Seven days to go till The Greatest Free Show on Earth

Hopefully this coming Friday, you should be spending the best part of your evening enjoying what I call ‘The Greatest Free Show on Earth’. This is a view shared by many people in and around the Saddleworth villages and parts of Tameside. It is also an event which I consider to be an equal to, or superior to Christmas.

Whit Friday has a magic of its own, and that magic doesn’t necessarily lie with the drinking aspect. To me, it is not the be all and end all, it is only incidental to the celebratory nature. It’s the whole day from the Whit Walks in Mossley and Saddleworth right up to the Brass Band Contests. A day which for me, always opens with the Whit Walks in Mossley and Uppermill. The latter might mean a pork pie or two from the butchers on High Street. Then back to Chez Vall for a brew, wash, change of clothes, a rushed early tea and a bus to Stalybridge. Then, after the first few minutes of the Stalybridge Labour Club or Bower Fold Brass Band Contests, up to Greenfield. Then back home, hopefully in good time for the chippy.

Our area east of the M60 is well blessed with a number of brass band contests, all of which easy to drive to or, better still, a short train journey away. If you’re fortunate enough to walk near a contest venue or live near one, happy days indeed.

Seen below are this year’s contest venues. For brass band enthusiasts who wish to drive, note the postcode if you have a Sat Nav device.

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Oldham and Saddleworth Contests:

  • Denshaw: Oddfellows Club, Huddersfield Road, Denshaw OL3 5SD;
  • Diggle: Huddersfield Road/Sam Road, Diggle OL3 5PU;
  • Delph: Gartside Street, Delph OL3 5DW;
  • Dobcross: Church Fields, Dobcross OL3 5AN;
  • Scouthead and Austerlands: Dawson’s Field, off Huddersfield Road, Scouthead OL4 4AS;
  • Uppermill: High Street, Uppermill OL3 6HY;
  • Greenfield: Chew Valley Road/Cricket Ground, Greenfield OL3 7DB;
  • Friezland (Sections 3, 4 and Youth only): Friezland Parish Hall, Oaklands Road, Friezland OL3 7LQ;
  • Lydgate: White Hart Inn, Stockport Road, Lydgate OL4 4JJ
  • Grotton: Station Road, Grotton OL3 5SF;
  • Lees: High Street/Thomas Street, Lees OL4 5DA;
  • Greenacres: Dog and Partridge [PH], Constantine Street, Greenacres OL4 3HE.

Tameside Contests:

  • Top Mossley: Mountain Street, Mossley OL5 0EY;
  • Carrbrook: Carr Rise, Carrbrook, Stalybridge SK15 3NY;
  • Broadoak Hotel: Broadoak Road, Ashton-under-Lyne OL6 8QD;
  • Ashton United FC: Surrey Street, Hurst, Ashton-under-Lyne OL6 9EQ;
  • Heyrod (Sections 3, 4 and Youth only): John Street, Wakefield Road, Heyrod, Stalybridge SK15 3BW;
  • Dukinfield: Tame Valley Hotel, Park Road, Dukinfield SK16 5LX;
  • Audenshaw: Aldwinians Rugby Union Football Club, Droylsden Road, Audenshaw M34 5SN;
  • Droylsden: The Bush Inn, Moorside Street, Droylsden M43 7HL;
  • Stalybridge Labour Club: Acres Lane, Stalybridge SK15 2JR;
  • Stalybridge Celtic AFC: Bower Fold, Mottram Road, Stalybridge SK15 2RT;
  • Denton: Denton Cricket Club, Egerton Street, Denton M34 3PB.

Please note that most Whit Friday Brass Band contests begin between 1600 – 1700 and finish between 2230 and 2300. Sometimes, the finishing time may be extended depending on the number of bands registered.

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Please remember that scheduled bus services may be disrupted by both Brass Band Contests and Whit Walks. This will have a great affect on the operation of Saddleworth’s bus routes including the [Ashton – Mossley – Oldham] 350 and the 343 [Hyde – Mossley – Oldham].

If you wish to enjoy a disruption free Whit Friday experience, I fully recommend going to the Brass Band contests at Stalybridge (Labour Club and Stalybridge Celtic AFC, latter a 236/237 ride away from the railway station) and Greenfield. Both are linked via Northern Rail’s Manchester Victoria – Huddersfield stopping service. Expect busy trains owing to the popularity of Whit Friday.

Or, you could get the above train to Ashton-under-Lyne. From there, you could get a 331/332/333 to Broadoak Hotel or Ashton United FC, a 347 for the Denton contest, or a 216 for the Audenshaw one. The Bush Inn in Droylsden is served by the 168/169/231. If you wish to venture to the Tame Valley Contest in Dukinfield, get a 346 bus and alight at The Park stop, then walk along Park Road (failing that, get a taxi from Ashton).

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Whit Friday Contests for Absolute Beginners

If you live in Saddleworth or Tameside and unable to understand the technicalities of the Whit Friday Brass Band Contest, I wont be best pleased with you! For the uninitiated and newcomers to this lovely part of the Pennine foothills, here’s how the Whit Friday Contests work.

