2009 Whit Friday - Looking back on a Wet Whit Friday...


Malcolm Wood has finally dried out to look back on a great day's entertainment - despite the monsoon weather...

Whit Friday remains a day in the banding calendar unlike any other – and the 2009 Whit Friday was very much unlike any other too -  rain, rain and even more rain!

For all Ian Clowes pictures on Whit Friday - go to:

Global warming

Through global warming, we've had to accept that the British weather (let alone the Saddleworth and Tameside micro-climates) remains difficult to predict, and after the first hint of summer just a week earlier, for the weather to break in such a torrential way was a major disappointment.

Thankfully, the weather for the Processions of Witness was gloriously sunny and it was fingers crossed that the rain that had been forecast would stay away.  It did – just about to the exact beat of the first bands playing the very first contesting notes on the Friday afternoon.

Everyone got soaked – from players and officials to spectators and even the odd adjudicator, but as always, the sense of camaraderie (a northern version of the Blitz spirit perhaps) overcame the impending doom and monsoon conditions. 

This became the night that you witnessed players from Black Dyke in full uniform playing with gloves on, Fairey’s legend Brian Taylor wearing a flat cap and bands in uniform, walking-out blazers and polo shirts drenched from head-to-toe. Dry cleaners were seen to be thanking the Gods…

When was it as bad?

The big question was when was the weather as bad as this year? 

Well, those with long memories suggested 1972, whilst the organisers at The Broadoak Hotel contest in Ashton (now in its 31st year) said they had never experienced conditions for the contest such as this year. 

Overseas contenders

As is the norm, the event welcomed overseas bands and a fair few players you don't see on the contest or concert stage anymore. 

Chicago Brass made the journey over from the USA and Fenilson Brass came over from The Netherlands, and despite the weather had an absolute ball - just like their cricket team who at the same time was beating England at a sun drenched Lords in London. 

The Elite

A fair number of elite Championship bands took to the circuit putting their reputations on the line against the lower section contenders and there was more than a few scratch bands raising cash for charity.

Black Dyke, The Co-operative Funeralcare (formerly Scottish Co-op), Fairey, Hammonds Saltaire, Hepworth, Leyland, Marsden, Rothwell all came out with the intention of earning some serious money (there were a couple of ‘Grand’ first prizes on offer), whilst Brighouse and Fodens were looking to defend their Saddleworth and Tameside overall champion crowns.

Results on Whit Friday have a tendency to cause a surprise (and for a local section outfit to out-gun a top band it can make their year), but those who'd put their preparation in got their rewards.

Dyke deny rivals

Brighouse & Rastrick led by Andrew Duncan were looking for their fourth successive Saddleworth title, but it was Black Dyke and Dr Nicholas Childs who stole the show winning on ‘Knight Templar’.   

Dyke literally cleaned up by taking the spoils at Delph, Denshaw, Diggle, Dobcross, Greenfield, Lydgate, Lees and Springhead and Scouthead and Austerlands and it merely left one question for the anoraks 'when was the last time a band won every contest it competed in on the night?'.

Those victories alone gave them £6,075 in prize money but when you add the £2500 as overall Saddleworth winners and the various individual prizes for Best Bass Section, Best Soprano, Best Principal Cornet and Best Euphonium, they've ended up with over nine grand in the bank!

That’s close on four National wins in a row at London to get that cash. No wonder some people are now calling Whit Friday the brass band version of Twenty:20 cricket. 

The chase for the remaining prizes in Saddleworth became a fight between Hepworth (Cookson Homes), Brighouse and Rothwell.

Hepworth's Wizard

In the end though it went to David Hirst and Hepworth who played 'The Wizard' superbly at times to gaind two first prizes from Greenacres and Uppermill supported by runners-up spots at Lydgate and Scouthead. 

Two third places at Delph and Dobcross were backed up by fourth place at Denshaw and Lees and Springhead with the band taking home over four grand for their efforts.

Brighouse, looking extremely smart in their old-fashioned tunics had to be content with third place overall and a run of contests that included just one first prize at Grotton, but a treble of runners-up spots at Delph, Greenfield and Lees and Springhead. 

Their most eye-catching result (and one that virtually cost them second place overall) was finishing 14th at Denshaw!!  Despite that result they picked up the best part of four grand on the night and in these tough times, it's money that will be put to good use.

Yorkshire rivals Rothwell and David Roberts continued their good form of 2009 with three second places and two thirds, and although they didn't quite get into the top three, their performances of ‘The Wizard’ banked them around £1800.

