Durham Brass festival is pleased to announce it will be taking place this summer from July 14-18th. This year the programme offers a vast range of brass-related live music with covid-safe audiences across outdoor spaces and indoor venues throughout Durham, plus online streaming from incredible brass artists around the globe.
Taking inspiration from the brass band heritage of County Durham, the world-renowned festival weaves together musical genres into a vibrant and entertaining five-day festival taking place across the County. With headline performances in iconic locations from some of the UK’s finest artists, to schools’ gigs, and an inclusive engagement programme, the Durham County Council festival culminates in a massive three-day FREE concert at Durham Racecourse. This is a new and exciting addition to Brass, with the introduction of an outdoor stage funded by a Culture Recovery Fund grant from Arts Council England. By staging more events outside, Brass will not only be safer and more accessible, but will channel the alfresco carnival vibe the music so often evokes.
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, the council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We are absolutely delighted Brass is taking place again this summer. As we emerge from one of the most difficult periods in our history, this feel-good festival is just what is needed to lift spirits and bring our communities together safely. The exciting and eclectic line-up and mixture of live and online performances means there really is something for everyone, while our community outreach programme at schools and care homes will ensure all generations can experience the thrill of 21st century brass.
“What’s more the festival will provide an immediate and much-needed boost for local retailers and hospitality businesses. At the same time, it will strengthen County Durham’s reputation as a place where culture and heritage are celebrated, attracting even more visitors and boosting the economy throughout the year.”
By celebrating a contemporary mix of artists with the more traditional, the festival adds a new energy and dimension to Brass, making it an accessible genre across the generations.
For instance, of the highlights this year will be a very special one-off headline performance by Richard Hawley, who will be accompanied by the NASUWT Riverside Band within the imposing and beautiful surroundings of the historic Durham Cathedral.
The year 2019 was a landmark one for songwriter Richard Hawley. His ninth studio album, Further, achieved his joint highest chart entry at number 3, he co-created a musical based on a collection of his songs which played at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, and he celebrated his twentieth anniversary as a solo artist. In the two decades that have elapsed since he jettisoned band life, first with The Longpigs and then as Pulp’s guitarist, the 52-year-old songwriter has forged one of the most singular careers in modern music.
Hawley has played some of the biggest stages during his prestigious career – recording eight critically acclaimed albums and collaborating with the Arctic Monkeys, Elbow and Paul Weller – but says the chance to play the Brass Festival offers something unique and a chance to make his music go “widescreen”.
Performing alongside Richard Hawley on the night are NASUWT Riverside Band. The band itself was founded in 1877 and was formerly known as the Newcastle Brown Ale Band. They rehearse in Pelton Fell, Chester-Le-Street and have an active diary of concerts and contests. This includes recently placing 4th out of 18 bands in the Senior Cup competition in Blackpool. The band also competes regularly in the Scottish Open Contest as well as the North of England Regional contest in which they frequently place in the top of the table and result in trips to the national finals at the Albert Hall. One of Durham’s most popular bands, they are skilled performers who are always keen to collaborate and take on new challenges.
Richard Hawley almost purrs when he talks about his show at the Brass Festival. A Saturday night headlining slot, in the truly unique venue of Durham Cathedral, and a full brass band to play with – it’s quite a way to return to the stage.
“I am genuinely excited. I think it’s going to be one of the most memorable gigs I’ve ever played” he says.
Since forming in 2004 the Sunderland duo Field Music have gained a reputation for an ambitious and intellectual approach to making music, their relentless creativity bringing them Mercury Award nominations, endless plaudits from the critics and, most famously of all, a thumbs up from Prince shortly before his death.
Not ones to hide from a creative challenge, the brothers Pete and David Brewis, have been specially commissioned by Durham Brass festival in a new partnership with the Durham Miners Association to write and produce a dedicated composition focussed on the legacy of the Durham Mining Industry.
They will be playing the work twice at Redhills, a matinee and evening performance, shows made even more unique because the venue is the home of the DMA, the historic headquarters known as “the pitman’s parliament”.
