North West Area..time for a change?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by toby hobson, Mar 10, 2008.

  1. toby hobson

    toby hobson Member

    Having competed in the North West Area for the 17th time, I recon its got to be time for a change of venue. The cons are well and truly outweighing the pro's in my humble opinion.

    For starters I make no bones about the fact I HATE BLACKPOOL as Morrissey once wrote "Its a seaside town, they forgot to close down" the general feeling of absolute depression about being in the hell hole while not being over important to the issue, isnt exactly inducive to a wonderful performance.

    The facilities (or lack of) have always been a bit of a in joke with bandsmen, but banding is trying to place its self in the 21st century and to go on to a stage that is on a slope an Alpine ski resort would be proud of in the most important contest of the year having not being allowed to play a note and shivering from the cold is far from ideal. The acoustic is absolutely dreadful and the connection with the audience is none existent. If the contest was a relatively minor regional style contest like Fleetwood or Pilkingtons (or whatever its called now) for example then OK I and im sure most other bandsmen would cut the organisers some slack. but like I said before, the contest is THE most important competition of the year and as far as the championship section goes, it allows progression to the Royal Albert Hall, the difference between the two venues is beyond quirky its laughable!!

    So where could it be held?

    Preston Guild Hall? Well I dont exactly rate that acoustic either and I dont know what facilities there would be two home all sections plus trade stands.
    The Lowery? Never played there but I believe its poor.
    The Bridgewater, fine hall but again probable logistical problems and the same could be said for King Georges Hall Blackburn.

    Off the top of my head the only venue that screams out to me is the Royal Northern. A number of halls under one roof, trade stand friendly, drinking friendly!! Warm up facility, one or two OK acoustics, also much nearer for most bands who compete in that area, cutting down the cost of transport, and above anything else it would mean a major banding City gets a contest again, Manchester, one of the capital cities of banding not having a major contest is a modern day disgrace. Maybe from a financial prospective, it would also entice a few more people through the door if its combined with playing decent music like at the weekend!!

    Anyway that's just some of my thoughts. After a personally successful weekend for me and my band people could be thinking well what have you got to moan about..fair enough..all I do know is if I had played a absolute stinker and not qualified, I would of left thinking well how well could i have played if the venue wasnt akin to Guantanamo bays Camp X-Ray!!!
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2008
  2. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Could well be that just the cost is prohibitive, Toby.

    I had one of the Halls on hire...the downstairs one (the name of which escapes me!)...for a charity concert to raise money for the Manchester Children's Hospital's Burns Camp...and it cost me about a grand for 7.30 until 11pm with fairly minimal staffing.

    Nice place, though - if it could be used it'd be great.....but I wouldn't hold my breath.
  3. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    I was thinking similar today myself. I've now played in four of the halls at the winter gardens and not one of them has an even half way decent acoustic. Placing changing and warm up areas right next to halls so you can't blow before hand don't help either. The only plus point seems to be that you only buy one ticket which gets you into 5 sections. While we're at it, the Spring Festival organisers could also think about moving venues as well...........
  4. Aidan

    Aidan Active Member

    is the northern big enough audience capacity-wise...
    concert hall is 400ish, theatre 600ish.
  5. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    It's probably borderline for some of the bigger Bands (in all sections, that is) - it'd make the results, er, interesting.

    Anyone know the capacities for the Winter Gardens (without me looking it up)?
  6. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    My first words on getting to Blackpool yesterday, having negotiated the closed motorway junction, useless unsigned diversion, byzantine one way system, urine-soaked car parks and scrotey inhabitants were "Gosh, I'd forgotten what an unpleasant place this is " - approximately :rolleyes:

    The facilities before you go on stage are a disgrace, the acoustics in every hall are foul, it's decrepit, the bar and food facilities are both rank and overpriced, it's either tropical or freezing on the various stages and the first time I played in the Opera House (20 years ago! :eek: ) I kicked my harmon mute over and it rolled away to the front of the stage because of the rake.

    So I don't like it. I'd far rather play/conduct in the RNCM or the Bridgewater, or even my garage. BUT......(and these are the ONLY things in its favour):

    No other venue lets you have all 5 sections on the same day. It's possibly unique in the UK in that respect. That gives the North West area an atmosphere that is missing from everywhere else, because you've got a good chance of bumping into nearly everyone you know in banding at some point during the day. I love that, and I also love the fact that despite being involved in the lower sections I can go and listen to the top section later in the day - in the Midlands I used to have to go on a different day (and sometimes to a different town) to do this. I missed Foden's this year because it clashed with our results but I did get to hear a few of the others, and quite a treat it was too. In any other hall the contest would pretty much have to be held over 2 days, losing that unique atmosphere. It's possibly appreciated less by the top bands because they aren't usually on site until about 3pm onwards, but believe me there's no area (and in fact no contest) like it for atmosphere.

