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  • Durham OnAir

BRASS headliners ready to take on iconic Durham Cathedral

Performers at this year’s Durham BRASS have spoken of their excitement ahead of its return after two years.

The festival, which is set to be bigger and better than ever, will see two of the headline performances take place inside the spectacular setting of Durham Cathedral as the UNESCO World Heritage Site hosts Richard Hawley performing with NASUWT Riverside Band and LYR together with The Easington Colliery Band.

As one of the summer highlights of Durham County Council’s annual events programme,

the festival supports the county’s bid to be named UK City of Culture 2025 and

demonstrates the importance of a rich and vibrant cultural scene to economic growth.

BRASS returns from Sunday 10 to Sunday 17 July, and on Friday 15 July, LYR’s

collaboration with The Easington Colliery Band will commemorate and celebrate the

county’s ‘Category D’ villages in Firm As A Rock We Stand.

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.

LYR is made up of musician Richard Walters, multi-instrumentalist Patrick Pearson, and

author and current British Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who visited the Durham Miners’

Association for an insight into the story of the Category D villages. In the 1950s, these

villages were said to have not had an economically viable future. Residents were

encouraged to move elsewhere to allow the then abandoned communities to be

demolished, leading to a decades long battle with authorities at the time.

Armitage said: “I hadn’t heard of it before but as soon as I was told the story I knew that

was what I wanted to write about. It feels very live and very hot, it appeals to people’s

sense of unfairness.

“I was able to speak to people who lived in Category D villages, which was absolutely vital.

I heard lots of different stories as you’d expect but lots talked about the way that since they

were categorised as Category D their village had struggled to escape that identity.”

And, in what promises to be a memorable one-off gig the following night (Saturday, 16

July), Richard Hawley will perform a headline slot alongside the NASUWT Riverside Band.

Hawley has played some of the biggest stages during his prestigious career, recording

eight critically acclaimed albums and collaborating with Paul Weller, Elbow and the Artic

Monkeys among others.

This collaboration for BRASS will see his own works reinterpreted with the backing of

traditional County Durham colliery band, NASUWT Riverside Band.

Other acts playing across the weekend include double MOBO Award winner YolanDa

Brown, the multi-award-winning Black Dyke Band, tweed-clad brass powerhouses Old

Dirty Brasstards and London based electronic, afro funk band Ibibio Sound Machine.

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


Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We cannot wait

to welcome such prestigious performers to the iconic Durham Cathedral as part of this

year’s BRASS. The festival is all about celebrating the rich history of brass and

championing new works by contemporary artists and what a spectacular setting to

showcase the combination of traditional big band music and more unique interpretations.

“This diverse offering reflects our commitment to culture here in County Durham and is a

perfect example of why we would make a fantastic UK City of Culture 2025. We very much

look forward to seeing communities come together once again to celebrate BRASS and

enjoy some memorable moments.”

Also returning and coinciding with the BRASS festival, is the ever-popular Durham City

Run, on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 July. The festival will see hundreds of competitors race

through the city centre, accompanied by live music from BRASS’ street bands.

For tickets and further information, visit


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