North of England Regional Championships 2006 I always look forward to the area contest, this one being my 5th. Last year was fantastic, we had acquired Duncan Beckley and I was desperate for the band to do well. The atmosphere amongst the band was great and my 3rd area with Five Rivers was to be lucky, when we walked away champions of the 4th section. They say once you’ve been there and done it it’s never the same and this year I felt that. I got all fired up and ready for the area after listening to the Championship section in the Midlands and in the final week things were going well. The morning of the contest, I got up early to straighten my hair and put my make up on, but it never seems to bring us luck so our principal cornet made me scrap that idea and I just tied my hair up. Hoping that my photo wasn’t going to taken, my mom thinks I give her the same photo to pin up from every contest! When we arrived at Darlington in our separate cars, we entered the little room in the fire service for rehearsal. I love rehearsing there because the fire men and women really enjoy listening too. It was very hot though and tuning was wavering not to mention my 2nd valve sticking (anyone who remembers me at Butlin’s this year and the problem with my new xeno will appreciate my concern). We all went over to Bob the Builder’s hut for the contest and awaited the draw. It was all a bit boring to be honest. There wasn’t the same enthusiasm and atmosphere that the band had last year and nothing had gone wrong. Every year something bad happens. Last year our principal cornet, Teresa, left the briefcase with all the band cards and information in. The year before, someone smashed into the back of her car, full with timp’s and basses and two years ago, she had her handbag stolen. That was also the year I walked over to the Dolphin centre and my band jacket fell in a puddle of rain, so I had dirty, wet sleeves. Along with numerous fire alarms, someone falling off the tiered seating, a disco coming up trough from the hall below halting the contest, and no one will forget the year there was a punch up on the stage, due to the results. Considering, all that, and the fact that the centre is currently under construction, I was expecting some action. We drew number 6, and for the first time, I went to listen to three of the bands in the 4th section. For me this is what banding is about - Lower section bands proud to be playing, often having young players with instruments bigger than themselves. One of these bands particularly made me feel great and a sense of pride for them. They walked on with their heads held up high, full of passion for playing and hoping to do well. This was conveyed by the conductor that had great control over the band and although there was the normal tuning problems and odd split note, they played their hearts out and I felt this came through in their playing. The conductor smiled at the players and encouraged them right to the end. I was disappointed they came so low. Another highlight of the 4th section for me was watching two percussionists in the same band. One was just knee high to a grasshopper and as he went to hit the bass drum, he hit it with the triangle as well, so cute! The other percussionist was not much older and stood there counting every bars rest intensely as the bar with the triangle ting approached, encouraged by the older, more experienced drummer, the young lad beamed a smile as he hit the note and moved on to the next part. I was so encouraged by the youth and commitment of the 4th section and for me this year, it was what made the day for me. In a period, particularly in the North East, where we worry about the demise of many bands, we should be doing more to support and share the attitude that these youngsters have. Following the results, we got ourselves ready to play and I handed out the registration cards. I had the fortune of having a chat to a fellow ‘Tmper’ who was conducting and realised he probably had no idea who I was so after explaining who I was, it turned out he remembered exactly who I was and what I played and when we last met, so I felt a little silly. I wished him luck - it worked, they are off to the finals! The mood within the band was nothing like last year and I felt a big part of the atmosphere was missing. We went on and played but it wasn’t to be our day. Split notes, poor entries and insecurities in solo lines, left us low down the adjudicators list. I knew we hadn’t done it, the band was never out to win and take another trip to the finals, with it promotion to the second section, so unlike other years, I went to listen to the other bands in our section. Heard the results, first band in the top section and then decided to have some fun in Pizza Hut. We managed to convince the waitress we were all of the mental age of 6 and without drink too! Polished off between us, 7 drinks, 2 medium pizzas and emptied the fun factory ice cream machine – now that was more like it! The atmosphere within the band or the Dolphin centre was not there this year, maybe it was because I didn’t go to the bar, or spend the day with the band, but for me it was about watching those youngsters and bands in the 4th section have pride in what they do. I wish all bands had that.