The Whit Friday band contests have been part of the cultural fabric of Tameside for over 100 years, and there are still bands across the borough dedicated to keeping the tradition alive with the younger generation.
Taking part in this year’s Whit Walks are the Incredible Plastic Street Band. Some of their members are just four and five years old, and while they might have to play miniature trombones they’re definitely not short on talent. The band compose all their own music and act as a feeder group for other Tameside brass bands including St Paul’s in Stalybridge and St John’s Mossley.
Beren Airstone of St John’s Band said “Whit Friday is the biggest day of the year and the older children who come on the march down to the contest find it really exciting, even though it is a long night.
“It’s inspiring for them seeing some of the best brass bands in the world, including Black Dyke and Foden’s Band, but the best thing about Whit Friday is that everyone in the band all work together for a common goal.
“It’s fantastic keeping the tradition going, just five years ago the average age in the group was 65 and the band had nearly collapsed. Now even our learner band has 20 members and all of them get involved with Whit Friday in one way or another.”
Hattersley Brass Band is made up of pupils from nine different schools across the borough and will be taking part in the Whit Friday contest for the third time.
Mrs Anne Marie Kinder from St James Primary School, who is the band leader, said “Whit Friday is a great day. Not only do the children get the chance to walk in the shoes of the greats, being in Hattersley Brass gives them the opportunity to make real friendships with other children they wouldn’t usually meet.”
“Some of the children have even continued their friendships after they leave primary school into secondary school and beyond.”
Mossley Hollins High School’s brass band have had some great successes over the years, including performing at the Royal Albert Hall. But for Mr Stephen Beardmore, head of music at the school and band leader for 25 years, one of the proudest moments came at last year’s Whit Friday contest where they were the highest placed junior at Aldwinians in Audenshaw, and won Best Youth Band in Droylsden. However, allegiances run strong and the band’s favourite place to play has to be their hometown of Mossley.
He said “The Whit Friday contests gives the children a real experience of the contest circuit and we always finish our evening in Mossley to crowds of hundreds who give us a fantastic reception. It’s great to carry on the tradition – and the rivalry with neighbouring Oldham.”
This year there is over £1,800 in prize money to be won by junior bands, including a monetary prize for every youth band attending the Dukinfield Tame Valley Hotel contest. The full list of prizes is below:
Overall Tameside Youth Prizes: 1st place £200, 2nd place £100 (bands must play at least 6 Tameside Venues to qualify)
Audenshaw - Aldwinians: Junior/Youth 1st £100
Ashton - The Broad Oak (Held at Ashton Rugby Club): Junior/Youth 1st £50, 2nd £30
Ashton Hurst Village (Held at Ashton Utd FC): Junior/Youth 1st £50, 2nd £25
Denton Cricket Club: Junior/Youth 1st £60, 2nd £25
Droylsden - The Bush: Junior/Youth 1st £100, 2nd £75