Record entry for world’s biggest brass band contest - in Derbyshire

Matlock Band.

Matlock Band.

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A record number of competitors are tuning up for the biggest brass band contest in the world - right here in Derbyshire.

Two thousand musicians will be hitting the high notes in the Bolsover Festival of Brass on October 2.

Such was the demand for places that entries closed two months ahead of the original deadline because the contest was oversubscribed.

The festival attracts competitors from all over the country and it’s not because of a £4,250 prize pot from which the champion band draws £750.

Event organiser Carole Hirst, arts development officer at Bolsover District Council, said: “The bands come because they enjoy it - there is very much a family atmosphere and a lot of cameraderie between bands - and because it is being broadcast live and recorded for YouTube.”

Performances were streamed live on the internet for the first time last year, which earned the festival a nomination for an international innovation award in a competition run by brass band website 4barsrest.com

This year’s festival of brass is one of the qualifying events for the British Open Championships so there is everything to play for in the champion section of the six-category competition. Scott Chambers, communications manager at the council, said: “The festival is the biggest event which the authority stages. It is great for the entire district as it is bringing people in from all over the country.

“The festival is now in its eleventh year and, thanks to Carol’s expertise, it is going from strength to strength,”

Derbyshire representatives among the 53 competing bands will include Ireland Colliery, Dronfield Genquip Band, Matlock Band and Derwent Brass from Derby.

Carole has been a musician for 40 years, playing baritone horn. However, her job of organising the festival and developing arts events throughout the district means Carole can no longer commit her time to membership of a band. She said: “My last band was Newstead Brass which has played in the competition every year but without me as I can’t be part of any band playing in it.

“We have brass bands in nearly every village around here,” said Carole. “When I came to the council many years ago, I said that I knew what would work well around here.”

The first festival was at Shirebrook Leisure Centre and since then has been held at Pinxton Village Hall, Post Mills Centre in South Normanton and Mount St Mary’s College in Spinkhill.

Carole said: “The first year we had eight bands, the second year it was down to five. We changed the way we ran it and it took off.” The rise in competitors has been matched by an increase in supporters which prompted the move to Clowne Heritage School around four years ago. Carole said: “We are staying there because it is so big. We run two halls simultaneously and four rehearsal rooms.”

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