    It's CHEAP. I heard from unofficial sources that the Winter Gardens are prepared to give the NWABBA a cheap hire rate because they know they will get good takings at the bar, and that the Guild Hall was rejected years ago because they don't offer the same rate. The increased cost of the hall (and thus inevitably the increased entry fee) presumably wouldn't be an issue for the top bands but for bands in the lower echelons where cash is tight I think it might make the difference between entering and not entering, especially if they are struggling to get a band together and not confident of a reasonable result. Bear in mind also that the Bridgewater Hall management put the hire rate up out of the reach of the British Open and the Grand Shield after the Free Trade Hall closed because they didn't want a load of boozy bandsmen messing up their shiny new hall, so even if the fee was manageable they may well simply not want the booking anyway. Bearing in mind that since the RNCM would have to be cleaned up and ready for students by 1st thing Monday, the same may apply to them as well.

    No-one would be happier than me if the contest came to Manchester (and I agree that it's an absolute DISGRACE that there isn't a major contest, or in fact any contest in Manchester any more) but given the above, I can understand why it's unlikely.:mad:
  7. Andy Cooper

    Andy Cooper Member

    Ive got first hand experience of organising exhibtions in Manchester City Centre and got to say its got the most cost prohibitive venues in the country - for example I went with a major magazine publisher to negotiate hire of one third (The "Windsor" Hall) at G Mex (now manchester central) over a weekend. For the same price we could have had twice the space at the NEC in Birmingham the same weekend!!! We've also looked at other venues such as the Universities and the RNCM - both unsuitable for what we wanted but the prices were significantly above those available both imediately out the city centre and in other Cities. I would imagine that the deal the association has with the winter gardens is very good, especially as its using a good chunk of the winter gardens space in what is a "down" part of their year, plus the bar takings must be phenomenal - although truth be told we went to a pub round the corner (cheaper and more hosipitable even though it meant not being able to catch up with folk.

    Yes the place (and Blackpool itself) could only be improved by the selective use of a tactical nuclear weapon but until such a time as someone comes forward with a good rental package elsewhere at a facility with enough stage space to cope - even if its over the full weekend - then it looks like we will be stuck in Blackpool, a place that if the world had piles, thats where they would be.
  8. Where would people stay? How could you have a conga line down the street consisting of loads of bandsmen, in and out of hotels, other than in blackpool?
  9. If the northern is big enough to host the Youth Band Championships then it should be big enough for the area.
  10. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    You've obviously never stayed at the Britannia, then? ;)
  11. Mattytheshark

    Mattytheshark Member

    I have to agree. Blackpool is an absolute dump. I competed for the first time this weekend in the 4th section. I enjoyed my day but was a little disappointed with the facilities at the winter gardens. There simply must be somewhere better than that!
  12. horn1

    horn1 Member

    If you look at complaints from other areas about their venues I'd say we've got it pretty good. One venue being able to accomadate 5 sections is great. I do however think they need to reconsider the use of space around the various theatres so that warm up is properly available. Yes the accoustics aren't great but there aren't that many contest venues that have great accoustics so I think you'd struggle to improve it.
  13. Lauradoll

    Lauradoll Active Member

    ^^ Yeah! At least you're not in a sports hall! And when you breathe in you can taste the chlorine from the swimming pool below. Looooovely! And as you can imagine, the acoustic is fantastic...need I go on?
  14. ballyhorn

    ballyhorn Member

    Ive missed you Toby .....
  15. Bass Man

    Bass Man Active Member

    Exactly. Not to mention the interruptions from other events that cause disruption, such as the roller disco that held up the 3rd section a couple of years back. Band number 1 (Durham Police I believe) were on stage but couldn't begin their performance because of the racket upstairs!
  16. horn1

    horn1 Member

    Ha ha!! Class :)
  17. Lauradoll

    Lauradoll Active Member

    Or the collapsable seating collapsing. And the fire alarm...
  18. horn1

    horn1 Member

    Ha ha! Sounds like you have an interesting time of it Laura!
  19. Tubah

    Tubah Member

    Having just played at Blackpool on Sunday, and having played in Darlington (many years ago) and almost every Town Hall in Scotland. I declare that Blackpool aint that bad. Getting all 5 sections together pretty much outweighs communal changing and no practice room. Well nearly. Although having now played in both the Opera House and the Spanish Hall and listened in the Ballroom none have much in the way of acoustic "niceness". We just have to assume that the adjudicators are as aware of this as we are and judge accordingly.

    Long Live Blackpool, although Havana was suggested at our practice on Sunday. Not sure about parking for coaches in Cuba!!
  20. BoBo

    BoBo Member

    Having done the North West, West of England and Midlands areas in recent years I can say that if there is any grass in Blackpool, it is at least as green as Torquay or Bedworth.

    All the points made are valid true enough but Blackpool really does bring all of the North-West banding community together in one place to create something unique in my experience.