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Easington Colliery band help tell Brassed Off story in County Durham

Aug 1, 2022 | Leisure & Lifestyle

Two County Durham brass bands will play in a theatre production of a classic film which shares their deep mining history.

Easington Colliery Band and RMT Fishburn Brass Band will be part of Durham County Council’s Gala Durham production of Brassed Off, which runs from Tuesday 6 to Saturday 24 September.

Based on the 1996 film starring Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald, the theatre adaptation tells the story of Danny and his lifelong ambition to lead his local colliery band to the National Brass Band Competition at the Royal Albert Hall.

But, when the pit faces closure, the future of this dream looks bleak as the town is thrown into conflict.

Music for some of the performances will be played by Easington Colliery Band, which was formed in 1915 by miners who each contributed from their weekly pay to purchase instruments and music.

In 1951, the band played at its first ever Championship Section National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall and went on to appear several more times.

Unfortunately, when the colliery closed in the early 1990s, the band lost its main source of funding, its rehearsal rooms, and was relegated from the Championship Section for the first time in its history.

The 2000s saw the band return to the top flight of banding, purchasing and refurbishing the old colliery pay office in Easington and, this year, it qualified once again for the Championship National Final at the Royal Albert Hall.

Jonathan Collins, Easington Colliery Band chairman, said: “We are all excited to be taking part in the stage production of Brassed Off at Gala Durham.

“The original film is a true British icon of cinema and close to the hearts of all brass banders, particularly those of us from colliery villages who went through the same experiences as the fictional Grimley Colliery Band, through the strike and the eventual closure of our pit.

“It will actually feel like living it all over again, but in a fun and enjoyable way.”

RMT Fishburn Brass Band will also be playing accompaniment for the remaining nights of the production.

Originally called the Fishburn Colliery Welfare Band, it was set up in the early 1950’s by Mick Terrans and George Elliott, with miners of the local colliery contributing to help the provision and maintenance of instruments.

The band soon rose from the lower sections to become a contender in the Championship Section.

It enjoys great support from its local community to this day, where its former Support Group Secretary was the late Billy Elliott, son of founder George Elliott.

Paul Brickle, RMT Fishburn Brass Band manager, said: “RMT Fishburn Brass Band are delighted to be able to support Gala Durham with their production of Brassed Off.

“Brass Bands are a huge part of the local heritage throughout the North East and something we should be very proud of.

“Brassed Off provides a gentle reminder of that heritage and the huge part it still plays in the lives of a lot of people.”

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We are excited to involve two local brass bands in our production of Brassed Off.

“Both Easington Colliery Band and RMT Fishburn Brass Band have a deep connection to the county’s mining history, almost mirroring the events which happen in the Brassed Off story.

“We are pleased to be able to honour this history by having both bands play in the production.”

Directed by Conrad Nelson, Paul Allen’s adaptation of Brassed Off is a funny and life-affirming tale of community spirit and triumph in the face of adversity.

Tickets are available now and priced from £20. To book, visit www.galadurham.co.uk/brassed-off or call the Gala Durham Box Office on 03000 266 600.