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Whit Friday Marching Contest 10th June 2022 – from a player’s perspective

Written by Brian Rogers - 13 June 2022

Rode Hall Silver Band took to the road on Friday 10th June 2022, heading for the fantastic and traditional Whit Friday Marching contests held around Thameside, Oldham and Saddleworth.

Whit Friday meaning White Friday is the name given to the first Friday after Pentecost or Whitsun. The day has a cultural significance in the North West as the day on which the annual Whit Walks are held.

The brass band contest has been held since 1870: and attracts all the big name bands as well as bands from far and wide, young and old.

Each location organises its own contest and it is up to each band to navigate to as many venues as possible. This tests the skills of the coach drivers to their limits as the pressure builds to get to the next one as fast as you can.

When you arrive out jumps a runner to register your entry and then you join the queue to march up the road literally packed with spectators. The band then forms up on a stage, a field a pub car park or wherever the contest is to be held and upon the adjudicators whistle you commence your performance of your chosen piece. When you finish its back onto the bus and off to the next one.

Our first stop was Scouthead. Our musical director and big bass drummer Nigel Butler had chosen True and Trusty to march up to and the tricky and testing ‘Mephistopheles’ by Shipley Douglas as our contest march. It was straight into action and the crowd gave us a warm welcome in the late afternoon sunshine.

Back to the bus and Stephen our fantastic coach driver was ready to whisk us off to Delph, probably one of the favourite locations. The crowd gathers in chairs around a pub forecourt and appear to really know their stuff.

Two down, we scramble back on squeezing onto the coach between drums, basses and trombones. Then as is tradition, we got lost trying to find Dobcross. A few wrong turns, lots of different sat nav opinions and after a few detours, driving back through a bemused crowd at Scouthead we finally arrived at Dobcross. No time to hang around it was straight onto the village green and under the oak tree, surrounded by a great crowd enjoying the warm blustery afternoon sunshine.

RHSB performing at Dobcross

The band were playing well with a great full sound, helped in no small part by the welcome support of some of our friends from the Acceler8 band.

It was now early evening and the crowds had had plenty of time to enjoy the 70 or so bands as they made their way around the contests. They had also had a lot of time to enjoy the beer and wine, as could be seen by the rather leery supporters at Uppermill. We had quite a long wait here, but it gave us time to soak in the carnival atmosphere and look and listen to some other bands and recover our lips ready for the next ones on the list. After a while we played at Uppermill and it was clear that we had done well, you know when its right and it was getting better as the night wore on.

By now it was dark as we made our way to Greenfield, a great venue, under floodlights on an impressive stage. Right in front of us was the Championship band Leyland. Always a bit daunting to follow a top band, but we were not put off and in fact put in our best performance of the night.

Five down, could we get another one in before the events closed down. We managed to sneak into Lydgate as the 2nd to last band to perform there. Brighouse followed us on and closed the night.

We rushed off to see if we could get one more in at Denton. We arrived at 11.15pm only to be told that we had missed final registration but the good news was the bar was still open. A very relieved and tired bunch of players were very thankful to have a celebratory drink after a long hard but thoroughly enjoyable day where everyone had given their very best.

So then the wait for the results to come in:

Rode Hall competes at the 3rd section level so that is who we were in competition with.

We were delighted to hear that we won at Greenfield, we came second at Dobcross and Uppermill and got third at Scouthead. Placed in 4 competitions out of 6 completed, what a night and what a great boost for the band.