Skegness. Notoriety personified, the butt of many jokes. Butlins. Tackiness personified and you wouldn’t be far wrong. However, if you look past the reputation and Hi-Di-Hi image, you will discover that in late November, NEMBBA have quite possibly discovered a gem. Take Pontins. Double or even treble the site size. Improve the accommodation by a factor 10, add top-class entertainment and add superb facilites and you’re coming close! The “New” Mineworkers contest at Butlins was making the news even before it began. A lot of fuss being made over £12 matched with date clashing with the Scottish Open and things didn’t look rosy to begin with. However, the minute I walked into my 3 bedroom chalet (I think in Butlin’s case they can be called flats, as opposed to the Pontin’s hut) I had a feeling that the weekend was going to be a success. The layout of Butlins is complicated (especially when drunk). At Pontins, you can leave the bar follow the road and either end up a) in a ditch b) at your chalet or c) back at the bar. Butlins is not so simple. Replace option C with “in the sea” and you begin to see why! The accommodation is set out in small “estates” of flat blocks of 3 storeys. They have quaint maritime names such as Oyster Bay and Spinnaker Point. The blocks also have quaint maritime names such as Yacht Court. I was in 110 Seal Court, Oyster Bay. Which meant I lived in the flats along way from the bar which were accessed by passing several blocks of identical blocks on the right and several identical blocks on the left and being careful to avoid the other identical blocks!! At the centre of site is the “skyline” pavilion. Essentially a massive tent with eating places, a supermarket, a bowling alley (free to residents), a bar (alas, charging ridiculous prices for watered down beer) , the “centre stage” and more arcade games and bandits than you can shake a proverbial stick at!! Occasionally the odd Redcoat might also be loitering in a “so friendly its sinister” fashion. The accommodation is arrayed at either end of this pavilion and go out the wrong door and you’re done for, as I found out Friday night as I stumbled round this eerily quaint “town” at 2am for about an hour. Enough waffle though, “what of the contest?” you ask. Well, all 5 Sections played a set test piece on Saturday and Championship Section did an additional Entertainment Contest on Sunday, which coupled with test piece result would decide the winners. It was good to here that the top section were earning their £5000 1st Prize money. And having been a 4th Section player until recently it was good to see them beginning their section at 10am Saturday morning!! Well-organised rehearsal slots and registration etc complete with band photo opportunities meant all 5 section were completed by about 5.30 ish. The contest being held in 2 rooms, “Reds” theatre and “Centre Stage”. All the results were announced at this time, together, although I can tell you that after 3 Sections worth of adjudicators remarks and jubilatory cheering from the top 4 bands and much trophy and cheque collecting the 1st Section were getting a little anxious for their results! Successful banding day completed, 5th in the 1st Section kept me happy, seeing as my sister came 10th (hee hee!). The obligatory retiring to the band was well underway. Many bands chose to start the night in Sun and Moon pub seeing as the “Centre Stage” (the biggest bar) was still being rearranged from the contest and also Sun and Moon was closest to the chalets! A fantastic site coverage licence meant that beverages were easily transported between venues and when the Centre Stage was ready to go once more it gradually filled up for the nights entertainment. Keith Harris and Orville kicked the entertainment off with a show aimed at the kids (who were fantastically catered for all weekend, something Pontins fails with I think). Many older bandspersons only really went to Centre Stage as 9.30pm ticked around and Versatile Brass appeared. They certainly give Bavarian Stompers a run for their money and were well appreciated by the crowd although there were issues with the bars being in the same room so there was a certain degree of background noise leading to quite a bit of “sssssshhhhingg”. Personally I don’t think it was that bad, if Versatile Brass had been performing elsewhere, I think their audience would have been somewhat limited by the availabilty of refreshments! I think perhaps an improved PA system could rectify this for next year. They were very good and were fantastic entertainment! From Centre Stage, on to Jaks “the jumping joint”, Butlins very own nightclub. Where I was delayed having to negotiate entry with the bouncers. When there are 2 chalet keys between 4 people, it stands to reason that 2 of those people are going to be without keys, which they demanded to see before admission was granted. As I had no key and after having to reel off my somewhat surreal address, they still weren’t convinced I wasn’t a local. Only after telling them my band, position, result and testpiece were they finally convinced, I thought that singing Rhapsody in Brass was the going to be the only way to secure entry!! I don’t quite understand the door policy because no-one else I spoke to had the slightest problem gaining entry! Anyway, Keith Harris awaited again, this time the “adult” version! Very very funny, very very rude!! He (they?) went down a storm. Quickly followed on stage by some rock n roll cover band who were also very good. I have been informed that alternative entertainment in the form of Blues Brothers in Centre Stage was also top-notch! By this time I was fairly drunk and the night took its meandering course…….. What of next year? Well Stan Lippeatt spoke at some length about this at the results and he also took the time to tentatively approach the pre-contest controversy, especially mentioning internet sites – that protest petition thread perhaps??. He acknowledged that perhaps certain aspects of the contest weren’t how they should have been and he endeavoured to iron these problems out. He pushed the online side of the banding grapevine quite heavily throughout his speech. A sign of the growing “influence” of Tmp and 4barrest perhaps?? His next year proposals were interesting to say the least. Basically, they want 90 bands at the contest, almost double this years number. How they would work the playing times and venues could be interesting to watch!! To attract this number of bands, next years Mineworkers will be an OPEN contest, with CISWO bands being giving a fortnight priority entry period. The Mineworkers trophies will be retained. There was also suggestion of mid-December date, a bit silly in my opinion as most bands need that time to earn valuable money through carolling etc. So to conclude, this has the potential to be massive and extremely successful contest. It almost pains me to say it, but Pontins could be put out of business!! Some tips (if anyone at NEMBBA/Butlins is reading this); Iron out some teething problems. – some people got away without paying the infamous £12, there was even a story of 1 band producing an invoice at the gate as a booking confirmation and hence avoiding the £12. The invoice was a photocopy of another band’s!! As to the truth of this story, I cannot tell. Reduce the price of drink - £2.95 a bottle, £2.60/£2.80 a pint is not on!! Reduce the amount of water in these expensive pints! Stock some Dog. Improve the weather! Some tips for all who weren’t there this year; GO NEXT YEAR!!! These are my personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of Barnsley Building Society Band.