Tomorrow thousands will pour into Saddleworth villages to share a colourful festival and spectacle with roots going back to the 1800s and beyond ...

Here KEN BENNETT takes an affectionate look at The Saddleworth Whit Friday celebrations.

THE man with the classic handlebar moustache gave a whimsical smile and told me knowingly: “Doest know, there’s no finer sound than a brass band playing ‘ ail Smiling Morn’ on Whit Friday ...”

In reality, he’s right. Tomorrow will launch with the joyous tune at a religious celebration that will make the lanes and hills of these villages dance with delight.

And whatever the weather (and yes, I, over the years, along with thousands of others have been battered by rain and freezing winds), the “greatest free show on earth” will happen.

The day - come prepared for a long one - begins when proud villagers and bands turn the traditional Whit Friday walks into a theatre of joy.

Church parades thronged by happy parishioners and young children,proudly carry their banners to King George V playing fields, Uppermill, for the annual United service merging in hymn-singing and prayers at 11am.

Reverend Doctor Janet Wootton, President of the Congregational Federation, will give the address and clergy from the other dominations play their part in the uplifting event before the congregation returns to their respective villages.

In the afternoon and evening, the villages brace themselves for the deluge of brass bands.

More than a hundred bands , some from overseas, participated last year playing in 20 different locations with contests open to all-comers.

Each contest, run by volunteers, offers prizes for the best band, best youth band, best soloists, and you could expect to hear more than 50 bands at busier venues.

Winners are announced shortly after close (10.30pm or 11.30pm, though most popular contests can go into the early hours).

Traffic and parking restrictions are imposed by OMBC in the immediate vicinity of each contest site where necessary, as well as road closures and diversions to allow the concerts and marches to take place.

Contests will be held at: Delph 4.15pm-10.30pm; Denshaw 4pm-10.30pm; Dobcross 4pm-10pm; Diggle 4 pm to 10.30pm; Friezland 4.30pm-10.30pm; Greenfield 4pm-10pm; Grotton 4pm-10pm; Lees and Springhead 4.30pm-10pm; Lydgate 4pm-10.30pm; Scouthead and Austerlands 4.15pm-11pm; Uppermill 4pm-10.30pm.

Public Transport: The only railway station is Greenfield. There are train services from Manchester Victoria and from Huddersfield - half-hourly in the early evening but only hourly for a late evening return.

The station is about mid-way between the Uppermill and Friezland contests - about half a mile from each.

Bus services from Manchester and Oldham are: Contest Bus Services, Greenacres 180, 184, X84; Lees180, 184, X84; Lydgate 180, 184, X84; Friezland 180 (5 min), 184 (5 min), X84 (5 min), 350, 353; Greenfield 180, 184, X84, 350, 353; Uppermill 180, 184, X84, 350, 353, 354; Dobcross 180, 184, X84, 350, 354; Delph 82, X84, 350, 353, 354; Denshaw 351, 354, 407; Diggle 184, 354; Scouthead 82, 350.

More information: for contests go online to:

For details of road closures and travel information during the Whit Walks and and contests, check Oldham Council’s website: