The Whit Friday Brass Band Contests take place every year in the Saddleworth villages during the afternoon and evening of Whit Friday. From around 4.00pm, bands are coached in from all over the country and some from overseas. If you haven’t been and want to get a flavour of it, try watching the film “Brassed Off”.
The Band Contests date back to 1884 and have been described as “The greatest free show on earth”. Usually the weather is cold and bleak, but this year, Whit Friday is later and, last night, we were treated to some fine and warm weather, though the clouds were heavy in the evening, making light levels pretty low.
Each band is dropped off at one end of the village and the bands march through in turn, playing their signature tune. They must stop playing before they are within hearing of the judges, who are hidden in a caravan with closed curtains but open windows just in front of an area marked out for the band to stand. This area is roped off and spectators can sit or stand and listen to the bands. Each band plays a set piece (which must be a quick march) and often “Ravenswood” and “Knight Templar” are favourites, but this year there was plenty of variety, especially from the continental bands.
Many years there have just been a few hardy residents watching, but this year the warm weather attracted thousands of spectators. Getting in close is very difficult and we were lucky to find a spot where we could see the faces of some of the players, rather than their backs!
Here are a few pictures from the Greenfield contest last night.