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2012: January

This month we give our opinion on the endemic cancer of player borrowing, Brass in Concert's welcome lead and praise 20 years of Mark Wilkinson at Foden's.

The endemic cancer of player borrowing

There comes a time when the borrowing has to stop – just ask Greece.

Now the brass band movement is up to its neck in player debt – and the end result could well be just as catastrophic.

Borrowing players for major competitions has become so endemic that it has long ceased to be of any worthwhile benefit – even to the bands themselves. It’s become the terminal cancer that is eating away at the very body of contesting integrity – and the results are plain for all to see.

Now borrowing has become the default mode for competitors – from the European Championship to the humblest Fourth Section event. It has become an unsustainable, completely destructive force that has got completely out of control.

What was a proactive approach to a small problem has become a lazy response to an overwhelming concern. 

Now a band can take to the stage at certain contests with 20% of their line up made of players who have no connection to them whatsoever.

Even the British Open, the oldest, most prestigious brass band contest in the world has sullied its reputation by allowing the supposed finest bands on the globe to open their chequebooks to solve the player problems of their own making.

Only the Nationals stand alone. Player registration has become a joke. 

Contests are in danger of being won and lost on the size of a band’s bank account.   

Those who make the long term investment in producing their own players are being penalised in favour of those who don’t give a damn – and too many short sighted contest organisers don’t seem to care either.      

Now we have even come to the point where bands are being allowed to borrow, but only if the those players do not play in ‘principal positions’. How on earth is that going to be implemented then in a closed adjudication contest? 

It’s become a charter for cheating in any other name.

That alone should tell us all that the borrowing has to stop – before the competitors who play by the ethical rules of contesting give up competing against their artificially enhanced rivals all together.

What do you think?
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Let us continue to entertain you...

The news that the organisers of Brass in Concert have taken the step of involving its competing bands in a proactive consultation process is to be wholeheartedly applauded.

Since its move to The Sage in Gateshead, Brass in Concert has grown into huge event – one that attracts a packed audience to the iconic venue every year. 

The investment required in organising and promoting it is enormous – the result of which has been invariably spectacular in terms of the entertainment provided by the competitors themselves.

Yet until now, the concerns of those competitors have been rather overlooked, resulting in a contest that was in danger of becoming a victim of its own success.

That is no longer the case – and with the organisers asking for opinions and comment, ideas and responses, there is a growing feeling that a new era of world class entertainment contesting could well about to dawn on the banks of the River Tyne.

Brass in Concert is determined to remain as the premier brass band entertainment contest in the word – and has gone about it in just the right way. Immediate changes may or may not be on the cards – but at least the bands can no longer complain that they are not being listened to.  

The end result could well be an event that provides the banding world with a blueprint for entertainment excellence for the next decade or more...

Other contest organisers may well like to take note of the approach.

What do you think?
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In praise of Mark Wilkinson

Although he doesn’t look as if he has aged a great deal since he first took over the principal cornet seat at Foden’s, Mark Wilkinson has just notched up a remarkable 20 years in the end chair of one of the world’s leading brass bands. 

Plenty of bands have stalwart performers in their ranks – such as Ray Sykes MBE who has put in half a century of service with Carlton Main Frickley, but it is hard to think of a player who has held such a high profile – and high pressure position for so long at the very top level in recent years.

Just think how many principal cornet players have come and gone at Foden’s rivals in the same period of time.

The answer to why he has notched up 20 years is of course is simple; he’s been an amazingly good player – and one that has got better with age too. 

He’s also one of the nicest blokes you will ever meet in the banding world too.

Here’s to the next two decades or more then of a quite remarkable player...

What do you think?
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Michael Bennett

BSc, RNCM (Perf)
Performer, Composer, Arranger, Teacher


               

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