Whit Friday Marches 2012


The morning of June 1st 2012 dawned, bright, sunny and early once again for those of us in Charles Church Camberley Band off on our second trip to the Oldham area for the Whit Marches contests.

Once again, it was a fantastic experience for all involved (the sensation of being part of a little-known band marching down the High Street at Delph with a huge crows cheering us on is not to be quickly forgotten once experienced…)

Again we visited seven villages, several we’d been to on our last visit, but some new; and this time we had a novelty march to play too, “Chicken Run” arranged for us espcially by Owen Lloyd.

After a busy afternoon and evening of jumping on and off the bus, marching, playing the contest march and then doing the same all over again at the next village, we returned to our hotel, exhausted but happy and contented. Once more it had been a fun-packed event for us.

Review by Robert Cherry

The morning of 1st June 2012 dawned for the band’s second trip to the Whit Friday Marches in the Saddleworth area near to Manchester. Would the weather be nice or would a total downpour dampen our spirits? Thankfully the weather looked promising and we all made the 200 mile trip to our hotel near to Oldham.

After a lovely pub lunch together in a local hostelry, we boarded our coach and headed off to our first venue of the evening, Staylbridge Celtic Football ground. It was Friday afternoon and the traffic was already bad, so it took longer than anticipated to get there. We feared the worst, that there would already be a long queue of bands waiting. To our surprise we were the first to arrive and picked up the prize for the first band. We were already prize winners and hadn’t even played a note yet.

Staylbridge Celtic Football ground is not the most picturesque of locations, but there is a large car park in which we could have a short warm up and practice, a luxury that most of the venues don’t have. At 4.30pm we were given the signal to start and marched all of 30 metres playing the march “C.I.V.”. We then moved to the contest stage, a small paved area by the side of the football pitch and played our contest match “Unity”. By 4.40pm we were getting back on to the coach to head to our next venue Carrbrook.

We were on a roll as when we arrived at Carrbrook there were no bands waiting and we were able to start our second march without a delay. This was a slightly longer march of maybe 100 metres and as we turned and marched into the field where the contest stage is located, there was already a reasonable crowd of listeners waiting who gave us a warm welcome.

The first two venues were the same as our previous visit, but the next venue was to be a new one. We arrived at Lydgate and decided to play our novelty march “Chicken Run” for the first time. The venue was a nice large garden at the village pub. However just two bands to wait and it was time to play our contest march once more, so no time for any liquid refreshment. There was no time to lose, so we headed off to our next new venue, Grotton, which was literally no more than a mile away.

At Grotton we started the march towards the contest venue, when disaster almost struck. Owen, who was helping out playing the bass drum on the march as well as cornet at the contests, had ingeniously constructed an attachment to the bass drum to hold a triangle which he would also play on “Chicken Run”. We had just set off and as he leaned over to play the triangle the attachment broke and the bass drum, in slow motion, appeared to be about to fall off and Owen tumble over with it. Somehow and miraculously Owen managed to retrieve the drum and stay upright. How he managed it I will never know, but it would have been a good You’ve Been Framed moment if it had been caught on camera. When we arrived at the contest ground we discovered that the bass drum strap had actually snapped. Owen being a true trooper continued to play the bass drum for the rest of the marches during the evening, even though he only had half a bass drum strap. It must have been incredibly uncomfortable and awkward.

There was quite a big crowd at Grotton in the contest ground, which gave it a good atmosphere, although it wasn’t the most picturesque village that we played in. We then left for our next new venue, Scouthead and Austerlands. This was the first real queue of the evening. The wind was starting to whistle a little across the moors by this time, so it was getting a little cooler, but thankfully it was still dry.

Next stop was Dobcross, the most picturesque of the villages. This is a popular venue and therefore there was a long queue of about 8 or 9 bands in front of us. So with about a 45 minute wait, there was time for a quick pit stop and grab some refreshments. The contest stage is on a charming village green and there was a large audience there, which gave probably the warmest welcome and reception of the evening.

Because of the long wait at Dobcross a difficult decision then had to be made. We still had two venues we intended to play at, but it was already 9.15pm and therefore unlikely that we would make both. Reluctantly we decided not to go to Diggle, one of my favourite venues from our last visit because of its location. From the contest stage you can look round and see the surrounding countryside. It is certainly one of the most picturesque locations I have performed at with the band.

We therefore went straight to Delph, probably the most famous of the venues and the venue that was featured in the film Brassed Off. As we pulled up we could see that there was already a long queue in front of us, probably in the region of 10 bands. However there was a little bit of excitement when we discovered that just two bands behind us was the world famous Black Dyke Band. Delph is a great location to play at as you start by marching down its main street, which is literally packed with thousands of people who gave us a very warm welcome as we played “Chicken Run” for the final time. We finished our final performance of the contest march “Unity” at about 10.15pm under the floodlights and it had certainly been a fun and exhilarating evening.

Black Dyke followed a couple of bands later and it was a good chance to hear one of the best bands in the world on top of their game and who went on to win the contest.

So we managed to play at 7 venues during the evening, the same as two years ago and as we arrived back at the hotel at midnight, eight and a half hours after we started, there were a few weary feet. It was a great evening and hopefully we will return in 2014.