In 1999 a small group of players decided to go to the
Whit Friday Marches, the intention
being just to listen to the other bands and soak up the atmosphere. However, interest was so great, that the
band decided to take part although they didn't win any prizes.
The Band returned a year later and gained two 1st prizes and a 2nd prize (in the 3rd section) and even appeared
on Songs of Praise a week or so later as part of the broadcast from this famous event.
Manx Concert Brass marching to Slaidburn in Delph
The Saddleworth & District Whit Friday Brass Band Contests take place every year on the
afternoon and evening of Whit Friday. From the earliest recorded contest in 1884, the event has grown in
popularity. Last year over a hundred brass bands participated in some twenty different contests at venues
scattered around the moorland villages and towns on the western edge of the Pennines. All of the contests are
open-air, many in delightful surroundings. The area has a very strong tradition of brass band music.
The contests are open to all-comers. So the local youth bands get to match their skills against the top bands
of the country. For bandsmen, the dash from contest to contest makes for an exhilarating (though exhausting)
evening. This is a major event in the brass band calendar and bands travel the length of the country to
participate, some even turning up from overseas.
Contests typically start at about 4.30pm. Bands play two pieces (marches), one on the march and then their
well-rehearsed show-piece on whatever passes for a rostrum. Each performance is scored 'blind' by an
adjudicator, hidden in some adjacent darkened room or caravan. Each contest offers prizes for the best band,
best youth band, best soloists etc. At one of the busier venues, you could expect to hear over 50 bands,
before the winners are announced shortly after close (10pm or 11pm, though the most popular contests can go
on well into the early hours).