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Brilliant bands hit top note

Reporter: Gillian Potts
Date online: 12 June 2017

"I ASSUME it's going to rain. If it's sunny it's a bonus."

The sentiments of Scouthead and Austerlands Brass Band Contest secretary David Needham acknowledged the unusually glorious weather for this year's Whit Friday band contests which was an historic milestone for the organisation which celebrated its 40th anniversary on Friday.

As the sun shone and the bands played it was a very special occasion for the committee and its 'family' of volunteers who have kept the tradition going.

"We are very pleased to celebrate our 40th brass band contest," said David, who has been involved since its concept.

"I'm sure the inaugural committee would not have expected the contest to have lasted. Fortunately they laid a strong foundation for us to build on.

"I remember our first contest wondering if a band was actually going to turn up and the excitement when one eventually did. Last year we had 74 bands here."

Some of the first to arrive at their Whit Friday bonanza were the Leicester Ambassadors, Stape Silver Band, from Pickering, in North Yorkshire and Saltire brandishing Tartan Brass, musicians from across Scotland.

There was a special trophy presented to the winner of the fourth section in the memory of their committee stalwart and chairman, Paul Ashworth, who passed away shortly before last year's contest aged 66.

The Whit Friday Band contest is the largest open air brass band concert in the world and described as "the greatest free show on earth".

Spectators turned out in their thousands to watch the Saddleworth spectacle with the usual impressive turnout of brass bands from across Oldham and the UK with youth and novelty bands getting to pitch their skills against some of the best in the world including Black Dyke Band and Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band. This year's overseas competitors including Lengnau Brass, from Switzerland, and The Tanunda Town Band from South Australia.

There were also some well known faces in the crowd including Kevin Sinfield at Lydgate.

In Lydgate we caught up with Boobs and Brass, from Northamptonshire, which has raised £200,000 for Breast Cancer Now since 2006 which goes directly to research.

During the short march up Stockport Road to the White Hart Inn, bands blasted out an array of contemporary tunes including Wroughton Silver Band, from Wiltshire, who delighted crowds Madness's "House of Fun" while Yarwell and Nassington Britannia Brass Band, from Peterborough, played "Let's Dance" by David Bowie.

In Greenfield hundreds lined the streets and descended on the playing fields off Ladhill Lane.

Long-serving member and former chairman of Greenfield Brass Band Contest committee, Frank Rothwell, said: "The unique thing about Greenfield is the bands get a decent 200m stretch to march and play and have fun. We also offer the biggest contest prize of £1,000."

Chairman of Greenfield Brass Band Contest, David Allomby, said he was overwhelmed by their year's event.

"The volunteers involved with this are amazing. The crowds have been brilliant too. I'd also like to thank Oldham Council team. They are stars and make running this much easier thanks to their superb organising."


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