Sunday 30 May 2010

Some" fings" are "wot they used t'be."

On Friday I spent the afternoon and evening wandering around the the Saddleworth and District Whit Friday Brass Band contests. These take place, and have been doing so since 1884, in several villages straddling the Yorkshire/Lancashire border up in the Pennines. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the first event of the day, a Whitsun Walk of Witness involving some 1 800 people, a walk, bands and an ecumenical service,

The band competitions started at around 4.30 in the evening, with some 100 bands transported in coaches from village to village where they each perform a march and and specialist piece, observed by a large crowd and judged by hidden adjudicators.

The event is a miracle of logistical organisation by whoever arranges the bus transport, and an astonishing level of musicianship from bands of international standing (some of which come from abroad) to local youth bands. Presumably the coach drivers are paid, but everyone else is a volunteer.

The day is evidence of hours of practice by several thousand brass band players and their conductors, involvement of local people who help organise the event and raise money for modest prizes, and genuine and orderly enjoyment from visitors.

This is an example of participatory society at its best, not on the instructions of the government, not to save money by cheeseparing the social services and farming our essential services to charities, and, in musicianship, for pleasure, personal achievement and teamwork,not to tick boxes in order to impress a government monitoring office.

Best of all, it ignores the artificial Wilsontide and the trendy Pentacost label, and still takes place in Whit Week.

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