Tameside Whit Friday Band Contest
Brass band music is seared into Tameside’s soul. It is part of the local consciousness and provides a tangible link to the Industrial Revolution where the borough’s communities were forged.
It was at the start of the 19th century that the nine constituent parts of Tameside began to assume their modern identity. The mills and mines may have closed over the ensuing 200 years but their cultural legacy lives on in the shape of brass bands and the ever-popular Whit Friday band contests.
The Whit Friday Brass Band competitions were born in Tameside. There are claims that they originated in Stalybridge, in 1870. However, it is more generally accepted that they date back to 1884, when contests were held in Stalybridge and Mossley, then a few years later across the Yorkshire border in Uppermill.
Well over 100 years later, the brass tradition remains as strong and vibrant as ever. Indeed, interest in the contests has mushroomed since the 1980s with many more venues and much more prize money.
The 2020 contest will take place on Friday 5th June
Between the wars there were usually only seven or eight contests. Last year Tameside hosted 11, and these were attended by at least 15,000 people. More than 60 bands took part and the total prize fund was well over £20k.
Contests were held at venues in Ashton, Denton, Droylsden, Dukinfield, Mossley and Stalybridge, and this year is expected to be the same. All are open-air events and organised by volunteers. Some are held in picturesque surroundings and from 2019 three contests – Stalybridge Celtic, Hurst Village and Mossley all take place in football grounds.
After iit's début appearance in 2017, The Albion in Dukinfield returns once more whilst the popular Broadoak contest, has settled nicely into its new home of Ashton Rugby Club.
For 2019 and beyond the Mossley contest will take place at Seel Park, home of Mossley AFC, and a mere stones throw from its previous location.
The contests remain primarily due to the indefatigable dedication of the volunteers who refuse to let the event disappear not just from the brass band calendar, but their local community. They come together under the name of the Friends of the Tameside Whit Friday Brass Band Committee. These volunteers are heroes and without them, Whit Friday just wouldn't exist.
Such is the attraction and history of the Tameside contests that bands are prepared to travel the length and breadth of the country to participate. Some even come in from overseas..
Having been crowned Champions for eighteen of the past nineteen years, Foden's Band are expected to be out once again to defend their title. In addition to the £2,000 and £750 that will go to the Tameside Open and Local Champions. The Local Champions will now also receive the Brian Hill Memorial Trophy, named in recognition of Brian Hill who chaired the F.O.W.F.B.B.C for many years and unfortunately passed away in 2018.
Tameside’s Whit Friday competitions are open to everyone, so youth bands get to match their skills against some of the country’s top outfits. For bandsmen, the dash from contest to contest makes for an exhausting evening, but a thoroughly exhilarating one.
The borough’s contests typically start at about 4.00pm. Bands play two pieces - a traditional march and then their well-rehearsed show-piece. Each performance is scored by an adjudicator, hidden in an adjacent darkened room or caravan.
All the contests offer prizes for best band, best youth band, best soloists and so on. At one of the busier venues you could expect to hear more than 50 bands. The winners are announced shortly after close – at around 10.30 to 11.30pm.
Given the compactness of Tameside, it is possible to visit several contests during the evening. All are within a couple of miles of each other.
And bands and spectators can keep abreast of what is happening on the night through the use of social media via the Council's Twitter account @tmbc_culture and using the hash-tag #WhitBrass20