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2021 National Championship of Great Britain
Royal Albert Hall preview

Players and conductors from 19 bands hope to leave the Royal Albert Hall as contesting heroes on the weekend — at an event that has also overcome challenges of its own to be launched this year.


Ready for Heroes...

Although the Covid-19 challenges faced by the competitors in reaching the Royal Albert Hall to perform an Apollo 11 inspired test-piece are somewhat dwarfed in comparison by those faced by NASA in sending its astronauts to the Moon and returned safely to Earth, the effects form something of a shared experience.

The personal as well as financial costs have been equally lacerating. 

Eggshells

There cannot be a band that hasn’t lost a family friend or colleague, supporter or player, past or present in the last 18 months or so. Neither have they had to contemplate the cost of taking part in such an elusive endeavour so closely against it potentially damaging their long-term survival either.

In the last week or so any number of the 19 contenders will have been rehearsing on health as well as financial eggshells. 

In the last week or so any number of the 19 contenders will have been rehearsing on health as well as financial eggshells. 

The cut-off deadline for new signings lapsed last Friday. Meanwhile, bands must also provide a Covid-19  ‘Code of Behaviour’ declaration (to be handed in at the draw) stating that all performers have returned a negative Lateral Flow Test (LFT) result 48 hours before the contest.

Rumour mills

In between these dates some have been able to safeguard their playing needs, whilst others have simply been unlucky. The unyielding contest rules have ensured that the rumour mills have also been in overdrive.

What cost the health and wellbeing of your players against that of winning a band contest? Hopefully not the recording of a false LFT reading. 

Finances

As for the financial obstacles? 

The pounds shillings and pence of competing at the highest level are daunting enough in more prosperous times, but after 18 months or so of inactivity, even a single night weekend stay in the heart of London is eye wateringly prohibitive to say the least.

In the midst of this Kapitol has faced considerable Covid-19 challenges in hosting the contest - especially as the venue has publicly stated that drastic action is needed to start balancing its books after its losses topped £60 million, and that it has also struggled in putting on Covid-19 compliant events.

And with the London Marathon taking place on Sunday morning, that financial challenge (and to the potential audience) has been hiked up further by hotels looking to recover lost revenues.

In the midst of this Kapitol has faced considerable Covid-19 challenges in hosting the contest - especially as the venue has publicly stated that drastic action is needed to start balancing its books after its losses topped £60 million, and that it has also struggled in putting on Covid-19 compliant events.


The good old ticket tout might have a day off on Saturday

Hefty slice

It is understood that a non-refundable deposit of tens of thousands of pounds would have been lost if it didn’t go ahead, whilst the Hall still insists on its hefty slice of the financial action - from tickets to study scores.  

The touts may have been outside  the hall offering a ‘marked-up’ opportunity to get to see the James Bond film premiere this week, but you suspect they will be taking day off on the weekend.  

How many seats are filled in the massive 5,000 seat auditorium come the first performance of Bruce Broughton’s  ‘Heroes’ will be a stark illustration of not only Kapitol’s, but the British banding’s challenging post-Covid outlook.

The touts may have been outside the  hall offering a ‘marked-up’ opportunity to get to see the James Bond film premiere this week, but you suspect they will be taking day off on the weekend.  

Hopefully it will witness another encouraging step in what is likely to be a slow-paced recovery. If we want to keep the Albert Hall and others on the contesting calendar, we must all support the endeavours of those who take on the financial challenge of putting events on.


There is sure to be an emotive feel to the event this year

Emotive

That is what makes the return to Kensington Gore such an emotive one; a celebration of all that we have invested our passion in to maintain over the past 18 months, as well in part a commemoration to those who will not be there to ultimately enjoy it.

As we have said many, many times before, Kapitol Promotions Ltd has its detractors, yet at Cheltenham (led by compere David Hayward) they judged that balance very well indeed. 

As we have said many, many times before, Kapitol Promotions Ltd has its detractors, yet at Cheltenham (led by compere David Hayward) they judged that balance very well indeed. 

The obvious signs of difference will also be there on the weekend – from fewer trade stands to more polite enquires from the professional hall staff about Covid protocols etc.

After such a long time away, just a little more patience is required to ensure the day goes smoothly for performers and audience alike.

