Brass Bands England caught up recently with the inspirational brass event specialist
Alex Bray has always been a man with a plan. Tasked with a project as part of his university of Huddersfield degree, Alex decided to work with local partners on a new style of brass contest. Five years on, Alex has seen his Brass Factor events go from strength to strength, securing sponsorship year on year and attracting brass band and “real world” audiences alike. The major difference between Brass Factor contests and more usual competitions is the talent show format, modelled after certain TV shows and including panel of judges whose comments are shared with the bands and audience immediately after each exciting performance. Sometimes welcomed, sometimes not, these “real-time” observations add an intensity to the show and increase the drama of the occasion. Brass Factor has pushed the boundaries of brass performance, and can certainly be termed a #futurebrass event. The Brass Factor Youtube channel demonstrates the metamorphosis of contesting here from a proudly supported heritage event into digital spectacular, celebrating both the old and new of brass banding. Performances from Holmfirth and Harrogate, interviews and celebrity endorsements are all available to be viewed. Brass Factor is all about “Encouraging a new generation of brass bands players to come through and change how we view brass bands” Alex Bray, Brass Factor, 2012 The contest is as thrilling an atmosphere for participants as it is for the audience – there’s always a great social atmosphere echoing the social connections and friendships happening every week in band rehearsal rooms across the country. Brass Factor is about more than revelling in brass; there are real lessons to be learned that can help other brass bands and brass event organisers at every level. Brass Bands England asked Alex about the secret to his continued success. “I just stick at it” Alex smiled. “I have a plan and I do it, bit by bit. I talk to people and I make the conversations count.” It does appear to be Alex’ single-mindedness and determination that have created stability, attracted sponsors, and allowed the event to progress. From the very beginning, he has developed strong partnerships with a number of people and businesses, including sponsors Grand Central Rail, Brambles Bar and Café, Michael Bell & Co Chartered Accountants, Wrights’ Publications and Andrew’s Greengrocers. As Alex says “Money isn't everything, because relationships are priceless” Also key to the Brass Factor success is attention to detail, forward planning – and a good imagination.
“Being so passionate about wanting to preserve such an incredible and treasured tradition means every detail has to be perfected to create a magical evening. From the stewards to the celebrity judges, every aspect of pulling Brass Factor off has to go like clockwork to ensure everyone has an experience to remember. After being told that my idea would never work, I couldn't have been more determined to make the impossible happen. As Walt Disney once said ‘All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.’”
Any bands or organisations supporting brass music who would like to hear Alex talk about Brass Factor and the methods and tricks of the trade that have underpinned the event’s success should keep checking this website for details of the “Brass Factor Trade Secrets” evening event this summer. Anyone interested in sponsoring or supporting this or other brass events across the country should contact in the first instance Rachel@brassbandsengland.co.uk