Strange beings out front and backstage

The full course

The next time you are sat on a contest stage take a quick scan of the wildlife in the audience as it can be quite revealing.  The crowd is fairly transient drifting in, for the good performances and out for the ‘cuppa tea’ bands.  But! there are some hardened, dedicated watchers that sit through every band and come well prepared. 

I call these the ‘Full Course’ as they camp down for the day to listen to every performance, split note and even relish the goings on between change of bands.  You can spot the Full Course a mile off as they have have a blank look on their face that could sour milk and sit next to the adjudicators tent. 

The other giveaway is that they bring supplies…lots of supplies!  A veritable feast spanning breakfast, dinner and tea.  Enough sandwiches to feed a battalion, cakes, sweets, fruit, high energy drinks and several bars of chocolate plus a flask of coffee the size of a septic tank. 

They can consume all this through the day and never move from their seat as they have the unique ability to re-ingest all bodily waste without any any need for bathroom breaks. 

They are there for the day, will not budge for anyone and have purpose…to adjudicate and pontificate with all who will listen after the results. 

If you need to know the time – ask the Full Course.  They carry at least two watches, a metronome, tuning app’ plus other mechanical means such as recording devices and a small hand held fan in case of a stifling hall.  

Top pocket with several pens for annotating the program with their sagely notes, a full copy of the score plus three mobile phones linked to Facebook, Twitter and 4 Bars Rest to scan the live media and pundit remarks. 

The Full Course always carries a pair of comfy slippers due to swollen feet after extended sitting and wears surgical stockings to avoid varicose veins.  If this weren’t enough they always (for some weird reason) wear a thick overcoat even when the hall makes their eyeballs sweat.

The Full Course is a nightmare to sit next to as they take up at least a seat and a half at their feet with food, drinks, devices and other band watchers paraphernalia.  They give off a distinctive aroma of egg mayo, cheese and onion with a volcanic hint of garlic sausage. 

The full course takes down copious notes throughout the contest and is normally not that far away from the correct result.

They are not usually players or ex-players…in fact I often wonder what the connection was to draw them into this obsessive role in the first place.  Perhaps they have always done it.  The ones I know of have always been there at every contest for as long as I can remember (and I’m knocking on a bit!).

A special timeless breed like a vampire that only appears at certain times and then goes to ground never to be seen until the next brass band contest.

The Brander

There is one character at band contests that has become extinct – the brander!  This was the blank faced, zombie sadist at the registration point that sat next to the person scrutinising your registration card. 

The brander would take great pleasure in trying to break your wrist with an ink stamp on the back of your hand. Once struck with ferocious force they then twisted the stamp back and forth to make sure the ink well and truly impregnated making the tiny bones in your hand crunch and grind.  

Not only did they disable your fingers but broke the skin on the back of your hand resulting in bruising and blood poisoning.  In these civilised days we are given boring pastel coloured wrist bands by our band sergeant that are almost impossible to put on and would give Houdini a run for his money to get off. 

I miss the old mark of the beast that you could quickly rush outside with and press on the back of a friend’s hand while the ink was – allowing them free passage into the hall. 

I say bring back the brander as the pain used to take your mind off pre-stage nerves!


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