Reading some of the posts re the English National , it strikes me that some folk may not realise the dedication and hard work these foreign bands have put into what is still essentially their hobby. ( and still do ) . Having worked with most of Europe's best, let me give you a few examples. DENMARK I have seen competing bands hiring Schools to use their various halls and sleep in Sleeping Bags etc. SWEDEN , Ditto. BELGIUM .cramming rehearsals in at 8.00am before going to work , and then to rehearse again in the evening after work ...EVEN for concerts, in their endeavours to improve. NORWAY , many bands meet for weekend workshops , catching ferry after ferry to do it ...at their own expense. I did one concert when the players had to be collected by boat ..over a 2hr period . On some of the smaller islands I have observed young players fishing ..AT the same time practicing their instruments ! TRUE. SWITZERLAND ..I have seen Farmers having their lunch in the fields with the inevitable practice afterwards I could go on ....but the message is clear , work hard and with the right coaching , most players get there. Their respective National Youth Bands show that . I realise there are less alternative attractions to tempt the young players to abandon their practice, and there is also a high regard for young players by the population in many of the villages from which they come. So the players feel almost like Celebrities...especially if they manage to gain a place The recent Eikanger documentary is a good illustration of what dedication, hard work and passion brings. I have seen these bands develop over many years, and I am sad to see present state of English Bands , when so many are short of players, cannot rehearse more than once weekly , won't travel to play unless the money is good .Even in Championship contests, the audiences have become smaller and smaller, Take away from those who listen , the relatives , friends etc., and the actual number interested is frighteningly small. In an area like the N/West. the Blackpool Opera House , home to the Spring and Regional Championships, not long ago boasted circle and Balcony full....no longer, the balcony is sealed off empty and the circle half full when the favourite band is on. I suppose every generation has something to go on about, BUT don't anyone under estimate the foreign bands . and please give them the credit and the following they deserve. It would be a pipe dream to imagine the same effort from many bands in England ( unless money is involved )...BUT maybe ...one day.