Headline acts announced for this year’s Durham BRASS festival

Mar 16, 2022 | Leisure & Lifestyle

A double MOBO Award winner, a Mercury Music Prize and Brit Award nominee, a band fronted by the current British Poet Laureate, and arguably the most famous brass band in the world will headline a popular music festival when it returns this summer.

Tickets for a range of exciting live performances at Durham’s BRASS festival, which takes place from Sunday 10 to Sunday 17 July, go on sale on Friday 18 March, at 10am. Richard Hawley, YolanDa Brown, LYR and The Black Dyke Band are among the line-up.

The festival, which is one of the summer highlights of Durham County Council’s annual events programme, will also feature a host of community workshops, free concerts in communities, schools and care homes around the county, and a full programme of lively street bands.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the festival was postponed in 2021 but is set to return bigger and better than ever this year, with some of the UK’s finest artists booked to perform in iconic locations.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “BRASS is a key part of our festivals and events programme, so we were massively disappointed that we had to postpone it last year. We can’t wait to welcome back fantastically talented acts and enthusiastic audiences for the hugely anticipated event this summer.

“Our festival line-up has it all, celebrating brass music in its many forms, from traditional big band music to inspirational artists taking brass in a new direction. As well as boosting the economy and raising the county’s reputation as a cultural destination, BRASS aims to bring communities together to create unforgettable experiences for people of all ages.

“It’s a perfect example of the diverse artistic offering and commitment to cultural-led regeneration that makes County Durham such a strong contender to become UK City of Culture 2025.”

Prestigious performers and unique interpretations

Durham Cathedral

On Friday 15 July, in the first of two performances at the iconic Durham Cathedral, LYR together with The Easington Colliery Band will premiere Firm As A Rock We Stand: A Commemoration and Celebration of County Durham’s ‘Category D’ Villages.

The band, comprising of author and current British Poet Laureate Simon Armitage CBE, musician Richard Walters and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Pearson, will perform for the first time live and in full, this incredible EP specially commissioned by BRASS Festival in partnership with the Durham Miners’ Association and the Redhills Charity.

Redhills chief executive Nick Malyan, said:“We are delighted that the culture and heritage of Durham’s mining communities, in all its depth and richness, is at the heart of this year’s Brass Festival.

“One important chapter of our story will be told in the words of the Poet Laureate, accompanied by brass band music in the setting of Durham Cathedral. It’s sure to be a powerful experience that raises awareness of the Category D story.

In a memorable one-off gig, Richard Hawley will perform a Saturday night headline slot on Saturday, 16 July.

Hawley, who found success as a member of Britpop band The Longpigs and then as Pulp’s guitarist, earned a Mercury Music Prize nomination for his breakthrough soulful solo album Cole’s Corner. He has gone on to record seven more critically acclaimed albums and worked with Arctic Monkeys, Texas, Manic Street Preachers, Elbow and Paul Weller. He said: “I am genuinely excited; I think it’s going to be one of the most memorable gigs I’ve ever played.”

Hawley will be accompanied by one of County Durham’s most popular bands, the NASUWT Riverside Brass Band. The band, which was founded in 1877, rehearse in Pelton Fell, Chester-le-Street, and are concert and contest veterans.

Gala Durham

Gala Durham will stage a night to remember on Thursday 14 July, when Ibibio Sound Machine present their unique sound-clash of Western African funk, disco and electro, and the wonderful vocals of Nigerian singer Eno Williams.

On Friday, 15 July tweed-clad brass powerhouses Old Dirty Brasstards will wow audiences with a contemporary brass makeover of exhilarating party jams, indie favourites and rock and roll classics. The quirky 10-piece will perform their unique interpretations at Gala Durham.

Family favourite and double MOBO Award winner YolanDa Brown treats fans of all ages to two special performances at Gala Durham on Saturday, 16 July.

Little music-lovers and their grown-ups can enjoy all the fun of YolanDa’s Band Jam, in a live version of the saxophonist’s acclaimed CBeebies TV show.

In her second show of the day, YolanDa and her band will deliver a delicious fusion of reggae, jazz and soul.

Often lauded as the most famous brass band in the world, the multi-award-winning Black Dyke Band will perform at Durham BRASS festival for the very first time on Sunday 17, July at Gala Durham.

North east talent

An array of local talent will also be showcased at the festival, beginning with Sunderland duo Field Music on Sunday, 10 July at Gala Durham.

Brothers Peter and David Brewis have gained a reputation for an ambitious and intellectual approach to making music, with eight full albums, Mercury Award nominations, plus numerous commissions and side projects under their belt.

Their show, Binding Time – Songs & Stories from the Durham Coalfields, has been commissioned by BRASS in a new partnership with the Durham Miners’ Association and the Redhills Charity, funded by Arts Council England.

Fellow Mackem, Ben Lunn, will reflect his North-Eastern heritage, how disability impacts the world around him, and his working-class upbringing in his appearance at

Ushaw College on Wednesday, 13 July.

Conductor, musicologist, teacher and composer, Ben is one of three exciting artists chosen to create work for the festival’s Bold as BRASS, an inclusive and accessible programme which champions the talent of disabled artists, inspired by brass music.

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 www.brassfestival.co.uk