Definitely not brassed off! Whit Friday group recognised with Queen’s Award

ORGANISERS of Saddleworth’s annual brass band spectacular can blow their own trumpets and bang the drum in celebration of receiving royal approval.

Saddleworth and Oldham Area Whit Friday brass band committee is one of 22 groups across Greater Manchester to be recognised with a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) – the MBE for voluntary groups.

But group co-ordinator Bob Rodgers admits the timing of the QAVS – created in 2002 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation – is “ironic.”

News of the award – described as a “rare honour” – comes a week after the Whit Friday contest was cancelled for a second successive year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bob said: “The group were told they were being nominated for the award in the Autumn of 2019.

“It is ironic that since then we have been unable to function for the last two years through restrictions imposed by Covid.

“However, we are all looking forward to continuing with this great show in 2022, when hopefully all our banding activity will be back to normal.”

John Battye, former Oldham Council Leader, one-time Mayor of Oldham and now Saddleworth Parish councillor, nominated the group to receive the QAVS.

“Although contests have been in existence for 137 years this group has functioned since 1993,” explained Bob.

“We are honoured and obviously delighted to have been successfully nominated for this award.

“The work undertaken to provide the ‘greatest free show on earth’ is a 12-month rolling programme. To the visitors who arrive on the evening, it appears to ‘just happen’.

Bands at Whit Friday

“But throughout the area, thousands of hours are put into planning and preparation. We are indebted to Oldham Council for the infrastructure and advice they provide that only those involved in the running are aware of and the financial support through the Saddleworth and Lees District Partnership, not to mention the numerous businesses who sponsor the individual contests.”

In ‘normal’ years, approximately 300 volunteers are involved in presenting the Whit Friday Band contests at venues in: Denshaw, Delph, Dobcross, Diggle, Uppermill, Greenfield, Friezland, Lydgate, Grotton, Lees and Springhead and Scouthead and Austerlands.

This year the group is one of 241 different category winners across the UK and the Channel Islands to receive the prestigious award.

Uppermill Band this Whit Friday (2021)

Representatives of the group will receive the award crystal and certificate signed by Her Majesty the Queen from the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, Sir Warren Smith, later this summer.

For a fourth consecutive year, Greater Manchester has the most winners. And Oldham is also represented with three other recipients: Networking in East Oldham Neighbourhoods (NEON), Oldham Boxing and Personal Development Centre and Oldham Street Angels.

The Lord-Lieutenant Sir Warren James Smith said, “This award recognises the contribution an organisation makes within its community. It is a rare honour.

“It is not won easily and it recognises real achievement, effort, and a major contribution to the community.

The last 16 months have highlighted just how valuable volunteering is to the country, with groups innovatively continuing their valuable work in the community, despite the restrictions and threat of the virus and I hope many more will be nominated in the future”.

Any group of two or more people that has participated in voluntary work for more than three years can be nominated for the award.

Full details on how to nominate are available at https://qavs.culture.gov.uk  Nominations for the 2022 awards close on September 15, 2021.

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