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10 Things to Expect on Whit Friday

Dust Off the Lyres

Well it’s that time of year again! This Friday, bands will be dusting off their lyres in preparation for the ‘GreatestFree Show on Earth’- Whit Friday

If you’re asking the question ‘What is Whit Friday?’ allow me to briefly explain:

  1. 28+ players, plus guests and instruments (including tubas) and conductor are squished onto a coach- this will be their home for the next 5+ hours.

  2. The coach drives to various venues all over Tameside and Saddleworth, which usually include a combination of football fields, pub beer gardens, car parks and the odd playground with a caravan in it (playground, caravan- what a way to make Whit Friday sound dodgy, Liv, well done).

  3. At each venue, the band jumps off and plays two marches: one whilst walking down to the contest stage and then a contest march on which they are scored.

  4. They then jump back on the coach and go on to the next venue.

  5. Each band is scored on their performances and they have the opportunity to win podium places at each venue, as well as podium places in each section and podium places of the whole competition at Tameside and the competition at Saddleworth.

  6. As this is also a social event, every band is usually told by the MD (musical director) at what point in the competition they can stop for a cold, potentially alcoholic beverage- how late in the evening this is allowed is solely dependent on the generosity of the MD- usually the 5th or 6th village…sometimes the last village if you’re really unlucky and with the weather predicted to be glorious- good luck resisting that pint!


This is the first time in nearly ten years that I won’t be at the contest, so I thought I’d still get involved and put together a list of things you’re likely to see at Whit Friday.

See how many you spot on the day!

1. Caravan

If you don’t play to a slightly open window in a caravan, which looks like it was abused on an episode of Top Gear- you’re not at Whit Friday.


2. A Forgotten Lyre

There’s always at least one player who didn’t bring their lyre, so has to attempt to balance their instrument and hold their music at the same time.


3. Bunting/Flags/Banners

Image result for whit friday

Even though you may be playing to a grotty caravan, some villages really do get into the spirit, with bunting and flags lining the streets- I played at a venue with a bouncy castle last year! Who needs a Royal Wedding, when you’ve got Whit Friday?!


 4. Bag of Chips/ Burger Van

It isn’t Whit Friday unless there is a line of banders at a burger van or munching a bag of chips with their cornet looped around their arm.


5. Scratch Bands

Not every band takes part in Whit Friday, so those willing players who find themselves without a band sometimes join together to form a scratch band- a bit like a supergroup of banders. Look out for fancy dress, daft band names or funky pop tunes instead of traditional walking marches. One scratch band to look out for is Chav Brass- if the characters from little Britain and Brassed Off had children…you get the idea.


6. ‘Can I have a go on your trumpet?’

You always get one spectator that, after one too many cans of Stella Artois, thinks they’re Maurice Murphy. A: It’s not a trumpet and B: No.


7. Slaidburn

If you’ve never heard this march before, trust me, you’ll know every part in the band by the end of the night- it’s a very popular choice.


8. Youth Bands

Image result for whit friday march contest youth band

I’m always impressed by the talent of the youth bands who enter Whit Friday, I’ve heard some performances that have easily rivalled and in some cases beaten well established adult bands. As bands perform unsectioned- the youth bands have the extra challenge of potentially following really high level adult bands. Please give them the same support (if not more) as you give to the big boys of banding (Black Dyke, Foden’s, Brighouse etc).


9. Sneaky Pint

There will be a few renegades who sneak a cheeky pint behind the coach, in the bar or swigging from a cleverly hidden can in their pocket, before the contest is finished or before the designated drinking time- naughty, naughty.

Or there are those who steal army hats from the Kings Division Band instead of sneaking a pint…*

*Ok we didn’t actually steal them, we asked nicely if we could borrow them- they’re the army band, they could set the Queen on us or something…


10. Potholes, Speed Bumps and Corners- Oh My!

If you can get through the entire night without:

  1. Falling into a pothole

  2. Tripping over a speedbump

  3. Losing step/place whilst maneuvering a corner

You’re a far better marcher than me- Congrats!


It’s the most exciting day in the banding calendar, plus it’s one of the biggest (if not the biggest) and most diverse audiences you’ll ever get to play for. It’s probably the most enjoyable contest you’ll ever play too! Have a laugh, play your best and enjoy the day!

What are you most looking forward to at Whit Friday?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!


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