Heath Robinson

Due to Covid-19, the ‘qualification’ process for this year’s event has something of a Heath Robinson look to it. 

19 bands will take to the stage starting at 10.00am to perform  ‘Heroes’.

With the cancellation of the 2021 series of Regional Championship contests, those invited came from the 2020 cohort of qualifiers. The exception is the London & Southern Counties, who due to the 2020 Area contest also being cancelled, sees their 2019 qualifiers invited to compete once more.

In addition, with 2020 Scottish Champion, the cooperative band, having to withdraw, Scotland will be represented by Bon Accord as well as Whitburn, who pre-qualified for the 2020 event after coming third at the Albert Hall in 2019.  

Desford Colliery also withdrew and are replaced by Ratby Co-operative who came third at the 2020 Midlands Regional Championships. 

Hope that makes sense.


The defending champion returns under MD Philip Harper

Good to be back

As with Cheltenham it would be unfair to try and gauge the current state of form of any of the 19 contenders.  Whilst players have had their individual parts for some considerable time, some bands have been back in full time rehearsal longer than others.

It's just good to see them all back at the Albert Hall once more – with a special mention to debutants Ratby Co-operative who snatched the chance following the announcement of Desford’s withdrawal earlier this month and have been working their collective socks off both musically and financially ever since.

a special mention to debutants Ratby Co-operative who snatched the chance following the announcement of Desford’s withdrawal earlier this month and have been working their collective socks off both musically and financially ever since.

So too the other debutants in Llwydcoed from Wales who have waited a little longer than they would have hoped after qualifying in Swansea in March 2020.


Yorkshire Champion Black Dyke commissioned the test-piece but will they be the heroes on Saturday? 

And whilst Camborne make their first appearance since 2015 and Hepworth since 2011, Bon Accord will take their first Albert Hall bow since 1983.  The extra few months won’t have dampened their patience in any way.

Others have been more regular contenders since the Millennium - headed by defending champion Cory who have travelled up the M4 every year since their 2000 victory.

No wonder the results tend to have a familiar look about them, although there are shorter odds than usual on a few fancied runners to perhaps break their National ‘duck’ this time or for others to add to their historic list of victories.

Foden’s make their 19th appearance, whilst Black Dyke, Brighouse & Rastrick, WFEL Fairey and Tredegar each notch up their 18th this weekend.  Whitburn take to the stage for a 17th time with Flowers and GUS here for a 15th time each. 

Then comes City of Hull (12); Friary (8); NASUWT Riverside (7); Zone One (6) and Hepworth (4).

Critical flavour

No wonder the results tend to have a familiar look about them, although there are shorter odds than usual on a few fancied runners to perhaps break their National ‘duck’ this time or for others to add to their historic list of victories.

4BR will be there to bring you a critical flavour of the action as it unfolds with comments by Steven Mead and Chris Thomas and pictures taken by John Stirzaker and Steve Jack.

Black Dyke will provide the pre-results entertainment with a trio of young Geneva Instrument stars invited to perform  ‘Bugler’s Holiday’ as part of their short programme which will also feature the band’s own ‘007’ showcase as well as the world premiere of a new work by Paul Lovatt-Cooper entitled, ‘Above and Beyond’. 

We hope to get the announcement of the 2021 Champion Band of Great Britain to you plus the full results as soon as the first cheers of celebration die down.

Iwan Fox


Competitors:
Start: 10.00am
Test Piece: Heroes (Bruce Broughton)
Draw: 8.15am
Commence: 10.00am
Adjudicators: Dr Robert Childs, Dr Stephen Cobb, Rob Wiffen OBE

Bon Accord (David Roberts)
Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas J. Childs)
Brighouse & Rastrick (Arsene Duc)
Carlton Main Frickley Colliery (Allan Withington)
Camborne (Kevin Mackenzie)
City of Hull (Stig Maersk)
Cory (Philip Harper)
Foden's (Russell Gray)
Flowers (Paul Holland)
Friary (Chris King)
GUS Band (Chris Jeans)
Hepworth (Ryan Watkins)
Llwydcoed (Chris Turner)
NASUWT Riverside (Dr David Thornton)
Ratby Co-operative (Mareika Gray)
Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)
WFEL Fairey (Adam Cooke)
Whitburn (Garry Cutt)
Zone One Brass (Richard Ward)

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