Battle of the Brass Bands:
A Sky Arts Documentary

Music making at Byrchall comes in many forms, but lots of parents and perhaps some of the older students in school will be unaware of my main passion in life, Brass Bands. Perhaps a strange hobby for a 20 something year old, southern born individual, now living in Wigan!

Our students will know all about brass instruments. Lots of primary schools, particularly in the Wigan borough take part in brass ‘Wider Opportunities’ schemes and with our own music department having acquired a class set of instruments a couple of years ago, we have been using brass in Year 7 ever since – much to my enjoyment. 


I moved north 10 years ago, to study at the RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music) and got embroiled with the brass band scene there straight away. 5 years ago I was lucky enough to be awarded a seat in the Brighouse and Rastrick Band (3rd in the World Rankings).

Playing in an elite level brass band comes with its complications. Rehearsing in Yorkshire twice a week, and up to 40 concerts a year is a real commitment. Whilst we love the concerts and the audiences, the real life-blood of a brass band is the contests. The competition. The competitive edge of needing to be the best band around.

A couple of years ago, Sky Arts got in touch with B&R, and several other bands about creating a documentary series to follow their contest preparations and see the rivalry between the bands, in their battle to be the best. They created 4 episodes over 4 different contests, with the first being my favourite Whit Friday, known as the greatest free show on earth! Whit Friday is a frantic evening of hundreds of bands, racing around the 11 venues in Saddleworth in their coaches to compete in (and win) as many march competitions as possible. This episode is a battle between my band – The Brighouse and Rastrick Band (Yorkshire) and The Fairey Band (Stockport).

The series is currently being broadcast on Sky Arts (available on Freeview). To see more of the band go to or visit their Facebook or YouTube channels under the same name.

Mr. Gibson
Head of Music