Whit Friday Brass Band Contests cancelled for second year due to Covid-19 pandemic

THE Whit Friday Brass Band Contests have been cancelled in Saddleworth and Oldham for the second year running due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Group Co-ordinator Bob Rodgers said it would be ‘foolhardy and dangerous’ to hold the event considering the current and projected situation regarding the virus.

He confirmed: “It is with great regret that the Saddleworth and Oldham Group of Whit Friday Band Contests, with the backing of Oldham Council officers, have taken the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 event on May 28.

“Having taken into account the current and projected situation regarding Covid-19, they are of the opinion that it would be irresponsible to stage this year’s contests.

“Vaccine protection will not be complete and an organised gathering of people, while in various stage of protection, would be considered foolhardy and dangerous.

Whit Friday in Greenfield

“We must support all the emergency services who have enough problems without our event adding to the extra burden.

“We have also taken into consideration the fact that bands will have had little or no chance to rehearse and to travel in a ‘Covid safe’ manner would be impossible.

“It was never anticipated this pandemic would last so long, but hopefully we can get back to something like normality in time for June 10, 2022.”

The contests, which were also cancelled last year due to the pandemic, annually attracts bands from across the country and even around the world for the ‘greatest free show on earth’.

The event in 2019 saw 119 bands compete for the individual contest prizes at 11 locations in Saddleworth and Oldham, as well as the overall area prizes.

It has been a constant fixture in locals’ diaries since 1884, only being cancelled once before – last century during the wars (and Delph missed one in 1956 because of financial circumstances).

Mr Rodgers told the Independent: “I very sadly have to say it is cancelled. There is just no way we could run it safely.

“With such a mixture of people having had one dose of the vaccine, or two, or even none, it would be a recipe for disaster. It would only need one person to catch Covid and we would be liable.

Dobcross Silver Bands Clare Fawcett

“Usually planning starts straight after last year’s Whit Friday and Oldham Council asks for our event plan by October – but this time there is nothing in place.

“Each contest could set up with just a month’s notice but the council side of things takes more time, like finding coach stewards and doing the paperwork for the road closures and signs.

“We had to make a decision now and with things going the way they are it is common sense to cancel this year’s event and look forward to the next one.”

Rev Canon Sharon Jones, Saddleworth Team Rector, said plans for this year’s traditional church Whit Walks in the morning are still unclear and a decision will be made nearer the time.

Despite the event being cancelled last June, as well as the traditional church processions in the morning, Saddleworth made sure the spirit of the event was alive and kicking.

Some banners still flew high as churches displayed them outside their premises and videos of bands playing as well as photo compilations were shared online.

Residents across the community decorated their homes and sat outside, socially distanced, to listen to music and celebrate the day.

York Band in medieval gear

A ‘Saddleworth Day of Music’ Facebook group was launched by Carol Oldham, from Scouthead, to encourage people to share their musical talents and listen to music online.

People of all ages uploaded videos of themselves playing instruments in their homes or gardens, as well as clips and photographs of Whit Fridays past.

Carol commented on the group: “We never expected to be planning another online Whit Friday but we will be back again on Friday, May 28. We hope you will join us for music of all kinds including brass.”

Find out more at: www.facebook.com/groups/Saddleworthdayofmusic

Find out more about the Whit Friday Brass Band Contests online: https://saddleworthwhitfriday.co.uk

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