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The contest: thoughts on bidding and hosting

Voirrey Baker talks about her experience bidding for UniBrass

The 2021 UniBrass Organising Committee stand in front of a table with the UniBrass Trophy and Shield
The 2021 UniBrass Organising Committee

Back in 2019, after the first UniBrass contest in Bangor, the bidding process for hosting the 2021 and 2022 contests opened. The USBB committee thought Sheffield could be a good place for UniBrass, so I, along with my friend and fellow band-member Rachel, decided that we’d give it a go – there was nothing to lose!

The first thing we started with was considering venue options. As there are usually the two sections, we needed to find two decent sized performance venues within fairly close proximity to each other. We were lucky to find good venues on the University campus, but they don’t necessarily have to be on your campus, or even right in your city – York’s first UniBrass was in Harrogate, and their second was at a theatre in York city centre (not on campus). Sometimes thinking outside the box produces some great venues, so be creative and think about different options if you don’t have two immediately at hand.

We also needed to consider where people would stay overnight - on the Saturday night after the social as well as on the Friday night before, if required. We came up with a list of church and community halls that we approached for agreement in-principle. It was also worth considering where bands would have space for warm-up and storage, and a venue for the social.

Sheffield Students' Union Logo

One of the tasks in the bid was to produce an initial budget (obviously this will change), and we were given some examples from previous years to use as a template – helping us to think about everything we needed. We also approached the Students’ Union (to give us a letter of support) – they were very keen and helped us with the bid and the planning of the event.

The bid has some questions to prompt you to think of things that are not always obvious or considered, for example accessibility, equality and contingency venues. What you put in the bid does not need to be the exact, perfectly formed plan for the event (clearly it wasn’t for us and the 2021 contest!). However, it should be a good indication of your plans and that it would be feasible for you to host it.

After the bids had been submitted (August), the trustees reviewed the applications and made a shortlist of applicants to visit. They also came up with a few questions from what we had written. When the trustees came to visit (November), we gave them a tour of our suggested venues and locations. It was funny because – quite aptly – there was an acapella contest going on in our main venue! We also gave them a presentation to explain our ideas more.

The trustees told us that we had won the bid in December 2019, then we went along to help at the Bangor 2020 contest (where we were officially announced as new hosts), which helped us to get more of a feel for how the event runs. Then we got the organising committee together and began planning the contest in earnest!

University of Sheffield perform at UniBrass 2021
University of Sheffield perform at UniBrass 2021

After a rollercoaster of a year, planning various iterations of the contest and with postponements and alternative projects instead, we managed to have the 2021 UniBrass contest in June.

We were delighted to make history as the first band contest post-pandemic, and it was amazing to know that it was thanks to our hard work that this event took place (and bands were actually able to do something positive in the 2020-21 academic year). It was a joy to see so many bands and happy people loving the day and enjoying live music again!

I would very strongly urge anyone interested to seriously consider bidding to host the UniBrass contests. It is a really fantastic experience, and I think you will be surprised at what possibilities appear when you look for them!

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