Regional Experience Yorkshire Style
As a Yorkshire regional contest virgin I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I got there. As a youngster I almost imagined a kind of promised land where only the great and the good are allowed to tread. As I got older I realised it wasn’t but there is still something remarkable about the whole weekend.
As I was working on a trade stand the weekend got off to a rather early start and at 8am on Saturday there was a frenzy of activity around the hall as the traders arrived. For anyone who has never witnessed this it is quite something, especially somewhere like St Georges Hall where space is restricted to say the least and you are turning up in a whopping great big van on ice covered roads! A trip to Nandos the night before was not the best plan and my humble apologies to the guys and gal from Band Supplies, Norman’s, Fred Rhodes and Hanley’s for the foul odour.
Unfortunately over the course of the weekend I had very little opportunity to hear many bands except through the door to the hall. I have to say though that Dodworth were well worth their win in the 4th and Emley were a safe bet for 2nd. Well done both. Note to all tMp’ers though, if you ask anyone in Emley who is who on this site then prepare to be there a while, I think the only one not registered is their new trophy and I reckon that will be a member by the end of the week! The award for youngest player was taken by a young lad from Skelmanthorpe B band. He is a rather young looking 10 year old who’s fleece was roughly twice his size and he received a great ovation from the audience and other competitors, another show of the appreciation the Yorkshire folk have for their banding.
The staff at Bradford are something completely new to me. They are all employed by the hall itself and generally had little knowledge of what was going on. They were however constantly asking us questions about the music, the instruments, the movement and why we all did it. Sensible, courteous and a great asset to the contest indeed.
As the day went on it became more apparent that catering on site is pretty sparse. Step outside the hall however and there are several shops / eateries just a stones throw away which is excellent for us hard working traders dying for a snack.
Last up on the Saturday was the 1st Section and the hall was just as full as it was for the 4th section. There was a steady flow of people around the hall all day and by this time the downstairs bar was heaving! Again the organisers showed their experience by having an army of staff behind the bar and never did it take me more that a couple of minutes to get served. Fantastic organisation by the Yorkshire committee and event organisers.
The 1st section came and went and the first controversial result of the year. The finer points of adjudication are not something Im going to venture into but the atmosphere was excellent in the hall and although clearly disappointed the bands that hoped to do better stuck around and applauded the winners in style. The organisation of the results ceremony is again smooth with a touch of class up North. Peggy Tomlinson handles everything with aplomb and nothing seems to phase her, a lovely lady who not only ensured the bands ran smoothly but was always around to ensure us traders were ok.
The Saturday had finished and all there was left to do was have an early night to get ready for another days work on the Sunday. In hindsight I almost wish I had done as Bradford is possibly the worst City I have ever stumbled across in terms of nightlife! Having drank in the St Georges Hall bars all day and ventured over to The Queen a few times it was time to broaden my horizons. We asked in the first few bars where they would recommend and the answer was always the same…………LEEDS!!! Oh well, it was an experience I guess.
Sunday morning came and we returned to the trade area. Fortunately the hall is secured overnight so everything can be left set up over night, definitely a good thing!!
The 3rd and 2nd sections passed pretty smoothly and attendance was again pretty good throughout the day. The 2nd section result was a little surprising to quite a few people who had listened but again it was all taken in good spirit and the cheering from bands in the top six was impressive stuff indeed. As the day progressed there was an obvious change in the atmosphere. By the time the first two sections were coming to a close the anticipation of the ‘big boys’ arrival was pretty high and as the first few brass band celebrities turned up there was a buzz about the whole place.
For the top section contest the hall was packed, all the favourites seemed to have been drawn towards the end of the draw yet even for the first few bands there was a decent sized audience. Having frequented the Midlands area for many years, where people seem to listen to only a few of the bands the size of the audiences were quite astonishing to me. There is a great aura in the hall and the size of the occasion is apparent on the face of almost every performer. The chance to pit yourselves against the very best is clearly as exciting a prospect as id is daunting and the audience are exceptionally appreciative of every players efforts. I cant explain the mood in the audience when the truly great bands are coming on stage, Grimethorpe were the first of the favourites to enter the arena and as soon
as the percussionists appeared to set the stage the buzz in the hall was amazing. Something you really have to experience and something that makes listening to, and playing for these bands so very, very special.
Downstairs in the bar and across in The Queen is as wonderful an atmosphere as in the hall and what rivalry there is between the competing bands is in no way evident. Two bars full of exceedingly drunk players from the days earlier sections, along with the trying to get drunk asap players from the top section is a fitting end to the weekend.
My one complaint about the weekend was the restricted space we had to work in at the trade stands. It was very cramped and that was before the public started piling in and out of the hall between bands. The location is great, unfortunately the limited space was a problem not just for us but all the stalls.
For the competing bands and those there as supporters or audience members however this is quite an event and was everything I expected. Even if you only do it once the Yorkshire area is something that has to be experienced and no matter what you are expecting from it you will not be disappointed. I would even go as far as to say the 2 days contesting and the organisation that goes into this event made the nights out in Bradford bearable and that is some achievement.