THOUSANDS OF people from across the borough and beyond are set to enjoy a spectacular day of free entertainment and fun at the famous Whit Friday brass band contests.
Dubbed ‘the greatest free show on earth’, this traditional event in Saddleworth and Lees dates back to 1884.
Contests will run across 11 villages from around 4pm until 10.30pm on Friday, May 20 and some road closures will be in place until midnight.
The entertainment follows the traditional ‘Whit Walks’ in the morning when churches across Saddleworth process through the streets for the Walk of Witness.
Several months of planning between partners have taken place to ensure residents and visitors can enjoy the day in safety.
Councillor Jean Stretton, Leader of Oldham Council, said: “The Whit Friday Band contests are one of the biggest events on our calendar and have helped put us on the musical map
“We’re delighted to be welcoming bands and visitors from across the country and further to this great free show.
“It is vital we all support major events like this because they contribute to our tourism and events industry, which is worth more than £240milion and supports 3,000 jobs in Oldham.
“Thanks to the huge efforts made by the organisers and volunteers the event has been a success year after year. We’ve been working for months with the organisers and partners, such as Greater Manchester Police, to ensure that we have all the right traffic diversions, stewarding and policing arrangements in place to make the event a success.
“We’d encourage everyone to act responsibly and have a great day.”
Once the music has stopped there’s also a huge clean-up operation where an army of volunteers and council staff clear away litter and empty street bins.
The Saddleworth and Lees District Executive has been closely involved in organising the event and have again given a significant financial contribution from their devolved funding from Oldham Council towards the costs of prizes, stewarding and other vital amenities.
GMP officers will be in attendance across the various contests. They advise all parents to keep in touch with children throughout the day. Any young person suspected to be in possession of alcohol may be searched.
Caroline Ball, Greater Manchester Police Chief Superintendent and Territorial Commander for Oldham said: “The Saddleworth Band Contest is a great event for all of the family.
“We are delighted to be working with the organisers to ensure that it is a fun, safe and enjoyable event for all involved.
“We want everyone attending to enjoy the day but we also want to send a clear message about the policing operation that will be in place.
“Our officers on the ground will deal robustly with anyone found behaving antisocially, drinking to excess or involved in crime.
“It is our responsibility to protect vulnerable members of the community and as part of this operation we will be doing just that.
“Any alcohol found with underage youngsters will be seized and our licensing officers will be working on the day, advising parents on the dangers of alcohol if they identify any children under the influence. ”
For more background information on the band contests visit: http://www.whitfriday.brassbands.saddleworth.org/intro.html