In May 2018 I began working with the Dobcross Silver Band, exploring the transition of traditions and why they exist and persist in a changing environment. I firstly photographed the Whit Friday Band contests, and then made several visits throughout the year to Saddleworth, taking pictures, recording sound and conducting interviews. The work was exhibited at The Weavers Factory in Uppermill in June 2019. Below is text that displayed at the gallery, along with a selection of photographs shown there.


One morning, at around 3.15am, I was standing on a small road that fell down towards Dobcross through trees formed like a guard of honour. I could just see the first house in the distance, illuminated by a nearby streetlamp. In the half-light of early dawn it looked like a portal into another dimension.

To my left were the moors, solid and dark, pricked by the lights of other settlements that flowed along the hillsides and valleys of Saddleworth, thickening in the distance to create an unnatural glow in the clouded sky.

Daybreak had begun before I could see it, signalled by a single bird’s song. It shared the airtime with a hooting owl that could be heard, it seemed, in several places at once, such was the acoustic of the landscape. Soon after, the Corvids commenced their rasping chatter.

I made my way into the village, passing solid, stone houses, still peaceful with people not yet disturbed by this natural alarm. In this state, it was possible to see the personality of the village without the distraction of its inhabitants. The curious moments of ornamentation and decoration in windows, charming chairs waiting in gardens for a summer’s day, ghost signs around the crossroads memorial, reminding everyone of an era now passed, but yet prompting a sense of connection with how it used to be.

Further down the hill I came to rest in the churchyard. A strong security light swept the graves and grass, almost as if there was an understanding that these souls should never be cast into the darkness, that they were still part of the village today.

The stained glass glistened in this glorious light, softened by a mist formed by early drizzle. I stared at the church windows. My time with the Dobcross Silver Band was drawing to a close and I thought back to the Christmas service, when this community came together to listen to the musicians perform their hymns and carols.

I remembered closing my eyes on that night, breathing in deeply the scent of old wood panels, and feeling that I could be within any Christmas from the past 144 years, since the band had been formed. Our basic needs hadn’t changed. We still sought love, we still felt the need to join together and celebrate our ancient festivals, and music remained an essential element of this life.

I walked back up the hill, mentally passing John, the band president as he marched proudly down on Whit Friday, and made my way to the green, where the band contest reaches its conclusion under the fairy lights of this magical spot. By now the birds were in full chorus, and a breeze ruffled the branches of the tree that grew steadfast from the centre of the turf.

Day followed night, as it always does, and soon the gentle blue of daybreak diffused the remaining shadows. A light came on in one of the houses above me. A cockerel crowed. Jackdaws pecked at carrion. It was time to ready ourselves for work and the fresh hours ahead. The cycle of daily life had begun in this most traditional of places.