He’s renowned for creating some of the most influential records in music history but for Trevor Horn, under the moniker The Trevor Horn Band, performing at the Durham Brass festival means finally fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition.
“At last, I finally get to headline a gig in my hometown!” he smiles.
He left Durham at the age of 16 and by the early 80s had started a career which saw him become one of the most revered producers of the era. His studio prowess was fundamental to enormous hits like Slave To The Rhythm, Two Tribes, Relax and Video Killed The Radio Star.
They’re all songs likely to make the cut for his Friday night show at Durham Racecourse. He says he’s still working out what to play but doesn’t argue with the description of his concerts as ‘banger heavy’. This show will see an expanded Trevor Horn band, featuring a six-piece brass section, and he’s been known to dip into his little black book to invite some A-list guest vocalists for the night too.
One of the aims of this year’s festival is to give a platform to acts who are taking brass in new directions, showcasing contemporary artists whose work is pushing at the boundaries.
Ibibio Sound Machine certainly fit that bill. The eight-piece band are made up of players from around the world and make a sound that they describe as a clash of African and electronic elements and inspired by Western African funk, disco, modern post punk and electro. Eno was born in London but spent time in her childhood in Nigeria, a country whose tradition of storytelling has been a massive influence on her song writing. Ibibio Sound Machine will be opening for the Trevor Horn Band.
No one is working harder at bringing the magic of brass to a young audience than YolanDa Brown, the multi-award-winning saxophonist whose CBeebies show Band Jam, has been a smash hit since launching in 2019.
While the 38-year-old’s latest album is aimed at a younger audience there’s no dumbing down, her band plays an ambitious fusion of “jazz, soul and reggae” that has seen her win Mobos and collaborate with artists as diverse as Jools Holland, Michelle Williams, and Wretch 32.
The Londoner says finally being able to go out and perform to a crowd in the flesh is going to be like a dream come true. YolanDa will be headlining the Saturday outdoor daytime show at Durham Racecourse. Alongside YolanDa, audiences can enjoy a brassed-up performance from Cable Street Collective plus some of the best contemporary brass artists in the UK including Perhaps Contraption, Renegade Brass Band, New York Brass Band, London Street Brass Band & Riot Jazz Brass Band.
The Sunday afternoon performance along the bank of the River Wear sees Black Dyke Band performing at Durham BRASS festival for the very first time. Black Dyke Band should need no introduction to brass connoisseurs. This crack troupe of amateurs are used to touring the world – they’re literally big in Japan – playing the Albert Hall or Sydney Opera House, so the chance to see them live on the banks of the Wear, for free, is an astonishing coup for this year’s festival.
Founded in Yorkshire in 1855, The Black Dyke Band have featured on 350 recordings – hitting number one in the classical charts last autumn with John Rutter: Anthems, Hymns and Gloria for Brass Band - and have won numerous awards in their long history.
BRASS is a key part of Durham County Council’s festival and events programme and reflects the local authority’s commitment to cultural-led regeneration. As well as boosting the economy and raising the county’s reputation as a cultural destination at a critical time, BRASS aims to bring communities together, create unforgettable experiences for people of all ages.
The festival’s outreach programme is a key part of this, with almost 16,000 children at 82 schools enjoying mini-gigs and workshops in 2019. This year, some of the country’s best street bands will once again share their skills in schools across the county in a Covid-secure way. There will also be outdoor performances at care homes, and to celebrate the heritage of brass music in communities, a series of photographs by artist Rob Bowman featuring band stands will be displayed on bus shelters in Consett, Durham, Horden and Spennymoor.
& NASUWT RIVERSIDE BAND
THE TREVOR HORN BAND – FIELD MUSIC
IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE – BLACK DYKE BAND – YOLANDA BROWN
RIOT JAZZ BRASS BAND – CABLE STREET COLLECTIVE – PERHAPS CONTRAPTION
LONDON STREET BRASS BAND – RENEGADE BRASS BAND – NEW YORK BRASS BAND
KATIE SPENCER – AMI MCGUINNESS
Tickets on sale and available from this Friday 11th June from: