Local Contests - is there a future?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Tiffers, Apr 5, 2005.

  1. Tiffers

    Tiffers New Member

    I was prompted into thinking about the question when reading a thread yesterday about a contest down on the South Coast where very few bands had entered, bands were doubling up on sections (and there were still only 3 or 4 in each section) and the top section was probably going to be cancelled due to lack of bands.

    The above story seems to me to be all too familiar all around the country where local contests are struggling to continue to exist (with some notable exceptions I admit). The common thread seeming to be the lack of bands wanting to compete in these contests.

    In the past (not that long ago!) I remember the local contest being a highlight of the year (almost as important as the area!) where all local bands competed and were desperate to beat their local rivals for local pride and bragging rights in the pub as much as for anything else.

    Why do bands (as a whole) not seem to want to support their local contests anymore? Is it due to time contraints, organisation, prize money, other more important commitments, format of the contest?

    What would it take to entice bands back to our local contests? Is it all really down to money and bands nowadays will only compete when there is a big fat prize cheque on offer? Perhaps I'm becoming cynical in my old age!

    I really worry that this is an aspect of our banding that is in real danger of disappearing and that would be a real shame.

  2. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    We've certainly noticed this at the Oxford and District Brass Band Association. Whereas in previous years we have run three contests per year (one test piece, one entertainments, and one solos, quartets etc contest), for the last two years we have had to cancel the full band contests due to lack of interest.

    We aren't sure why this is - we have heard various reasons from bands, ranging from dissatisfaction with the venue to the timing of the contests - although I personally am convinced that if we were able to offer prize money (as well as our magnificent trophies) we would get a better entry. Unfortunately, we just can't afford to do that unless we have a bigger entry, and (it seems) we can't have a bigger entry without offering prize money - catch 22!

    We are trying to find ways of re-invigorating interest from band's in our contests by thinking "out of the box" and coming up with some interesting diversions from the traditional contest. Watch this space to see if any of them take off. Luckily our Brass Festival (which is solos, duets, quartets and small ensembles) remains well supported, albeit from a small number of local bands who provide a massive entry each year. This contest is being held on May 8th in Oxford this year - if anybody is interested in adding further to our entry please contact me ;). All welcome!

    Most local bands know each other well, and often help each other out for engagements and other events. It seems to me that local contests provide a nice opportunity to hear what these other bands in your neighbourhood are capable of, in (hopefully) a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. That's certainly what we aim for at ODBBA. Seems a shame that bands don't appear to be interested in this "social" side of contesting any more.

    Contest Secretary
    Oxford and District Brass Band Association.
  3. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    I'd hope so.

    Same here in North Wales I'd say. There was a poor turnout at the Rhyl contest before Christmas which was sad to see. One reason why it's not so much fun anymore is because local bands are now in different sections. Also because many bands don't turn up. Like you say it's a catch 22.

    Maybe there's too many sections also.
  4. madsaz

    madsaz Member

    Similar problems at Tameside this weekend in the lower sections. The prize money there is ok (£600 to winner) but I think that it falls too close to the areas - most of us are sick of the sight of our area piece but theres little time to rehearse up another.
  5. Craigsav83

    Craigsav83 Active Member

    The Carnagie Contest (or whatever its called now :-s ) held in Dunfermline attracted 30 entries this year from down the sections, which isn't bad considering 52 bands made it to the area last month. I believe there has been some withdrawls though, its a concert programme format, which is good after spending weeks practicing a test piece for the area a few weeks before. Unfortunatly, its a bit close to the Blackpool contest for the top section bands who have a test piece to work on.
  6. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    We used to go to the local association contests but stopped a few years ago, the reasons (as far as I can remember) were a mixture of the following:-

    - the number of bands, at the time we were 2nd Section and expected to compete in the 'top' section locally against championship section bands. Unsurprisingly we found it hard to compete!

    - rules for youth/junior bands, we used to take our main band and our junior band but were told that we had too many 'seniors' in our junior band, they were ALL under 16 but happened to play in the main band. Sadly our junior band no longer competes anywhere.

    - rules on borrowing players, even though no prize money was at stake we were disqualified for playing a borrowed player from a higher ranked band.

    It is a shame that we don't go to any local contests now and, sadly, I think it now we would only return if some prize money was available.
  7. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    Steve, I assume you are referring to the ODBBA contests? If so I can only apologise - I wasn't involved with the association then, so I can't take any credit for your bad experience!

    Several of the issues you raise (registration of guest players etc) are currently being revised by ODBBA to make the contests more accessible and attractive to bands. We also don't have many Championship section bands left in the area, so I'm sure if you did enter you would be one of the strongest / highest section bands in the event!

    We are trying to get it right for the future, but we do need the input from the local bands to do this - if we don't know what bands want, we can't reasonably be expected to implement it! We have sent out several surveys to local bands asking how we can improve / what we can do to make ourselves more relevant to them, but the response rate is very poor - maybe one or two responses in 30 sent. Also, very few bands bother to send a representative to the Association AGM - as I'm sure you appreciate, if the band's don't give any feedback it is difficult for the Association to improve! If you wanted to give feedback more informally than at an AGM, then feel free to contact a committee member - several are on here as members, including the Chairman (MartinT) and now myself. I'm sure Martin will jump in if he reads this thread!

    We haven't always got it right, but we do try - it would be good to think that your band could give us another chance sometime in the near future!


  8. Laserbeam bass

    Laserbeam bass Active Member

    Although I started the thread on the scaba spring contest, there has been an increase of bands entered over the sections from 16 to 22, but alas still no champ section. In total contrast the autumn contest last year attracted 42 bands, including 9 entries in the champ section. Albeit with a couple of bands making the trip across from Belgium. Banding and contesting at a local level is still strong in the south, but generally the April contest is marred by it being to close to the areas. This year they are 5 weeks apart, and in addition the Blackpool spring festival is only 2 weeks after that.

    However, thing's do appear to be on the up, and hopefully next year we will have even more entries. Poor 3rd section / youth, their draw may well be at 8 am. Still we've all been at contests that early. Part of the fun is playing with a hangover, or while still drunk from the night before, ala, regional comps at Pontins :oops:, of yesteryear.
  9. Tiffers

    Tiffers New Member

    Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    It seems a common difficulty for contest organisers to gain any feedback from bands on what they actually do want. It seems bands are very willing to have an opinion on a certain competition privately, or in the bandroom, but are very unwilling to actually pass it on to the relevant organisers who can implement any changes for their benefit.
  10. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    Yes ODBBA is correct.

    We struggle to get people on our committee so you can imagine the trouble trying to get someone to go to the Association AGM !

    Maybe a relaxation of the rules would also encourage some of the non-contesting bands to take part, a few from Brackley help out at Hook Norton and I reckon they could be persuaded to do a local contest if they were allowed some 'help'.
  11. Soppy

    Soppy Member

    The contest in East Anglia has also collapsed miserably! The main issue I think is the gropuing of the bands. My band, who are now 1st section but were Championship a few years ago, competes against bands i nthe 3rd section! They try to get round this by offering two test pieces for each section. One is sometimes far easier than the other. But even so, they are poorly chosen, and it is impossible to get one that that diversity of standard can be happy with.

    In the lower sections I think the test piece is what puts many off, simply because they are quite often poor choices. The contest is also at the start of May, so the lower bands have to start work on another contest piece straight after the areas! That is garunteed to put many bands off, who do not want that.

    And the thrid reason I can think of is low numbers! Low turn out this year means no-one will bother next year etc. Obviously that can't ahve been the initial reason for the decline, but it now prevents an increase.

    Also, the association's Solo, Duet and Quartet competition has collapsed completed (as in cancelled 2 years running, and probably again) because of a lack of entrants when it used to be absolutely full. Maybe that's totally different, but there could be a link somewhere.
  12. MartinT

    MartinT Member

    I'm happy to go along with what Dave has written on this subject. I must say also that I personally miss the days when the likes of Brackley and Wantage used to compete head-to-head, very often using that year's Area testpiece.

    Part of the difficulty seems to arise, paradoxically, from increased competitiveness. This showed itself initially in the unwillingness of local Championship bands to turn up without a full band (which seems difficult to achieve these days, at that level), and to "give away secrets" of their chosen approach to the music.

    Stevetrom alludes to the time when his band was 2nd section. Now, of course, that the ex-2nd section bands in the Association are all 1st section, the "championship" attitudes referred to above seem to have spread to these bands too. I don't except my own band.

    I'd like to think there is still a role for local contests, but it may be either that that role is restricted to lower-section bands, or that the scope of such contests is restricted to e.g. quartets and ensembles, as provided for in the ODBBA Brass Festival that Dave has plugged so splendidly :)

    Martin Taylor
    Chairman, ODBBA

    I'm hopeful that the cancellation of full-band contests in Oxfordshire may cause bands to think a bit, and to make their feelings known on the matter. AGMs are a good vehicle for this, and ODBBA's will be announced to bands in due course - normally 1st Sunday in November.
  13. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    Good topic,
    At Emley we find it difficult to attend every local contest that Yorkshire have to offer!! Obviously - March, Area's. April, Pogson Bray & Homfirth. May, Yorks & Humber annual contest. June, Easingwold. July, Brighouse Marching, Old Silkstone Marching, Marsden Marching. Sept, Hardraw Scar. Nov, Malton. I may have missed some! But it's impossible to balance all those contests against doing concerts and (most importantly) raising money. You just have to pick a few a miss the others out.

