Delays & environment on contest day

I don't like waiting around in general, especially on a contest day.

I've taken an interest in queuing theory lately and was wondering if there was any way of improving the organisation of brass band contests so that there's less of this waiting around before bands play.

What's the best contest you've been at where you've not needed to wait for too long? I used to think that a pre-draw would help solve this but in spennymoore a few years ago there was just as much waiting around as there was at any other contest.

Also, what about the process you have to go through before you hit the stage. Are the rooms properly ventilated? Can you have a warm up? Proper toilet facilities? Sometimes I wonder if serious consideration are given to these factors. These environmental factors are considered important in the modern workplace so I'm told...


Active Member
Didn't see this thread...
If you want to play at the top of your game , it would be easier to have
1. a decent rehersal / warm up room
2. some help from a road crew for perc , stands etc.
3. a pre draw not released until a few nights before , with rehersal times availabillity and time to be at the competition venue.
yes we are all going to have nerves but taking away some of the stresses away would help.
Anyone who knows the Brangwyn hall which is the venue of the Welsh Area will know how unsuitable a venue this is , the access to the building is a joke , really narrow 2 flights of steps , with timps and basses this is a nightmare to climb.Some conductors allowed in the competition control room , which leads to accusations of cheating etc.
I know you can't please people all the time , but some ideas should be put forward to make the " competition experience " better for all competiters..
just my thoughts.
You make many good points Nick. Warm up - in some contests you can't even blow a note before hitting the stage. Why not? Even orchestras tune up actually on the stage don't they? Footballers have a little run around and a few stretches on the pitch just before a game as well. But I think warm up/warm down idea is misunderstood in brass band circles anyway. Some people perceive it as 'showing off' or 'making a noise' and it seems to me that very few competition venues take into account need for people to be able to blow a few notes before hitting the stage.

Naomi McFadyen

New Member
hellraiser said:
I don't like waiting around in general, especially on a contest day.

I'd rather be waiting around than rushed on stage... that's what happened to us when we were at the Grand Shield this year... :?


Supporting Member
I think the worst contest venue we play at is Fleetwood. There is nowhere to warm up, you have to get changed on the coach or outside and the waiting room looks like the vestibule to a dungeon.

I'm not sure if any lack of waiting will make a difference. No matter how short a time before you go on, it always feels like an eternity. Especially if you can't have a blow. Just a few minutes to re-flex your lips makes the last bit before you go on stage seem so much shorter.


Active Member
Naruco said:
hellraiser said:
I don't like waiting around in general, especially on a contest day.

I'd rather be waiting around than rushed on stage... that's what happened to us when we were at the Grand Shield this year... :?

You expect a rush getting drawn No1 , thought the Grand Shield was great this year , plenty of room to relax and wait till you played.
Naruco said:
I'd rather be waiting around than rushed on stage... that's what happened to us when we were at the Grand Shield this year... :?

I know what you mean and being rushed like that is equally bad.


Active Member
Here in the USA, we have music "festivals" sponsored by the schools which are similar in format to contests, with adjudicators (although the groups are judged against a standard, rather than against each other). Unlike brass band contests, the groups vary widely in size, so that there is an added complication. There are several things done in order to make things run smoothly. Some of these may already be done in the contest environment, and some might be new ideas.

Most percussion equipment is provided by the venue - timps, bass drum, kit, chimes, gongs, etc. This is in place all day.

All groups must submit a seating chart showing the arrangement of the chairs for their performance. A crew from the venue is assigned to move the chairs in between performances. In a brass band contest, where all the groups are similar in size and arrangement, this is probably less of a concern.

A warmup room is provided. Each group is permitted into the warmup room when the previous group goes on the stage. Your warmup time is the amount of time required for the previous group's performance. IF you are the first group of the day (or after a meal break) you are typically allowed 15 minutes of warmup in the warmup room.

