One of the iconic scenes in the film Brassed Off sees the Grimley Band (played in the film by Grimethorpe Colliery Band) compete in the annual Saddleworth & District Whit Friday Brass Band Contest at Delph.
Often described as 'the greatest free show on Earth', the Saddleworth & District Whit Friday Brass Band Contests take place every year on the afternoon and evening of Whit Friday. From the earliest recorded contest in 1884, the event has grown in popularity year-on-year. Last year well over a hundred brass bands participated in some twenty different contests at venues scattered around the moorland villages and towns on the western edge of the Pennines.
For 2018’s contest Chris Proctor, Programme Manager, retraced the steps of the Grimley Band in Brassed Off by following Dobcross Silver Band, who are performing on Symphony Hall Level 3 Foyer prior to this year’s Brass Gala Concert.
Having never experienced a Whit Friday contest before, I had no idea what to expect. My only reference points were from watching Brassed Off, and anecdotally from friends and family. To follow Dobcross around the various villages as they were competing, and seeing how an entire village comes out to support the bands was a rare moment that I’ll never forget. From the morning service in Dobcross, the march to Uppermill and the contest in Delph – it was a real pleasure to follow Dobcross Silver Band, and I’ll definitely be heading back up for Whit Friday in future. After this experience, I had to invite Dobcross Silver Band down to be part of the Brass Gala Concert at Symphony Hall, as part of the weekend that includes Brassed Off Live and The 166th British Open too!Chris Proctor, Programme Manager
Andy Black – Chairman of Dobcross Silver Band
What does it mean to be part of Whit Friday?
For us Whit Friday is the highlight of the year, a special time when we are able to engage with our village community for morning walks and processions and then of course the evening band contests, one of which is held in our village. It is wonderful to see bands from across the country and indeed overseas converge on the villages of Saddleworth providing an unrivalled night of free entertainment. It is a day when we can wear our uniform and represent our village with real pride.
Living in the area, how important is brass banding to the community?
The Silver Band was formed in 1875 and has a magnificent heritage. it has remained an integral part of the village, based in the world famous Dobcross Band Club. The village also has a successful Youth Band, an Adult Learner Group, The Dobcross Brass Monkeys and a recently formed Swing band where talented young brass players are supported by more experienced musicians.
Given the success of the film Brassed Off, how often are the band asked/do the band include repertoire from the film?
The film is an established favourite across the brass band community and of course more widely. The music is very well known and invariably we are asked to include tunes in our concert programmes, especially where we are engaged to play at events such as weddings etc. Only last year the Band performed a 'Brassed Off' concert at the Band Club, featuring all the film music followed by a showing of the film itself. You won’t be surprised to know that the event was a sell out!!
If you could only play one piece of music for brass band, what would it be?
There will always be a range of opinions on this but our Musical Director, Grenville Moore, says 'Resurgam' by Eric Ball - who am I to argue!!