  1. Brass Bands are graded in accordance to sections, a bit like football teams are. The top section is the Championship section. Then there is another five sections: sections 1 to 4 and a Youth section. Sometimes, there may be brass bands which are outside the sections. Results are announced shortly after the last band has played, usual 20 or so minutes afterwards.
  2. Each brass band is rated on performance on the street (deportment) march and a march piece that they play in the arena section of the contest. For example, Band 8 might play Royal Trophy on Chew Valley Road, then play Ravenswood in the arena, under the watch of the adjudicator.
  3. Most Brass Band Contests are aided with volunteers. Without them, there would be no Whit Friday contests. There would be no-one there to radio through from Chew Valley Road onto the arena. Nor youngsters walking in front of each band with placards displaying their name, section and arena march piece.
  4. Brass bands are rated by an adjudicator, who checks how closely each band performs their piece. A copy of the musical manuscript is passed onto him/her for inspection. The adjudicator is often situated in a caravan and persons standing by his/her caravan must keep quiet.
  5. The Master of Ceremonies can only announce the piece which the band is playing, but not the name of the band. The MC can only refer to the band by its number, given on registration.
  6. Most contests have prizes for different sections as well as the overall winner’s prize. Sometimes, a band could win the Best Open or Best Local title dependent on each contest. There may be prizes for Best Euphonium, Cornet or Soprano, or even Best Entertainment in the Village. Additional prizes are available for Best Deportment and for being the first entry to play at the contest.
  7. As well as individual contest prizes, there is also Borough-Wide prizes. Since 1990, Oldham and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Councils have had prizes for the Best Band throughout their respective boroughs.

As well as seeing brass bands from far and wide (Mainland Europe as well as the West Riding of Yorkshire), there are other fringe benefits of the Whit Friday Experience:

  • Barbecues and food stalls;
  • Opportunities for serious coach spotting;
  • Real ale.

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Most Importantly…

Enjoy yourself! Whit Friday is an experience to behold, but secondary to the whole experience, is the annual post-Whit Friday brass band concert at the Uppermill Civic Hall. This usually comprises of one or more brand bands, often one which has travelled the farthest.

If you wish to make a day of it, you could (weather permitting) go all Glyndebourne, take a picnic basket and sit down to watch the contest. Or go for traditional fish and chips, have a meal in one of Saddleworth’s many food orientated pubs. Please remember, it may be busier than a typical weekend so expect to wait longer!

I can’t wait!

East of the M60 will be covering the Greenfield Brass Band Contest via Twitter. For updates on the Greenfield Brass Band Contest and more besides on Whit Friday, follow @Atlantean7001.

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One More Thing:

If you cannot wait for the Whit Friday Whit Walks, Processions of Witness will take place in Tameside throughout Whit Sunday. Also, Manchester city centre’s Whit Walks will take place on Whit Sunday afternoon. This is a change from previous dates which fell on the Spring Bank Holiday.

S.V., 17 May 2013.

5 thoughts on “Whit Friday 2013: The Other Most Wonderful Time of the Year

  1. what they need is loads of litter bins to stop the lazy ones throwing rubbish on the street


    1. Indeed! Usually, the bins which are extant for a further 364/365 days of the year are always fit to bursting. That’s one thing I’ve always noticed at Greenfield, and I’ve attended Greenfield’s contest for nearly 20 years.


  2. Still my favourite day of the year. Beats Christmas! A lot more stressy though – when you have small kids…they bugger off and cannot be easily found at Greenfield. Which is why – sadly – we don’t go there anymore!


  3. My fondest memories may be similar to your Stuart….lying in bed on a Sunday morning, suddenly there seems to be a slight vibration in the room…what is that? Ah…it is the big bass drum! They are coming past the house….quickly get your clothes on and leg it to the end of the street to watch people going by. Brill!


    1. Hi Tina,

      Seconded on Whit Friday, and Whit Sunday. On the latter, your memories are very similar. Typically:

      • 0835: me and Sarah straight out of bed;
      • 0845: rushed wash and breakfast;
      • 0855: mad dash to find best clothes;
      • 0915: straight to Dukinfield Baptist Church;
      • 0930: assembly at Birch Lane: St. John’s Castle or (pre-1991) East Manchester Brass Band follow;
      • 0940: assemble at Hollies Elderly Persons’ home (1986 onwards) for hymn;
      • 1015: Dukinfield Town Hall: S.V and S.L.V. wonder if Old Chapel have Tyldesley Band again (they still do!);
      • 1030 – 1100: service (often with the dulcet tones of Rev. Inglis, Rev. Norman Plumb, or the indefatigable Rev. Dennis Thomas);
      • 1100 – 1130: return to Dukinfield Baptist Church;
      • 1135: Raspberry Buns (!).

      On Whit Friday, as you know yourself, the cricket field at Greenfield isn’t the easiest of places to find anyone. Even I have to try to see if I can find my Dad if one of us moved. I suppose it could also be overloading for some persons on the autism spectrum (though that has never bothered me at all).

      I doubt as if you can find the Greenfield Brewery van outside the King William on Christmas Day, nor see 50+ bands walk along Chew Valley Road. (Hence Whit Friday > Christmas Day).

      Bye for now,



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