The Greatest Free Show on Earth Posted January 16, 2016 by Andy Baldacchino


We had oodles of fun at the Saddleworth Band Contest.

Last week, on the 31st May, Frodsham Silver Band competed in what is often described as ‘the greatest free show on Earth’; the Saddleworth & District Whit Friday Brass Band Contest. Bands from across the world come to compete in the moorland villages and towns on the western edge of the Pennines, as featured in the 1996 film “Brassed Off” with Pete Poselthwaite and Ewan McGregor.


From the earliest recorded contest in 1884, the event has grown in popularity. This year the contest attracted 133 bands , most from the UK, but several from across Europe and Scandanavia.   Frodsham won second place last year, at Greenfields Village, one of the most popular venues on the contest map. Sadly the competition was intense this year and Frodsham were squeezed out of the medals.

The band’s display consisted of a march through the villages to the “March of the Cobblers” and test pieces at each of the villages, where they played “Starlake”.   The band is led by its conductor Norman Denaro. Norman, now 84, has been at the helm of Frodsham Silver Band since 1993. He is a Runcorn resident and studied at the Royal College of Music playing for the Queen on several occasions. The 35 piece band contains no less than six of Norman’s relatives from Runcorn and Widnes! Norman said; “Saddleworth is a very special contest. Nowhere has quite the same jovial atmosphere, with a distinct competitive edge to it. Novices have the chance to play cheek by jowl with the great colliery bands. However, what I most enjoy about the band is seeing children I taught grow into great musicians. ”11329874_10152768315417167_6009307960288747074_n

Evidence of Norman’s commitment to nurturing young musicians is clear in the joy that 10 year old Daisy Kay, of Frodsham, has for the event. “We all go there on the bus, have a big day out, eat lots of chocolate and have loads of fun. It is a little bit serious, but everyone is together and it feels like we are all working together in a big team.   It was really scary the first time I tried to march. It’s really difficult, but everyone has been really kind and helpful.”

Daisy had never played the trombone before but within a few months was a proud member of her section. She says of Norman; “He is so cool; he is great with the junior members of the band and knows how to give us confidence. He has really helped me to become a better player. “

The band contest was featured in the Guardian that week: – The Real Northern Powerhouse – Guardian May 2015

You can see photos from the event here.

For videos check out the Frodsham Silver Band You Tube channel.