Capitial punishment?

Will a London band ever win the National Championships?

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Dave Payn

Active Member
Why can't a London band win the Nationals (or even get anywhere near winning it)? Is it because there are too many other distractions in the smoke to have people commit themsleves for the necessary amount of rehearsals? Is there too much of an 'orchestral' tradition? At lower section levels, to my ears, the standards are a lot closer throughout the country but at the highest levels, London bands just don't seem to be able to cut it. Your thoughts, please.



Active Member
My thoughts:

Fact: Historically, the best bands are in Yorkshire/North West or other traditionally working class areas like the North East and South Wales.

Therefore, for 'brass band' training, I guess the North is the best area, the tradition and heritage is there. This is not to say that in London there are not quality 'brass band' players or teachers but on the whole alot of the better brass band players live and are trained in the north so these Northern bands have the pick of them. There are examples of fine players from the South who have made the trip north to join these 'best' bands, like Matt Baker who came to Dyke from Redbridge.

Many fine players move from the North to London to be trained at the RAM,RCM, Trinity etc or move there for the work, not to join bands.

I think it's always possible for a London band to win a major (there have been worse bands in the country that have done it before) but because of the reasons above I am unsure whether there would be a consistent challenge.

Am I right?!

Rothwell Temps


Supporting Member
I have to agree with jf I'm afraid, and it applies to the whole Southern region, not just London. Although the local bands usually do ok at the finals, I can't see us ever coming up with a winner unless there are some huge changes. Generally the "problem" seems to boil down to three things:
fewer and fewer younger players coming through from school/youth bands
better players migrating North for work/college etc
not enough players to go round - I can only name a handful of top/1st section bands that have a full lineup of their own players.
I really don't know what the answer is though!


Active Member
I think there is a problem with really good players feeling they have to move north to fulfill their potential... Hopefully the general standard in London will improve to a level where the best players feel they can achieve all they want to achieve in London.


Active Member
I think a contributory factor is that people who live in London are so busy.

I think all bands are suffering from lack of players to some extent. I picked up on what Accidental says about Southern bands suffering but I would London are getting it worse. Look at non-london bands in the South who seem to have full compliments (Camborne, JAG Mount Charles, Flowers, Bournemouth Concert.

Rothwell Temps


Supporting Member
Sorry, didn't explain properly - I meant southern band region, as in Surrey/Sussex/Kent etc, especially the London commuter area.
I agree the south west is much healthier.


1.Get Roman Abramovich to sponsor a band in the London area.Perhaps renaming them Chelsea Brass.
2.Sign up you pick of Webster,Childs,Morrisson,Wycherly,Ibbotson,etc,etc.
3.Win the area.
4.Win the nationals!!

Piece of cake......don't know why no one else thought of it :D


Active Member
:D ok, I see what you mean!

Incidentally my brother is MD at Regent and will need a top cornet and Euph shortly, know anyone up for it?

Rothwell Temps


When I first started playing in the early 70's there wasn't much chance of a Scottish band ever winning the National as the standard at the time was a long way behind the top bands in England.

Less than 20 years later it happened, so I would imagine, if the will is there, that it's highly possible for a London band to do it someday in the not too distant future.



Active Member
Speaking as someone who has been banding (OK not at top flight, but close to at times, 1st Section.... errr Ok well "almost" there) in the London area for about 17 odd years theres several reasons why (in no particular order).

- Attitude, basically the whole idea of living and breathing banding is alien to most folks down here. It's a heritage thing, we don't have it, or rather we've lost it which is a shame since some truly great names have links down hear, Mortimer + Luton, Sparke + Hillingdon, Hanwell... and others. Funnily enough the lower sections seem to be doing alright in the finals and putting up a decent standard, it's the top section that seems to have gone to pot.

- Expense, bands here are suffering badly due to expensive rehearsal rooms, overheads and all the rest.

- Lack of Junior bands. When I started playing there where two school brass bands and a number of junior bands (brass or otherwise) in my area (I was lucky enough to go one of these schools). now there are none that I know of, full marks though to the bands that manage to keep a training band going, however music in schools round here is less than zero, unless its keyboards or guitar.

- Lack of players, more and more bands in this region are folding due to lack of players, there just aren't enough to go round at any level and it reallt gets to me when the music colleges go and start their own bands for contesting. This denies those bands that had to rely on students for players mind you given the performance and behaviour of some of these players I think this may be a blessing in disguise.

Basically it's crap down here for bands and the moment and to be honest I can't see it changing much in the next 10 years (unless Brass become fashionable for some strange reason).


Active Member
Yeh I know what you mean to.
We are even further North than Kenny - yeh there is a road that goes North of Edinburgh/Glasgow.
We now have a full contesting band plus extras and a Community band that is growing fast. We are all enjoying our playing and I must say what a difference it makes when you get full band attendances.


johnflugel said:
Look at non-london bands in the South who seem to have full compliments (Camborne, JAG Mount Charles, Flowers, Bournemouth Concert

Speaking as a player in Cornwall (who is also Cornish) Cornwall is one of the most precarious areas for bands. Yorkshire and the North West have lots of counties bordering them and players are willing to travel. I think if the 'top' bands were to do a tally of the distance that their players travel to rehearsal they would realise that the bulk of their band come from a far distance to play.

In Cornwall we have one county which borders us. There are no Championship section bands in Devon. Thats not to say that there aren't any players good enough to play at that standard but, with respect, the pick of Devon is not exactly from a bumper crop!

Cornish bands have survived by being smart about Youth bands and nurturing their own players. I started in my own bands youth band 20 years ago and have only ever played for the same band. The core of our senior band is made up of players nurtured through the Youth band. Other bands like St Austell, St Dennis and Camborne are now enjoying the benefits of having a sound youth policy and their 'senior' bands are inproving because of it. Not all players ina ny given youth band progress into that organisation's senior band and they go elsehwere, i.e. to other bands in the area who may not necessarily have a youth band. In reality everybody benefits from this scenario.

If I had my way, I would encourage every single band in the UK to have a youth band. However, youth bands take time and that is what a lot of people aren't willing to give up. I know that Grimethorpe are just staring up their own youth band- how many other 'top' bands have a youth band? Think of the resources in the main band which can be drawn upon to teach beginners and young players. You could argue that it is being wasted.

Back to the topic, how many London Bands have youth bands? If any given band decided to have a youth band and they nurtured their own perhaps they may reap the benefits. the other benefit is that you can apply fr a lottery grant and get a new set of instruments!



Well-Known Member
By the way, the poll implies that a L&SC band has never won the Nationals. Not true; Luton Red Cross did it in 1923. As far as I'm aware, that's the only such occasion.


Naomi McFadyen

New Member
I'm moving up to the north because this is where brass band country is if you want to make it big...the difference between up here and the south-west is tremendous I found... people actually go to concerts up here! lol! First gig with Leyland I played in we had a full house...
My first band down south; well, certainly not a full house; I remember one gig we did we only had 6 in the audience!

Can't comment on London really, but I dont think the standard is as high... but with bands such as Fodens, Faireys, Dyke, YBS, Leyland and the rest up in the north, it's not really much of a surprise...

Lets hope L&SC prove us lot wrong with all this 'eh? Good luck to them!



The ILEA (now defunct) and most outer London education authorities have always promoted orchestral and wind band playing rather than brass band playing. This is probably because they have drawn on the huge available army of freelance orchestral musicians to work as part-time peripatetics. There have been many quality players produced, but few of them would think of playing in a brass band, and their musical outlook isn't necessarily correct for the idiom. I have detected a tendency towards the horrible "higher, faster and louder" school of playing in some (not all!) London area bands... music college student brass-player mentality!
For the sake of preserving and furthering our culture there really needs to be a review of instrumental music in London schools with some priority given to brass band instrumentation. Sadly, present day education seeks to promote foreign and minority cultures above our own, and it just isn't going to happen. There is no longer a single authority to implement the changes anyway. Each London borough pulls in a slightly different direction. The market-driven style of instrumental tuition can make any kind of ensemble work difficult. Some schools have 50 kids "doing" drums and 3 learning violin!'s like a football team comprised entirely of goal-keepers!


I think the chances of a London band ever winning the "Big One" in the medium to long term are improving, sooner or later a Band will find itself in a financial position to tap into the vast musical resources the capital has to offer.
People need to remember London is home to the best Salvation Army bands, a couple of Guards Bands,and last but not least 3 or 4 top class Conservatoires.In fact its surprising they have not won more than once!

Igg`s views on the Cornish banding scene is interesting to say the least!
Trust a Cornishman to blame Devon for it`s lack of Quality players :D
Someone once said that if Cornwall pooled all it`s best talent into one band, it might get a band capable of competing at the highest level, I guess we`ll never know the answer to that one.
Igg also seems to be suggesting that Cornish Bands are improving as a result of their youth policy, that said Camborne,St Austell & St Dennis used to occasionally be in the top 6 at the RAH , not any more it has to be said.
I think the wonderfully vibrant youth band scene in Cornwall is to applauded, but I don`t think it is enough in itself to bring long term success to the region, look outside the well known youth band set-ups in Cornwall and I believe the cracks are starting to appear (Devon too!)
As someone who has played at lower section level in London & the Westcountry, London has the better future in my opinion.
Ian Heard
Soundhouse Brass
Plymouth Devon.


.....and let's face it, if Mount Charles Youth Band produced what is the Iggmeister it has a lot to answer for!


Staff member
kirmat said:
I think the chances of a London band ever winning the "Big One" in the medium to long term are improving, sooner or later a Band will find itself in a financial position to tap into the vast musical resources the capital has to offer.
People need to remember London is home to the best Salvation Army bands, a couple of Guards Bands,and last but not least 3 or 4 top class Conservatoires.In fact its surprising they have not won more than once!

Whilst I agree that there are a lot of resources available in the London area, I would tend to agree with johnflugel in saying that the very busy-ness in London works against the likelihood of building a settled band. There are a lot of very talented players, but they are also very much in demand, and there is a wide range of free-lance opportunities available.

Players in military bands find more and more demands on their time, and often do not know from week to week what their availability is going to be. Those trying to earn a living in business are at the mercy of the expectation of long working hours, coupled with the vagiaries of London's transport infrastructure. As for the SA bands, with the exception of one or two larger corps bands I would say that the London area is probably suffering more than the rest of the country from falling numbers and commitment problems.

I think the recent example of First City highlights some of the difficulties in establishing a first-class band in London - despite a central core of very talented and committed players, they were unable to create sufficient enthusiasm or commitment to mount a sustained challenge, leaving those who were putting in a lot of time and effort to become disillusioned.
I can't see how bands from London have trouble winning the big one, surely on the day they have as much a chance as any, I mean even though championship section bands do make less mistakes I feel that some still have "off moments" but not many plus the adjudicators sometimes get it wrong I mean does anyone remember when Black Dyke came 13th or something like that, accidents still happen.

Dave Payn

Active Member
As someone who was born and raised in the same part of London as W Rimmer, and indeed part of the ILEA set up in my youth, I can vouch for what he says. I started playing the trumpet in 1974. A few months into my lessons, I caught sight of what I was to discover was a cornet. On the basis that it looked smaller and cuter (come on, I was only 11 at the time!) I asked my music teacher (not my trumpet teacher) whether I could play that instead. 'No you don't want to play that. They're for brass bands' came the reply...... Four years later, I went to my first brass band and have stayed with bands ever since, whilst not forgetting my trumpet roots. But certainly when I was a kid, it was all geared towards orchestral/symphonic playing and as the comment I remembered implies, brass bands were sometimes somewhat discouraged!


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