awards for best players, pre draws, split draws, open adjudication, different forms of adjudications, allowing regional committees to decide on entry fees etc, etc, etc.

Some may work, some may flounder – but one thing is for certain. The current set up is failing and failing fast.



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Wednesday 20 June • ROYAL BIRMINGHAM CONSERVATOIRE, Birmingham City University, 200 Jennens Rd, Birmingham. B4 7XR


Black Dyke Band - Halifax Choral Society

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The Marple Band - The Marple Band presents Music from Musicals

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Elland Silver Band - Elland Silver Band

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York Railway Institute Band - Dan Thomas - Euphonium

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Witney Town Band

June 19 • A friendly 4th section band based in West Oxfordshire require Front row cornet and Second Horn. We rehearse from 7:30 - 9.30pm pm every Tuesday at Witney Methodist Church, High Street, Witney, Oxfordshire, OX28 6HG. .


Torbay Brass Band

June 19 • Torbay Brass Band is looking for trombone and cornet players to join their current set up. We are a friendly hard working group who really would welcome such players into our fold. So if you are looking to join a band or returning to playing....?


Crewe Brass

June 19 • Crewe Brass currently have vacancies for Eb and BBb Bass, Baritone, and Cornet. We are a friendly, social first section band with a good mix of concerts and contests, and rehearse on Monday and Friday evenings in Shavington, Crewe.


Christopher Houlding

MMus, GGSM, LRAM
Conductor, Performer, Educator