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The 2013 contesting season already seems to be well under way following the excellent performances that were on show at the Butlins Mineworkers Championship in Skegness.
However, at a rather more historic seaside venue on the other side of the UK, one of the most prestigious titles around will be up for grabs at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, as some of the very best youth bands in the country battle it out for the Action Medical Research Youth Entertainment Championship of Great Britain.
The famous Opera House will echo to the sounds of a host of contenders on Sunday on what promises to be an exciting day of high class, innovative and inspiring entertainment.
Contest organiser Gary Walczak and his team of helpers continue to work their socks off in providing everybody with a great experience, and whilst numbers have fluctuated over the past couple of years, the good news is that 12 bands will make the journey to the Lancashire coast as the contest fast approaches its 30th anniversary.
Youth banding is not immune to current financial constraints, so it comes as welcome news that there is such an excellent field of contenders this year.
The amount of time, energy and commitment that is put in by each and every one of the competitors is staggering – and that’s not forgetting the army of mothers and fathers, siblings, friends and relatives who support them.
Flying the flags...
The innovative approach and friendly atmosphere helps the bands immensely, and this year three contenders will already know their draw to help them with travel arrangements.
A lunch break has been allocated after band number 5, whilst following the production of the successful DVD package of highlights last year, the exercise will be repeated once again to ensure memories last longer than the drive back home down the M6.
Whilst the results are being collated, White River Brass Ensemble which contains members of Black Dyke will entertain the audience.
As always, the day isn’t all about contesting glory (although all the bands desperately want to win), as once again, the money raised from the event will help thousands more people all over the UK.
The adjudication this year is in the experienced hands of Andrew Berryman (music) and Robin Dewhurst (entertainment) – Andrew in the box, and Robin out.
Both judges know what it takes to put together an innovative entertainment programme and also know what does and (sometimes) doesn't tickle a judge’s fancy too. It will be interesting to see what the pair think come results time on Sunday evening.
All in a flap...
Thankfully the contesting action will be played out in the Opera House as the larger Empress Ballroom proved to be a bit too much of an old barn to really appreciate the efforts of the competitors.
That said, there is more than enough space for the usual panoply of spectacular presentations, whilst the link with the Brass in Concert Championship gives an added incentive to claim victory. The winners get an invite to perform at The Sage in November.
The reigning champion, Elland Silver Youth under inspirational MD, Samantha Harrison returns to defend its title, and will be faced with a strong field of rivals – most notably the reigning Butlin’s Youth Champion, Youth Brass 2000.
Meanwhile, making the trip over the Pennines alongside Elland will be Sellers International Youth directed by Alex Kerwin.
North East challengers, Houghton Area Youth will once again be making the lengthy trip across the M62, whilst the rapidly improving Enderby Youth Band will make the trek up from Leicestershire.
Magic man Eric Landon
The band with the longest journey however is sure to be St Keverne from Cornwall, who will be setting off at the crack of dawn under Gareth Churcher to make their welcome debuts, whilst Welsh contenders Seindorf Beaumaris Youth makes an overdue return to the event.
Local favourites are plentiful as usual, with Louise Renshaw's Macclesfield Youth returning after a breather, whilst it will be interesting to see what tricks the ever inventive Eric Landon and Rochdale Borough Youth have up their sleeves.
Anna Hughes-Williams has settled wonderfully into the role as MD at St Helens Youth, and they'll be confident of upsetting the form book after an excellent performance at Butlins.
Suits you sir: Chris Jeans in best bib and tucker
Finally, the strong Rochdale pair of Wardle High School and Wardle Juniors – both of whom are very accomplished bands. It will be interesting to see who claims the Monday morning assembly bragging rights for certain!
The action kicks off at 10.30am with the doors opening at 9.00am. The ticket prices remain static at £7.00 for adults and for children at £4.00.
As always, 4BR will be there to enjoy and bring you a taste of the action as it unfolds on the day.
Picking the winner gets tougher each year – simply because the standard gets higher and higher.
Elland Silver Youth know how to win this event and Samantha Harrison's band were superb last year (winning both sections), so don't back against them retaining the title.
Youth Brass 2000 retained their Butlins Youth title in fine style in mid-January and they were on great form at the BBC Radio 2 Young Brass awards recently, whilst Rochdale's Eric Landon is the youth band version of Paul Daniels. He never misses a trick to impress.
Dark horses could come from any number of contenders, including Seindorf Beaumaris Youth, St Helens Youth and St Keverne.
1. Youth Brass 2000
2. Elland Silver Youth
3. Rochdale Borough Youth
Dark Horses: Seindorf Beaumaris Youth/St Helens Youth