I had the pleasure yesterday of helping out our Academy band at the Gouden Spiker Festival in Holland. This contest is for lower section bands only and was a thoroughly enjoyable day. There was a great atmosphere of being there to participate rather than the focus on winning. (although that would have been nice of course!). Lots of other plus points about this event: All bands were professionally video'd and copies available to purchase for €13 - they used multiple cameras and had people who knew the set work for each section so soloists, featured sections etc all got their own focus in the video. No registration - a simple armband given to each playing member. Very reasonably priced bar - including food - no rip off prices that we have come to expect elsewhere. Nice format: All bands had to play a march, a solo item, a slow piece and the set test piece. (Olympus in our case). Very well run - lots of helpful stewards around including one who actually went with our bus driver to find a parking space. Very detailed adjudicators comments. Fortunately, the remarks were written in English! All in all, an excellent day without any pressure beyond the personal desire of the bands to play at their best. This was my first contest as part of Cologne Concert Brass - we are blessed with have Junior, Academy and a senior band giving opportunities at all levels to play in an English style brass band. The Academy band is conducted by Martyn Bennett whom some or you may know from his days as a player with Aldbourne band - doing an outstanding job. I would love to report the results but as none of us speak Dutch, the awards ceremony was a mystery to us although the Belgian Trappist beer may also have influenced this!