The British Open Championships, which began in 1853 at Belle Vue Manchester, is we believe the oldest music competition in the world. In 1853, the owner of Belle Vue John Jennison, agreed to stage a brass band competition in the grounds of the Zoological Gardens.
The first British Open Brass Band Contest was held on Holiday Monday 5th September 1853 as "A Grand Musical Contest with 8 Brass Bands". John Jennison, the garden owner was primarily concerned with keeping the place going as a place of general entertainment from Easter to autumn so the band contest was only one of many interests as the bear pits, polar bear cage and the Paddock were built.
The event attracted an audience of approximately 16,000, and the competition became a source of new music for the brass band movement, written by established composers, which lifted the profile and appeal of brass band music.
It also established a reputation for the commission of new test peices which continues to this day.
1886 Belle Vue Management introduced a July Contest restricted to bands who had NOT won a prize in the September British Open in the previous four years. Over 40 bands entered but the management halved the numbers to make the contest more manageable. The winning band in this contest was invited to take part in the September British Open.
1921 - The July invitation contest became the ‘Grand Shield'
1922 - The Spring Festival was held.
The programme was headed,- First Annual May Brass Band ContestÂ Saturday, May 6th 1922. Open to Amateur Bands that have not won a prize at the July Belle Vue Contest during the past five years.
Free trade Hall Manchester
In 1982, following the sale of Belle Vue, the Open moved to the free Trade Hall, Manchester, where it remained until 1996.
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
The 1996 British Open was staged at the Bridgewater Hall, before moving on to the Symphony Hall, Birmingham the following year.
Symphony Hall Birmingham
In 1997, the Open moved to the Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Margaret Mortimer's brave decision proved to be an inspired move. Here the competition has thrived, with excellent acoustics as well as fine facilities for the bands and audience alike.
Today, the British Open continues its tradition as the premier competition for the best bands in the UK., attracting an audience of all age groups.