top of page
  • Durham OnAir

BRASS collaboration celebrates County Durham’s history

Music and film which celebrate and commemorate County Durham’s ‘Category D’ villages

have been produced as part of this year’s BRASS.

The festival, which is one of the highlights of Durham County Council’s annual events

programme, promises to be bigger and better than ever when it returns from Sunday 10 to

Sunday 17 July.

One of the headline performances of the week will see LYR perform with The Easington

Colliery Band inside the spectacular setting of Durham Cathedral in Firm As A Rock We

Stand on Friday 15 July.

Comprised of singer Richard Walters, producer Patrick Pearson and current British Poet

Laureate Simon Armitage, LYR’s musical project is available on EP, with a documentary

also accessible online to accompany the release.

The work is the result of a co-commission by Durham BRASS and the Durham Miners’

Association and combines poetic spoken passages, vocal melodies and imaginative,

cinematic production alongside one of the premier brass bands in the north.

Armitage visited the Durham Miners’ Association to learn more about the history of the

Category D villages, which were said to have not had an economically viable future in the


Armitage said: “I’m super conscious of my identity in relation to where I’m from. Not only

does my writing reflect that, I think I make a lot of my decisions in life by looking over my

shoulder and thinking about where I came from.

“The idea that that place would no longer exist – or has been deemed to be hopeless and

without a future – I could imagine being upsetting and bewildering. It spoke to me.”

As part of his research, Armitage spoke to people who had lived in the Category D villages

and learned more about the broader history of the county. His exploration of the region can

be seen in the documentary directed by Ged Clarke. Meanwhile, LYR’s new music

features excerpts of recordings made as they were shown the villages by local residents.

Armitage described the project as being genuinely special, adding: “It is an incredible

honour for us to be performing this new work at Durham Cathedral. It’s an enormous

privilege to be playing in that space and also a big responsibility to take on the issues and

themes that are very real for some people. We are talking about people’s lives and we

want to do a great job of representing them properly.”

The documenta ry can be viewed online at

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “This year’s

BRASS promises some fantastic performances. As well as celebrating the rich history of

brass music, we are able to showcase the combination of traditional big band music

alongside more unique interpretations through LYR and Easington Colliery Band. This

diverse offering demonstrates our ongoing commitment to culture and cultural led

regeneration in County Durham.

“Audiences can look forward to not only fantastic music, but also an incredibly moving and

powerful story of the history of the Category D villages. One of the key principles of our UK

City of Culture bid came from the Durham Miners’ Association motto: ‘The past we inherit,

the future we build’. This performance perfectly encapsulates this and promises to be very


The festival will also feature a host of community workshops, free concerts in schools,

communities and care homes across the county and a full programme of lively street


And, coinciding with the BRASS festival is the ever-popular Durham City Run. This will see

hundreds of competitors race through the city centre on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 July,

accompanied by live music from BRASS’ street bands.

To find out more about the festival and book tickets, visit


bottom of page