Marsden take local honours

In addition to the main prizes, awards were given to the Local Champions, based within an eight mile radius of Uppermill.  For the second year in a row, this went to Marsden Silver led by Richard Evans.  Twelve months ago, Diggle took the runners-up spot and United Co-op Milnrow finished third but this year those two placings were reversed.

For the first time, Smithills Senior Brass Band under Chris Wormald took the Youth title after some very consistent performances across their seven venues.

Delph nets 80

Despite the weather, the various contests across Saddleworth & Oldham drew very respectable numbers on the night. 

Delph continues to set its own records surpassing the previous best of 78 with 80 bands this year,whilst Scouthead and Greenfield attracted 63 and 62 respectively, Dobcross having 58 and debutants, Diggle, attracting 51 contenders.


Over in Tameside, the weather conditions were just as bad, although it did stop raining in Stalybridge apparently for over an hour at one point. 

The atmosphere remained vibrant though with contest organisers assisting bands where possible with all sorts of makeshift coverings. It was a great effort by one and all. Newcomers Audenshaw were absolutely delighted with their first year and they look forward to better weather and building upon 38 bands next year.

There was some fierce competition from Faireys and Leyland, but they could not stop Fodens and Garry Cutt taking the Tameside title for the eighth consecutive year.

Playing the march, ‘The President’  the reigning British Open and All-England International Masters Champion made it a memorable couple of weeks by picking up £3,300 in prize money alone.

Victories at Carrbrook, Droylsden, Stalybridge, Stalybridge Celtic and Upper Mossley were supported by runners up spots at Audenshaw, Denton, Hurst Cross and two third places at Dukinfield and Heyrod.  Not content with Tameside, Fodens then nipped into Saddleworth to pick up third place at Scouthead.

The £2,500 winners cheque from Tameside MBC guaranteed the band £5,800 before the little extras for individual contributions were added but it means £6525 has been added to the coffers.

Fairey's Knight for Templar

Fairey are no strangers to Whit Friday, and they had a cracking night competing at ten out of the eleven contests in Tameside (only missing out on Hurst Cross) before heading into Saddleworth to perform at a couple of venues including Delph where they concluded their night's work. 

The march, ‘Knight Templar’ proved to be a winner as they picked up £3400 in prize money.

Leyland takes third

Jason Katsikaris led Leyland's assault on Whit Friday, and their high points in picking up the £750 third prize in Tameside were victories at Denton and Hurst Cross.  Another band to choose ‘Knight Templar’, it didn't always go their way though, as they had to settle for 13th at Tame Valley in Dukinfield.

Local Champions

There is always plenty of interest in Tameside’s Local Championship, which applies to any band  within an 11 mile radius of Ashton-under-Lyne - and this year the title went to Ashton-under-Lyne. Ashton took the scalps of Fairey's, Fodens and Leyland as they banked £2,200. 

Glossop Old had a consistent night taking the £600 second prize, which significantly help them reach £1,100, and Stalybridge Old celebrating 200 years of existence this year came third taking £1,135.

Scratch Bands

There was a fair number of scratch bands out on the night just for the crack, including regular attendees Tartan Brass from North of the border in kilts. Tommy Cooper Brass all wore the trademark Fez hat and one band from the Royal Northern in Manchester were entitled Superheroes – although it was uncertain if they needed a band bus to fly them from venue to venue.

One of the more eye-catching scratch contenders included Roger Webster with an outfit under the name Enfield Brass made up of player from mainly Enfield Citadel and Whitburn Bands that included Alan Edmund, British Bandsman Editor Kenneth Crookston (on his Whit Friday debut) and ex-Dyke bass, Dave Nesbitt. 

Also out and about again was Ian Porthouse with Birmingham Conservatoire and Boobs and Brass. The legendary James Shepherd was spotted with Diggle, as was Malcolm Brownbill who played in the Processions in the morning with the same band. 

Meanwhile 4BR caught up with visitors from Cornwall and Worthing amongst others who made the trip to sample Whit Friday from dawn-till-dusk for the very first time. Despite the weather, they said they would be back next year too!

Overwhelming success

The night though was an overwhelming success. 

All of the secretaries praised the bands for their conduct (despite the usual grumbles from some discontents about alleged top bands and their ‘gamesmanship’) and the way they accepted what were unprecedented circumstances.
Next year

Once again the ups and downs of Whit Friday have been voiced from the night itself and it seems a separate article could be written ‘phantom buses’ and the like.

Everybody will look forward to next year when Whit Friday falls on Friday 28th May – that's the Spring Bank Holiday weekend and the Friday before the All-England International Masters in Cambridge.

Lets just hope the weather is a little bit better.

Malcolm Wood


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