    There's nothing wrong with any of the individual contests but there's just too many.
  14. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    I think that's very true. At the L&SCR areas this year I entered my own band (Pangbourne and District Silver) into the 4th section, despite only having 16 players. We were probably the smallest band there (maybe the smallest in all of the areas?), but I'm delighted to say that while we didn't win, we certainly didn't come last either! I can't imagine a higher section band taking that "risk" at the areas, but I don't think that it should matter at a local contest. Assuming that the purpose of the contest is (at least partly) to have a good time, and show off what the band can acheive, I don't think it matters if you only have 1 Eb bass, or no 2nd trombone, or whatever.

  15. Tiffers

    Tiffers New Member

    And what would make you choose one contest over another?
  16. MartinT

    MartinT Member

    I think there's a bit of a difference here between going to the Areas with a reduced band - but having the same reduced band available for a local contest a couple of weeks before - and not having the same band available for the local contest as for the Areas. Some Championship bands have difficulty getting certain key players along for more than a very limited number of rehearsals, and I think this where the difficulty lies.

    I think also that where a band is really having to work hard at the level they're at, there's a real risk of compromising morale with a (possibly) poor performance at a local contest, and thus risking failure at the Area contest. I suspect this is the sort of thing that exercises MDs' minds as the Area contest looms.
  17. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    we go to the contests that fit in with our concert program. easy as that!
    we've got a booking for 23rd (st. george's day) so when we get the entry for Holmfirth (24th) there's no way we want to do both. Concert - Garunteed cash. Contest - who knows?
  18. Soppy

    Soppy Member

    The problem of too many contests isn't a problem round here. Bands go out of the area to contest, and the only local one is the EABBA contest.

    About small bands; we are a 1st section band, and we refused to contest at the L&SC without almost full band. In the end, we ahd to pull out because we ahd no Bb bass (we would have done it with just one), but the risk is too great. You would not get away with it in the higher sections, and you'd risk doing realyl badly, thus damaging the image of the band. In the small area contests however, it is not so much an issue, but again, better bands have higher standards so to speak, so they don't want to be seen playing below what they could. I was also a memeber of a 4th section band that once fielded a ridiculously small number at L&SC. We had 1 Eb bass, 1 Trom (and kind of half a Bas Trom!) and onyl one Baritone and one Euph. We came slap band last mind! We weren't helped by the fact that the test piece, Lydian Pictures, was especially in need of a good Bass section though! But we didn't really mind that much; it was forgotten about within a week or so!
  19. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    That's a similar situation to down south. We have SCABA (who IMHO are excellent), and there is ODBBA. I think (and no doubt somebody will correct me if I am wrong) the Bucks Association recently folded (they were certainly on the verge of it). There may be other small associations that run contests in the area, but I'm sorry to say I'm not really aware of them.

    Is running the risk of relegation through not entering the contest a greater or lesser evil than performing with no Bb bass? What will happen if you don't have a Bb bass next year, and the year after? I'd think that being relegated would do the band's image more harm, and I personally would be sorely tempted to take the risk of entering (and maybe doing OK - who knows?!) than not entering and definitely getting a no-show against your name.

    Agreed, but if the contest is truly local then all bands know each other anyway, so I really don't think it matters too much. I know at least one top level band in this area who has recently asked my band (4th section) to help them out at a fairly prestigious gig. As a result, we know that particular band (who shall remain nameless!) probably played on that particular day well below what they would normally have been capable of, and I'm sure that any band (presumably every single band in the country!) that asks for a dep (or in the case of the example above, a number of deps) opens themselves up to this same situation. I'm playing devil's advocate here, but why is it OK for bandsmen and the general public to hear you play at less than 100% at a gig (prestigious or not), but not to let the same bandsmen and public to hear you play at less than 100% at a contest? Especially at a local contest, which has no bearing on ranking?
  20. Soppy

    Soppy Member

    It was jsut a suggestion, and may not be the case. I didn't say that was necessarily the case with us, but if a band has standards.

    And as for the area, we felt that there was no point in playing without a Bb Bass. The band hadn't entered the previous two years either for various reasons (and that had seen us relegated to 1st section), so another 'now show' wasn't really as much as a deal as it might have been.

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