The Whit Friday Brass Band Contests - Next event Friday 14th June, 2019 .
Often described as 'the greatest free show on Earth', the Saddleworth & District Whit Friday Brass Band Contests take place every year on the afternoon and evening of Whit Friday. Your next opportunity is Friday 14th June, 2019 .
From the earliest recorded contest in 1884, the event has grown in popularity. In 2018, well 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. In the weeks before Whit Friday, the sounds of rehearsals echo across the hillsides from the various band rooms and village halls. There are thriving bands in some of the tiniest villages. And the best bands are world class.
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 (10.30 pm or 11.30pm, though the most popular contests can go on well into the early hours).
It is possible to look in at several contests during the evening. But with over 100 bus-loads of bandsmen about, with many of the roads closed to traffic and the inevitable parking problems, it pays not to be over-ambitious.
Each contest is organised by local volunteers. All the running costs and prize money are raised by local donations and through fund-raising events. Most provide refreshments. Each contest sets its own rules. Bands are required to play a published march, an unmarked copy of which should be handed to the Contest Steward on arrival at the signing-on point. Normally, no more than 25 players may play the contest piece, plus the conductor.
Sorry, this event has passed
The only railway station is Greenfield. There are train services from Manchester Victoria and from Huddersfield - half-hourly in the early evening but only hourly for a late evening return. The station is 100 yards from where the marches start for the Greenfield contest. Just walk down hill. Follow a band to get to the main field.
Greenfield station is about mid-way between the Uppermill and Friezland contests - about 1/2 mile from each. Keep straight on at the sharp bend just below the Railway Inn and follow the railway line back towards Manchester for Friezland. Go in the opposite direction from the railway bridge, following the railway line towards Huddersfield for Uppermill.
Bus services from Manchester and Oldham are:
Contest Bus Services
Greenacres 180, 184, X84
Lees 180, 184, X84
Lydgate 180, 184, X84
Friezland 180 (5 min), 184 (5 min), X84 (5 min), 350, 353
Greenfield 180, 184, X84, 350, 353
Uppermill 180, 184, X84, 350, 353, 354
Dobcross 180, 184, X84, 350, 354
Delph 82, X84, 350, 353, 354
Denshaw 351, 354, 407
Diggle 184, 354
Scouthead 82, 350
Traffic and parking restrictions are imposed for the Whit Walks and for each contest site on Whit Friday. Oldham MBC impose parking restrictions in the immediate vicinity of each contest site wherever these are deemed necessary as well as road closures and diversions to allow the concerts and marches to take place..
Gallery Oldham provides a wide range of exhibitions and activities targeted at different…
A new Oldham Coliseum Theatre is to take centre stage in Oldham’s new Cultural Quarter.
The museum tells the story of the Regiment and it's soldiers through 200 years of history.
Exhibitions change monthly and cover all aspects of fine art and craft, which include…
In the attractive, waterside setting of Portland Basin, the newly refurbished Heritage…
Britain's first indoor Olympic cycling track, now one of the World's finest and fastest…
Full of fun activities for the kids, fascinating facts for adults and, for the not so…
The Manchester City Stadium Tour is the most immersive tour experience in Premier League…
The Rochdale Pioneers Museum is widely regarded as the home of the worldwide Co-operative…
Whether you’re planning a day trip to Manchester or already live here in our beautiful…
Visit 'the dogs' for a night out with a difference. Greyhound Stadium incorporating a…
Situated at the heart of Gorton’s state-of-the-art Belle Vue Sports Village, the National…
After a highly successful summer Heaton Park Garden Centre’s creative centre ‘The Place…
A beautiful space with a range of activities on offer for all ages.
Manchester Three Rivers gin distillery is an interactive gin experience based in…
Manchester's original and longest running alternative comedy venue.