Reporter: Stuart Littleford
Thousands of people lined the streets of Saddleworth on Friday for the annual Whit Friday walks despite a wet and cold start to the day.
Church congregations together with their brass bands marched into Uppermill from various local villages cheered on by large crowds of onlookers who had turned out in force despite the poor weather. Children and adults walked together into the village centre carrying banners for their churches and Sunday schools before making their way into Uppermill park for hymns and sermons.
Later in the afternoon, as the weather turned milder, brass bands from all over the country began to arrive in Saddleworth’s villages ready to compete in the world famous band contests. Long lines of coaches parked up alongside competition venues with hundreds of eager bandsmen and women descending down the steps in their colourful and pristine uniforms.
The bands were given a rousing welcome by large crowds who had crammed the footpaths and pubs to watch as they marched from village to village, competing for a chance to win various amounts of prize money on offer – money that many brass bands relish winning as a means of surviving through to next years contest.
Excited, and sometimes nervous, musicians of all ages and backgrounds kept the contest judges and music fans delighted with strong and enthusiastic performances. Village greens and squares were packed late into the night with thousands of people enjoying the musical extravaganza – known locally as ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’.
One visitor who had travelled all the way down from Edinburgh, Jackie Darke, said: “The day has been absolutely fantastic and has lived up to all I have heard about it and I will be back next year for certain.”
Another man who had travelled up from Dover to record the sounds of the bands said: “Where else can you see so many brass bands all in one place? It’s just amazing.”
With almost 100 brass bands involved this year, Denshaw and Diggle attracted a record number of band entries into their competitions.