I have been involved in brass bands since I was 9, I met my husband whilst playing in a brass band, my brother plays in a brass band, my kids play in brass bands but I have never been to the Whit Friday marches.
OK, so what are “the Whits?” …………….
Whit Friday is the first Friday after Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter. There appear to be different traditions around the country. Where I originate from we used to parade on Whit Monday. Although I walked in the parade I never got to play in the band. In the North East the Whit Walks or Parades are held on Whit Friday.
In 1870 one of the villages holding a Whit Walk combined this with a brass band contest. Gradually more villages started to do this and today there are some 23 villages holding a contest.
So what happens …. If you have ever seen the brilliant film “Brassed Off” then the Whits feature – you know the bit where they are supposed to be marching but do rather a lot of drinking. So the bands march down a specified route then play a contest march before an adjudicator who may be in a caravan, pub, tent, etc, and cannot see the band who is performing. Bands of any ability can enter. Prizes vary from village to village, some are for deportment, some for playing depending on the level of the band, best youth band, most entertaining etc. They then jump on a coach and go to the next village.
Last year I had the chance to go with a fabulous organisation called “Boobs and Brass” who I will talk about a lot more another time but as you can guess by the name they are all girls and work to raise money for Breast Cancer Now.
So why didn’t I make the trip this year? Luckily it’s not my health that stopped me this year. The other members of the family are all played- in different bands – and someone needed to be at home to pick up the youngest when her coach got back – at 2 am!
Next year I will be there. Will it become my new normal? Not sure. I think it may be one of those things you want to experience, but once may be enough for me!