The Nationals 1937 - 2017

While reading through an old 1937 Nationals contest programme which I'm sure any brass band person would find interesting, maybe fascinating, I thought I would make some comparisons from then to now, a gap of 80 years, which on average is the length of a man's life, Ladies on average last 5 years more.


So, on the front cover a fabulous colour drawing of king George VI, our gracious patron 1937. The 1936 Nationals contest programme shows again a fabulous colour drawing of Edward VIII. Edward ruled for less than a year and abdicated in April 37, (Wallis Simpson beckoned).1936 had been the year of three Kings. George the V, Edward the V111 and George the V1. So this was king George the V1 first year.


The contest was held at the Alexandra Palace, sadly the Crystal Palace had burned down in November 1936. First the championship test piece, Pageantry by Herbert Howells, surely one of the best of all time, it was written in 1934 and was used in theArea finals in 2017 and proved to be a worthy test piece and certainty sorted the Bands out. Foden's first won at National in 1910 with Mr Halliwell, Fodens didn't win again until 1930 under Fred Mortimer, then they won in 32-33-34-barred 36-37-38, a double hat trick, quite an ahievement.


This article is about 1937, so, let's first look at the prize money, today a win is worth £2000, nothing wrong with that, in 1937 it was £50, today that would be equivalent to £3800, quite a difference, also medals and maybe an instrument or two thrown in, this was quite generous by today's standards. Also, in the mid 30s came Britains worst slump (depression) of the 20th century, soon to be followed by WW2. Of course the war years put an end to the Nationals, 1939 to 44 no contest, this a great pity because the 1939 programme would have been dominated by Foden's double hat trick, not to be. I will locate a 1945 programme just to see if Foden's did get a write up. Of course the war changed everything, that's what wars do, always bad never good. The Albert Hall as we know it is a truly wonderful building, I have never known the National be anywhere else in my time, may it long continue.


James Charles

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