Most of the festivals allow each group to play a warmup selection on the stage before the (usually) two adjudicated selections. The adjudicators are present for the warmup and may comment on it, but no scores are added into the totals.

Most of the festivals contain a "listening" requirement - each group is expected to listen to the performances of at least two of the other groups, either before or after their own performance. Many of the conductors prefer to have their groups do the required listening before their performance.

The biggest challenge to the timing are groups that do not appear on time. Usually, this is handled by skipping groups that are more than five minutes late for their warmup (as opposed to being late to the actual performance). Many times, the group that was to follow the late group is already in the auditorium doing their listening, so that a minimum of time is lost by changing the schedule.

Of course, all of this requires a venue that has enough space to accomodate the event properly, which, judging from some of the earlier posts in this thread, is sometimes the issue when delays happen.

Mikey Boy

New Member
Waiting.................and ..............Waiting !!!!!!!

Just a few thoughts for what they are worth.

People spend a lot of time, effort and sometimes money to prepare and get to Contests, so there should be facilities there to assist in getting the very best performances from the Bands concerned.

Bands have improved immeasurably over the last 50 years or so. Why not the facilities?

Things of importance to me are:-

1. Changing in comfort without rush both before and after playing.
2. Easy access to facilities for percussion etc.
3. Having a drink available immediately backstage after performances eg a pallet or two of bottled water (as Bergen Europeans 2003)
4. Warm up facilities (as Symphony Hall)

If you go for a pre-draw, why not open adjudication as well??


Mr Malone

The facilities at the Yorkshire Area contest at St. George’s Hall, Bradford, are probably the worst contest conditions I have ever experienced. I have, for many years, played in the Championship Section, and following a three-year break, I am now playing with a Second Section band. Unfortunately, the experience for me is the same regardless of section:

1. The Band arrives at the stage door, at the allocated time, only to be told to wait for a further 15 mins – in the pouring rain!
2. Then to our allocated ‘changing room’, which was one half of a kitchenette, with no chairs, hangers or storage space (we did, however, have a cooker, fridge, and dishwasher!), and no separate changing facilities for the female players;
3. Then a summons to attend registration, with its ‘Gestapo’ style interrogation, which involves a deep scrutiny of signature, and registration card and photo (by no less than four scrutinizers).
4. Then it is back-stage for twenty minutes, with no warm-up facilities at all.
5. On stage: in the audience there are three people knitting, several coffee flasks pouring, noisy kit-kat wrappers, and an obvious indifference to the Band’s presence.
6. Back to the changing rooms, only to be told by the marshals to vacate the ‘changing room’ with all haste, as a band were outside waiting to supplant us.

Now, I do not know about anyone else, but after a contest performance the last thing I want to do is to rush to get changed, and then be ejected within a few minutes. St George’s Hall has adequate space, so why do we have to be penned-in like sheep? Can you imagine any other organisation, be it musical or sporting for example, tolerating such draconian conditions? Yes, I am aware that the organisers of the Area Contest donate their time voluntarily, and work very hard, often with little or no gratitude, but come on: why do we have to tolerate such a fiasco? This is supposed to be a leisure-time activity. I will not be competing at next year’s Areas, as I feel that there are far more worthy causes to dedicate my time to (several children, to start with!).

I know that people will call me a moaning old so-and-so (several colleagues at band have already done this), but my own experiences at the Yorkshire Area Contest have generally been very poor. I would welcome the opportunity to debate this issue with other Yorkshire Area players, who may disagree with my statements: perhaps through this discourse we may actually be able to improve conditions for those attending Bradford next March.

Anthony Malone


I completely agree with Tony Malone. I have stood backstage at St. Georges Hall and been told in a very offhand manner by an official that to warm up all we needed to do was blow air through the instrument and we didn't need to actually play notes.

The registration officials were all non-players, the band was B&R!!!
Totally agree with Tony Malone's comments re Yorkshire Areas, but if you don't do it next year Tony, you'll not know if any improvements have been made due to your excellent review.
Just happen to be looking for a Solo Euph, any chance????

Oh well, worth a try !!!!! :roll:


waiting/poor dressing rooms etc at contests

Tony is quite right! - conditions at the area have not changed at all in 35 years since I started when the contest was held in Leeds Town Hall
Frankly things are not much better at the Albert Hall but at least you don't get the constant requests for silence in the dressing rooms - has anyone really tested whether any warm up noise can really be heard in the auditorium? - I couldnt hear any extraneous sounds when I was in the box at Bradford a couple of years ago.
I can see the problem of the immediate backstage though - why are bands required to sign on there? and then wait, listening attentively for any noticable errors in the preceding performance?
The best conditions I can remember in recent years would be :
Royal Concert hall Nottingham
Swiss Open (Lucerne)
Oldham (Action Research Youth contest)
Symphony Hall

John Roberts

Power Tooba

I also agree with Mr. Malone that the conditions backstage here at yorkshire are not exactly great, generally herded around like cattle, kept in halves of dressingrooms cordoned off by chairs and then rigorously inspected by a panel of scruitineers who don't know the meaning of the word smile, never mind actually offering one! But i don't really think it's a reason to not compete at the area's any more!

I do understand that if everyone was warming up together then there could be an almighty din coming from the bowels of St. Georges hall, and that the registry personnel have an important task checking cards, but i can't help thinking with a little more thought things could maybe be better?

Are conditions at other area venues any better?

Mr Malone

I’m glad to see that I am not alone in my appraisal of the Yorkshire Area Contest. While my comments may have seemed a little harsh, I was not ‘having a go’ at the volunteers at the contest (although a smile or two, and a little civility may not go amiss!). It seems to me that it is time to move out of the dark ages, and into the modern world for the powers that be at the Areas. Could we not be offered decent changing facilities? What is the problem with a warm-up in the changing facilities, which are, after-all, several floors down from the stage at Bradford: the main bar at St. George’s Hall is actually closer to the stage than the changing facilities (I use ‘facilities’ very lightly), and the rowdy hubbub from the bar has never detracted from the stage performance (yes, I’m usually one of the rowdiest)…mind you, at almost £3.00 a pint, it takes a long time to get rowdy!

And…would it be too much to ask for a little common curtsey at the Areas? Why the attitude? Why so sharp year-on-year? I know from experience that this experience is not typical…The experience at the Masters has always been very pleasant, as has Symphony Hall and RAH (1999 was the only time I have played in the top section in London…Carlton Main Frickley, after our ‘win’ ? at the Areas). Why then, is the experience always so unpleasant at Bradford?

Incidentally, my absolute worst contest experience was back in the early 1980s, at a club known as Hanging Heaton WMC. The format was simple: two bands played 30 mins program, and the winner went through to the next round. Peter Kitson adjudicated, and on one particular Sunday night, I was playing with Allerton Bywater Colliery (no longer with us I’m afraid), and was halfway through a pretty poor rendition of Bizet’s Flower Song. A fight started in the games room, and spilled into the concert room where the contest was taking place. I continued my solo, which progressively got worse: the fighting also continued, almost in sync with my solo! Well, Peter Kitson gave a less-than-flattering appraisal of my solo, and the police arrived and carted-off the belligerents. Now that is what I call a poor contest environment!

p.s. I now sit next to Peter Kitson at The Band of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service…he plays the French horn part on a baritone, and still manages to sound better than me. There’s no justice in this world!

Anthony Malone

Red Elvis

Active Member
Will be at Harrogate with a band from London.All we ask for is a supply of jellied Eels , some flat southern beer and a piano for a luvverly cockney knees up after we play.
We only kill our own and we luv our muvvas !! Gor blimey etc.

Well Worth It

Active Member
To offer a modicom of defence towards the backstage at St George's Hall, Ray Payne and his help were nothing but pleasant and helpful.
Didn't need to warm up our sticks though....

Product tMP members are discussing