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Why did I decide to start on the Judging programme?


By Darren Darton

I started my winter guard marching career back in 1987 at the tender age of 8yrs old, competing with the Musical Youth in ‘A’ class. After two season of competition the opportunity to do another was not available to me and unfortunately I had to give up for a time. In 1997, after painting a floor for Thurrock Academy the previous year and Ken Mansfield catching me spinning a rifle in their lunch break, I decided to resurrect my marching career. I marched with Thurrock Academy from 1997 to 2003, gaining a number of different colour medals and gaining a wealth of experience from our UK and US instructors. In 2004 I made the decision that I would go over to America to march in a competitive world class organisation, I auditioned and was accepted in to the 2004 cast for the Pride of Cincinnati and achieved a third place at the world championships in San Diego. This was to be the high point of my marching career. 

I started my design career quite early on in my association with Thurrock Academy, From 1998 I had started to write small parts of the shows, with the amount I designed increasing from year to year, In 2001 I joined the design team and have been part of this ever since. Along with teaching TA I have had the pleasure of helping to design and teach a number of other competitive units, not only in the UK but in Ireland and the US as well. 

In 2000 and 2001 I became a DCUK judge and had the pleasure of judging the colour guard caption for both years. In 2001, I was also given the honour of judging the open class finals. 

After the 2009 competitive season had finished I decided that maybe I could give a little more back to WGUK as an organisation, while increasing my knowledge of how the judging system worked. So, after consultations with other staff members of The Academy and friends and family, I decided that I would study and hopefully become a judge for the 2010 season. 

There are a number of other reasons as to why I also thought about, and subsequently have undertaken, the challenge to take this on. I won’t beat around the bush, I have no doubt that all the instructors out there have felt at one point or another that they have been treated harshly or unfairly by the judging community, in regards to scores and placements, and that at one point has said aloud ‘this judge hasn’t got a clue what their talking about’. I myself have done this numerous times and I finally got to the point where I thought ‘you know what Darren it’s time for you to put your money where your mouth is’, and that if you’re unhappy with how you’re being judged then why not try and do it yourself and see what it is like. So I did. 

I have been doing a little bit of the course, as and when I get a chance to, over the last couple of months and have felt that it has really opened my eyes to a huge range of different thoughts and considerations. Being able to know the criteria and how to apply this to what you are seeing, knowing what the judges should be looking for and how to rank this appropriately, gives me so much more insight in to what has been done in the past, both from a judging point of view and personally as a designer, and what should be done in the future. 

I will admit that I thought I knew quite a bit about writing equipment and shows in general, what I should be showcasing where and when and what I should be trying to improve on. By working through the home study course i have been able to reconfirm a lot that I already knew, but i have also learnt so much more which I am hoping will make me a better choreographer in the future. I guess you could say that it has opened my mind to a number of different ideas and thought processes which I should be going through when putting a show together. As well as making me see things differently, from a judges perspective, by going through this training i understand more deeply how much information a judge has to take on, analyse against a set criteria and then rank and rate before they can put a score and position down on paper. 

I will definitely be advising other members of staff at TA to read the documentation provided by William Chumley and to possibly work a little on the home study course, even if they don’t intend to become a judge, as I now believe that the more a group knows about the judging criteria and how this should be applied then the better quality of show they will produce in the long run. 

I am really looking forward to being given the opportunity to pass on my knowledge and understanding of the judging criteria in the upcoming winter season, and i am hoping that I will enjoy this part of my hobby as much as I do all other parts.