Brass Band - Saxophone

Brass Band Contests, Whit Fridays & Whit Walks – History & Background Information

Brass Band Contests, every year, is one of the most important festivals in North West England. Some of us also tour this tremendous festive event, here at Masterflex UK, every year.  Let Masterflex describe the origin, meaning, and traditions of this fantastic festival.

Your next event often described as “the greatest free show on Earth”, is Friday 14th June 2019.

Whit Friday - Delph - Saddleworth

Whit Friday – Delph – Saddleworth – Photo © Paul Anderson (cc-by-sa/2.0)

This day has a cultural significance in North West England, on Whit (White) Fridays, where there are the annual Walks. Therefore on this day, brass band contests, held in Saddleworth, Oldham, Tameside and other areas of Greater Manchester, coincide with Whit Walks.

Whit Walks on Whit Fridays

Whit Walks on Whit Friday, dating back to 19th July 1821, is the ‘Scholars’ Walk (church’s Annual Day) in Manchester; where children, including Church Officers & Clergy, carry baskets of flowers or ribbons attached to banners. Whit Walks was when children walked, in procession from their schools, to commemorate the coronation of George IV; and they assembled at Ardwick Green to sing “God Save the King”.

Whit Walk

Whit Walk – 1954/5 – Photo © Anon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

New Clothes for Whit Walks & For Newly Baptised Members

Traditionally, on Whit Fridays, boys & girls wore new trousers and white dresses, respectively.  These clothes were funded, by friends and relatives, by giving out a penny to the children. This was something to look forward to,  in difficult times, as kids would rarely get brand-new outfits; more often receiving handed-down clothes from grown siblings or cousins.

Whit Friday was also traditionally the time when even grown-ups wore new clothes, and the walk became a justification to show off these outfits. The wearing of new garments arises from the custom of newly baptised members’ induction into the Church at Whitsun. The new clothes, usually white (whit), implied symbolic of a fresh start.

Bands & Brass Band Contests

Local Churches & Chapels, for Whit Walks, employed bands that lead traditional processions through the streets/villages; which lead to the creation of Brass Band Contests (described below):

Delph Brass Band Contest Making Britain Great

Delph Brass Band Contest Making Britain Great – Bryan Ledgard [CC BY 2.0


THE STALYBRIDGE BAND, in 1909, was founded by Mr Thomas Avision; Leading to the Brass band contests which, since at least 1870, have been held in Stalybridge.  Contests started in Stalybridge and quickly spread to Mossley and over to Saddleworth. Two Further Whit Friday brass band contests, on 6th June 1884, had been held in Uppermill and Mossley; becoming the Annual Whit Friday Band Contest!

Brass Band Contest

Brass Band Contest – Photo © Paul Anderson (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Today thousands of people, including Musicians and Spectators, come to listen to brass band music. The contest is all about, testing to the limit, the ‘bands’ stamina, discipline and organisational skills; and winning contest prizes organised by a Committee.

Brass bands trip from all over the globe, with such high esteem, to perform; and thousands of Spectators come to watch them play. There are two dozen contests across Tameside, Oldham and Saddleworth, and these primary three are still playing!

The competition is open to all and international, local, youth, and military bands regularly compete up against some of the most famous bands; such as the Brighouse & Rastrick, Black Dyke, Grimethorpe Colliery and Lydgate Brass Bands!

Learn more, about Whit Friday Brass Band Concerts 2019, on Visit Manchester.


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